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April 16, 2002
For whom death tolls
N Sathiya Moorthy in Chennai
"All male artistes should learn their lessons in courage from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) supremo Karunanidhi. Likewise, all actresses should take a leaf out of the fight-back spirit of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Chief Minister Jayalalitha."
This was an honest plea for upcoming artistes to be fair to themselves by Vijaykanth, ageing Tamil filmstar and president of the South Indian Film Artistes' Association. He cited the two politicians par excellence from Tamil Nadu to drive home their ardent connections with the Tamil film world through thick and thin --- and their own personal ups and downs.
On Sunday, April 14 --- the Tamil New Year Day --- Monal, the 22-year-old actress with four films to her name committed suicide. Apparently, it was after a telephonic tiff with loverboy Prasanna, a dance assistant. The actress hung herself from the ceiling. Also, Monal's mother Veena is believed to have been asking her for money, after elder sister Simran broke ties and became independent.
Coincidentally, Charlie Chaplin, her last outing, ends with Monal's character taking her life. Monal was also to have attended the New Year mahurat of her new film, Paiye Janmam [Ghost Life].
What has drawn attention to Monal's suicide is the fact that she is the sister of Simran, the reigning star in the Tamil film industry. Simran was away in Canada with Kamal Haasan, shooting for their next movie, Panchatantram. Her last two films were Pammal K Sambandham (with Kamal Haasan) and Mani Ratnam's Kannathil Mutthamittal (with Madhavan).
More important, Monal is not the first of film actresses to have ended their lives so very drastically over the last two decades.
It began with 'Urvashi' Shobha, National Award-winner. Her entrappings with the much-married filmmaker of repute, Balu Mahendra, ended in her suicide. Then followed 'Fatafet' Jayalakshmi, Kalpana, Lakshmishree, Kumari Padmini, Vijayashree, 'Silk' Smita and 'Kozhi-koovuthu' Viji. The last ended her life after a marred surgery left her crippled.
'Fatafet' was involved with a nephew of then Chief Minister, M G Ramachandran, while Kumari Padmini is believed to have been an acquaintance of a judicial officer of the time. 'Silk' Smitha, the dreamy-eyed enchantress of southern cinema for over a decade, had a tiff with her loverboy. Or so is it believed.
There was also the case of Savithri Ganesan, stepmother of Hindi actress Rekha. Savithri, considered the Meena Kumari of Tamil cinema, drank herself to a diabetic coma after star husband Gemini Ganesan refused to bail her out of the financial mess she had landed herself in by producing a succession of flopped movies.
For every actress that committed suicide, there is at least one that has eloped. Seetha, Nalini, Poornima Jayaram, Deivayani, or Vindhya --- the latest one to elope --- were said to be under pressure from their mothers to earn for the family. Sarika (wife of Kamal Haasan) and Sridevi are said to have run away from their 'avaricious' mothers.
Nalini is now divorced from star husband Ramarajan. Seetha, whose runaway marriage was on the lines of a film script, is said to have separated from filmmaker husband Parthiban, who recently starred with actress Nandita Das in two Tamil films.
There is of course the story of Radhika and Sarathkumar, both film stars in their own right, married for over a year. For the former, this is her third marriage. For the latter, this is his second --- the first one to a neighbourhood lovebird having fallen through after his name was linked with costars like Heera and Nagma.
Now, Sarathkumar as the Artistes' Association's General Secretary, has mooted counselling sessions for young actresses.
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