March 23, 2005
Popular Tamil film hero and the ‘king of romance’, Gemini Ganesan, known for his sober essaying of roles, died on Tuesday morning after a prolonged illness.
With the passing away of Gemini Ganesan, 85, Tamil cinema has bid adieu to the last of the three mudichooda mannargal (uncrowned kings) of yesteryears. Together with MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, the triumvirate lorded over the Tamil film world right down to the seventies.
Gemini, as he was popularly known, might have lacked the mass appeal of MGR or the histrionics of Sivaji Ganesan, but with a supremely graceful portrayal of romantic roles, he had carved out a niche for himself. A late entrant at 34, he used his age-defying looks to rule Tamil cinema’s love themes for more than a decade in the sixties and early seventies. His soft, understated roles won him the title Kaadhal Mannan (king of romance), which he eventually passed on to the versatile Kamal Hassan decades later. He started off as a chemistry lecturer at Madras Christian College and retained the educated middle-class image throughout his career.
While he romanced all leading heroines of the day including Vyjyanthimala, K.R. Vijaya, Saroja Devi and Padmini on screen, Savithri also became his third wife. On screen, her histrionic skills made up for his own limited range and the pair clicked marvellously. Just as Gemini revelled in understatement, he had no qualms on sharing the screen with Sivaji Ganesan. The duo turned out several hits — Paava Mannippu, Paasa Malar and Paarthaal Pasi Theerum.
While he played a villain in his debut film Thaai Ullam, he was cast as the stereotype romantic hero in several box-office hits such as Kalyana Parisu and Sumai Thangi. Veteran producer K. Balachander crafted a nine-role script for Gemini Ganesan, but the film Naan Avan Illai produced by the star himself, bombed.
Gemini was a Kaadhal Mannan in real life too, passing from marriage to marriage. His fourth and last wife, whom he married in old age, was his erstwhile secretary. He, however, went on record, saying he was closest to his first wife, Bobji, than Bollywood actor Rekha’s mother Pushpavalli or Savithri. The actor had noted in his autobiography Vaazhkai Padagu (The Boat of Life): ‘‘Somehow, I seemed to attract women who were in distress.’’
Rekha not at funeral
Chennai: Gemini Ganesan’s daughter Rekha did not attend her father’s funeral on Tuesday evening. Family sources said she was shooting for a film in Kulu Manali, and therefore was not able to come for the funeral. — ENS
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