- Tamil Magan and Anusha
name Sivaji Ganesan is firmly attached to the augmentation of the South
Indian film industry into one of the most vigorous kinds of cinema in
India. This veteran actor, who died recently, dominated the southern
silver screen for more than 45 years; he carved a permanent place for
himself in the hearts of the Tamil masses with his vast corpus of character
There are fans who will argue that his genius went unrecognised in
a (hammy) country such as ours and that he received his due more in
other parts of the world.
What is undeniable is his facility with multi-characterisation: he
would slip as easily into the skin of Julius Caesar as he would Lord
Shiva. Next count he would slip right back out and into the role of,
say, a frustrated youngster, a womaniser, an urban Brahmin, a rickshaw
driver or a murder suspect - and he would make each role an iconic representation
of the common human.
Sivaji Ganesan was honoured at the Afro-Asian Festival at Cairo for
his powerhouse performance in the film Veerapandiya Kattabomman. In
1995, he was bestowed with the honorific of Chevalier by the French
But it was only in 1997 that Ganesan's contribution to Indian cinema
was finally acknowledged by the Indian government, which gave to him
the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
Here are excerpts of an interview with him, done when there was no
inkling that he would soon be gone:
Among the numerous awards
that you have been given in your career, which is the one that you cherish
the most? ?
I would say that the award I got for my role in Veerapandiya Kattabomman
at the Afro-Asian Festival is very dear to my heart. Maybe it is because
the award was the first in my career. I treasure it very much to this
Does it bother you that your
signal contribution to the film industry has gone unrecognised for so
I am way past awards now. But, yes, there is a corner in my heart that
does wonder why I wasn't acknowledged at a time when I was actively
performing on screen. It hurts me to think about it sometimes.
Even the Dadasaheb Phalke
award was conferred on you after a long time. Do you think that politics
might have played a part in it?
Well, there may have been favouritism, but I wouldn't agree with the
idea that there has been any political intervention in awarding an individual.
From what I know about this (award), there is a certain committee that
approaches the concerned minister with a list of nominees for the award.
If the minister isn't biased or influenced, then the award does find
its way to the right candidate. If that is not the case, then anybody
who has been lobbying for the award gets it.
The award that was given to me apparently was originally
"intended" for someone else. Even I got to know about this from some
officials in the government whom I was familiar with.
Which role would you describe
as your most satisfying?
There was a role that I played in Kappalottiya Thamizhan. I was portraying
the famous Tamil freedom fighter V U Chidambaram. That was one of my
favourites. In fact, after seeing the film, his son hugged me and said
that he could almost see his father in me. I felt truly honoured that
Another exciting film was Deivamagan, where I had to play three different
roles. I had to work really hard to make all of them appear distinct.
Did you use any method of
preparation when you had to act out historical characters like V O C
Kattabomman and Subramania Bharathi?
Well, there was nothing specific. I didn't get the opportunity to read
up on them, because in those days it was really hard to come upon any
authentic material. My only form of preparation would be to thoroughly
go over the script and then to employ my own sensibilities to explore
In the 300 films that you
have acted in, you played a variety of roles. How hard was it for you
to switch characters with every new performance?
I don't think there was anything exceptional in that. A few years of
practice and you get adept at it. But I do feel that the best way of
going about it is not to limit your involvement with the character to
the professional hours alone. One must try and keep the role in mind
all the time. The characters would play on my mind even when I was in
the bathroom, or in my private time, over lunch or even during my afternoon
Was it harder for you
to act in a comedy?
I enjoyed working in a comic role tremendously. It's extremely hard
to play a comedian. It's the kind of creative challenge that you don't
get too often. The film industry was always looking to get me to play
more emotional characters, so I didn't get to do too much comedy in
Do you have any favourite
Yes, several, in fact. Among international stars, I have immense respect
for Charles Boyar, Ronald Goldman, Balmuni. In Hindi cinema, I think
very few can compare to Dilip Kumar. I also like Sanjeev Kumar and Nargis.
In Tamil cinema, there are stalwarts like M R Radha and Baliah. These
actors are irreplaceable.
And among your co-stars?
I liked working with Padmini. She is a fabulous dancer and she could
do a variety of roles, from emotional ones to comedy - an incredibly
Is there any particular
character you would like to play if given the chance?
There is one character that I have always longed to play. It's that
of Periyar E V Ramaswami. He was the man who gave me the title "Sivaji"
after my stage play on the Maratha king (of the same name). It's my
dream to portray him on screen.
(Sadly enough, Sivaji Ganesan expired before he could fulfil his dream.)
Courtesy : Tehelka.com