Sivaji Ganesan was a staunch contributor of Tamil cinema. His film career was considered as the 'Golden Era'. Also referred as "The Marlon Brando of Indian Cinema", Ganesan was well known for his acting skills and versatility. He won laurels for his roles on the screen as he worked in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi films. In a career spanning close to five decades Ganesan has acted in genres spanning from epics to crime thrillers, to romantic to comic and action flicks.
The iconic star of Tamil cinema, Ganesan was the first Indian film actor to have won the "Best Actor" Award in an International Film Festival in 1960. Ganesan was also the first Indian film actor to be designated the Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Ganesan was conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke Award (highest honor for films in India) for his valuable contribution to the film industry. He was also the recipient of the Padma Bhushan and the Padmashri.
Sivaji Ganesan was born as Vettaithidal Chinnaiahpillai "Sivaji" Ganesan on 1 October 1928 into a middle class Tamil family and had two brothers. Ganesan was interested in acting since his young age. At the age of 10 he joined a drama troupe in Sangiliyandapuram. Ganesan was also trained in Kathak, Bharatanatyam, and Manipuri. Ganesan was so talented that he could remember lengthy lines easily. Ganesan's portrayal of the character in the Shivaji Kanda Hindu Rajyam stage play as Chhatrapati Shivaji earned him the name "Sivaji" and henceforth he was called Sivaji Ganesan.
In 1952 Ganesan married Kamala and the couple was blessed with 2 children. In the late 1950s, Ganesan established Sivaji Productions, a film production company, which is now being looked after by his eldest son Ramkumar. Ganesan's younger son Prabhu is a notable Tamil actor and also his grandson Vikram Prabhu.
Sivaji Ganesan made his acting debut in the Tamil film Parasakthi in 1952. During the 1950s Ganesan became one of the popular actors in Tamil cinema. He was well-trained in classical dance and could effectively showcase expressions called Nava Rasa on his face. Ganesan also had a unique voice with a great appeal. He gained critical recognition for his style of dialogue delivery which was a long spell of dialogues, like a poetry recitation, that was very appealing to the masses then.
Ganesan played the role of an anti-hero in the film Andha Naal in 1954. The film became a trendsetter in Tamil cinema for it having no songs. Andha Naal won the president's silver medal in 1955. In the film Koondukkili he played the role of an antagonist. For the extremely versatile actor that Ganesan was, he won the Best Actor Award at the Afro-Asian Film Festival in 1960 for the film Veerapaandiya Kattabomman. Winning this award, Ganesan became the first Indian actor to get an award for Best Actor internationally.
Ganesan also gained huge popularity for his portrayal of Gods in celluloid. He received accolades for his portrayal of Lord Shiva in Thiruvilayadal. His epic characters like Harichandra, Bharatha, Karna, Narada, Nayanmars, Appar and Alwarshe are still remembered. He also received huge reviews for playing nine different roles in the film Navarathirithat. His films like Thiruvarutselvar, Thiruvilayaadal, Saraswati Sabatham, Thirumal Perumai, Harichandran, Karnan and others won him critical appreciations. Ganesan's blockbuster films were Vasantha Maligai in 1972, Thirisoolam in 1979 and Muthal Mariyathai in 1985.
Ganesan also entered into politics. He was the Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament. He also floated his own political party, Thamizhaga Munnetra Munnani.
Such was his popularity that Ganesan was the only person to be permitted by government to host a party for president Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. In 1962 Sivaji Ganesan was the first Indian artist to visit US on a cultural exchange programme. His huge popularity helped him remain as one of the popular Tamil actors with a large fan base with as many as 30,000 registered fan clubs.
Ill Health and Death:
Ganesan had been suffering from a heart ailment since a long time. In 2001 he suffered from respiratory problems and was admitted to the Apollo Hospital in Chennai. This great actor passed away on 21 July 2001 at the age of 72. Ganesan's funeral was telecasted live on Sun TV. Thousands of supporters, fans and people from film industry attended his funeral.
Words and Wishes:
Actor, Kamal Hasan: "he was like a father to me. I am as grieved as his sons".
Actress, Radhika: "I think we have lost a great legend and I sincerely hope he will be remembered by every single Tamilian who was inspired by him".
Kalaipuli Dhanu, producer: "Sivaji is an entire chapter in the history of Tamil cinema." "every line of which has been a lesson for artistes of the past, the present and the artistes still to come."
Chief Minister, Jayalalitha: The death of Sivaji Ganesan is an irreparable loss to the art world, particularly Tamil cinema.
DMK president M. Karunanidhi: The death had caused unbearable grief to him. The actor ushered in a revolution in the Tamil art world.
Music director M. S. Viswanathan: "I am overwhelmed by grief at the loss of my long time friend and colleague, Sivaji Ganesan. I have been closely associated with him in several films and have watched him at his work. Surely, it is the end of a glorious chapter in Indian cinema".
Veteran Tamil director, Mr. K. Balachander: "It is doubtful if there will ever be an actor of his calibre in Indian cinema. Working on him with one movie (Ethiroli) was a big learning experience for me. There is a lot we can learn from him".
Producer Mukta Srinivasan: "He was a true follower of Kamaraj and his ideals. Sivaji Ganesan knew the intricacies of stage and screen acting. The loss is too heavy for the nation to bear, particularly to those who were deeply concerned with the growth of aesthetic sense in cinema acting. We are not going to get another Sivaji Ganesan".
Mr. AVM Saravanan, producer said, "It is a void in the film world that can never be filled. There are only two eras in tamil film industry, before Sivaji and after Sivaji. The death of Sivaji is the end of an era".
President, South India Film Artists Association Vijayakanth: "he was the `Father' of the industry. His loss can never be filled".
President, South India Film Chamber of Commerce, Kothandaramaiah: "the lighthouse of cinema is lost. We are all in the dark. It is an irreparable loss to Indian cinema, more specifically for Tamils all over the world. This veteran actor was a rare comet in the annals of film industry".
MP and actor Sarath Kumar: "Sivaji Ganesan was a born actor, a doyen in the film industry. Everyone of us must take a leaf out of his book".
Awards and Recognition:
For his performance in several super hit films, Ganesan has won the President's Award for more than 12 times. The government of India honored him with the Padma Shri in 1966 and Padma Bhushan in 1984. He was also the recipient of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award in 1996. In 1994, the Government of France honored Ganesan with the title of 'Chevalier dans ordre des Arts et Letters'. In 1995, he was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honour of France. Ganesan was the first Indian film actor to win a "Best Actor" award in the Afro-Asian Film Festival held in Cairo, Egypt in 1960. He got the National Film Award in 1992. Among the other notable awards was Filmfare Awards South in 1972, 1973 and 1985. To honor the actor a statue of Ganesan was erected on Kamarajar Road in Chennai.
Children: Prabhu, Ramkumar Ganesan, Shanthi Ganesan, Thenmozhi Ganesan
Grandchildren: Vikram Prabhu, Shivaji Dev, Aishwarya Prabhu
(FAN OF Mr. VETTAITHIDAL CHINNAIAHPILLAI SIVAJI GANESAN)
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