Friday, January 4, 2008

Gemini Ganesh: `King of Romance', passes away

Gemini Ganesh, `King of Romance', passes away

By Our Special Correspondent

Gemini Ganesh. — Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

CHENNAI, MARCH 22. Gemini Ganesh, Tamil cinema's first acknowledged romantic hero, (`Kadhal Mannan'), died here in the early hours today at the age of 84 after a prolonged illness. Along with Sivaji Ganesan and M.G. Ramachandran, Mr. Ganesh made up a celebrated triumvirate of actors who dominated Tamil filmdom for three decades from the 1950s.

He was cremated in the evening with full state honours.

Born on November 17, 1920, Ramaswamy Ganesh captured the imagination of an entire generation of film-goers as the archetypal romantic hero with a song on his lips. In about 200 films he essayed a wide range of roles, starting with a minor part in Miss Malini, a Gemini Studio film based on an R.K. Narayan story and script (1947). He starred opposite Pushpavalli, who became the mother of two of his daughters.

Mr. Ganesh did not take the traditional route of the theatre to the tinsel world. His first job was as a demonstrator at Madras Christian College. His first cinema-related work was with the studio that brought the Gemini prefix to his name.

From the casting department, Mr. Ganesh got his first break in films with Miss Malini. This was followed by Chakravarthi, in which he played Lord Krishna. However, not until 1953, when he played the villain in the film Thai Ullam, did people take notice of him as an actor.

The next year, he graduated as a hero with Manampol Mangalyam. The film paired him with Savitri, who became the mother of two of his children — a daughter and a son. From then on, he carved out a niche for himself in Tamil cinema with films that required a lot of `romance' but little `action'. Although Sivaji excelled in films with drama, and MGR dominated movies with thrilling fight-scenes, Mr. Ganesh held his own with sensitive portrayals of the yearning lover.

Kanavane Kankanda Deivam, Missiamma (both 1955), Yaar Paiyan (1957), Vanjikottai Valiban (1958), Kalyana Parisu (1959), Parthiban Kanavu (1960), Paava Mannippu, Then Nilavu (both 1961), Konjum Salangai (1962), and Iru Kodugal, Poova Thalaiya (both 1969) were among his most memorable films. In 1974, he starred in his own production, Naan Avanillai, the story of a man playing many roles. The success of the love story-based films earned him the title of `Kadhal Mannan' or King of Romance.

Later in his career, he switched to character roles. Notable among these was Avvai Shanmughi (1996), in which, quite characteristically, he entered into the skin of an old man longing for an old maid. Towards the end of his acting career he kept himself busy with elegant roles in television serials.

Varied interests

Mr. Ganesh was a man of varied interests. In school, he was captain of the cricket team. A lover of dogs, he had a special liking for Golden Retrievers.

All his life, Mr. Ganesh made it a point not to involve himself in any public controversy. Unlike Sivaji and MGR, he kept his distance from politics. However, he had a close circle of friends, and always remembered those who helped him in his career. A few years before R.K. Narayan died, Gemini Ganesh, quite frail, visited him on a sudden impulse to pay his respects and thank him for "launching him on a film career." Gemini Ganesh won several awards, including the Padma Shri.

He is survived by his wife Alamelu Ganesh (`Bobji Amma'), aged 80, seven daughters, and a son. They are: Dr. Revathi Swaminathan, Dr. Kamala Selvaraj, Ms. Narayani Ganesh, Dr. Jaya Shreedhar; film actress Rekha Ganesh, Radha Osman Syed; Vijaya Chamundeswari, and Satish Kumar.

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