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November 27, 1999
Real estate 'sparked' Gemini Ganesan woes
N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
Whoever thought that the democratic polity has no responsibilities of a moral nature on the ruler of the day, as used to be the case with the kings of the yore, is sadly mistaken.
In the land of Kannagi, who sought justice for her slain husband Kovalan, that too from the accused Pandya king, a wife has sought Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's intervention, to be united again with her much-married husband.
The husband in question is octogenarian Tamil film actor 'Gemini' Ganesan, who still makes an occasional screen appearance. The title distinguishes him from the other Ganesan, 'Shivaji', and is taken from the film studio that produced films like Chandralekha.
Once dubbed the 'Romance King' of Tamil cinema, Gemini Ganesan has also been a romantic hero off-screen. And that's at the root of the problem.
Gemini is the father of Hindi actress Rekha, through wife Pushpavalli, whom he reportedly discarded. Then entered another actress-wife Savitri, known as the Meenakumari of Tamil and Telugu cinema in a contemporary era. That Savitri, once a popular heroine, died a pauper and in a comatose stage, caused by diabetes and possibly influenced by her desperate addiction to the bottle, is another story. In between, came and went a beehive of girlfriends, as Gemini Ganesan himself is said to be flaunting to friends who cared to lend him a ear, from time to time.
In the midst of all this was 'Babji', his legally wedded first wife, and his children through her: Dr Kamala Selvaraj is a gynaecologist, based in Madras, who is a nationally renowned specialist in 'test-tube baby' methods. Her younger sister Gigi, after whom Gemini had built a nursing home for Dr Kamala, too is a medical doctor, and she has taken to medical writing in Tamil magazines. Gigi - short form for Gemini Ganesan, or GG - or, Dr Jaya Sridhar Rajan, which is her official name, also made her film debut under noted film director Sridhar. But she was considered too early for her days, with her urbane looks when rustic features were the mainstay of Tamil cinema.
If that's for a backgrounder, the real problem arose when Gemini Ganesan married a fourth time, at the young age of 78. That was last year, and his new bride was 36-year-old Juliana, a native of Bangalore then working in Singapore. Juliana left her job and people, to be near her husband, who said he needed a younger wife to attend on him, as first-wife Babji too was advancing in years.
If the twosome started living in a rented accommodation in Madras, with Gemini himself hurtling to and from his original home, the bliss was not to last long. According to Juliana, her husband got admitted to GG nursing home in February this year, but never returned home. Her attempts to see him at the nursing home also did not bear fruit. She blamed Gemini's first family for that.
Soon came the news of Gemini being flown to the side of his daughter in the US, and Juliana started talking freely to the media. That was when she recalled, how Gemini Ganesan had run shouting around the Elliots Beach in Madras one night, that he could not live without her, and how he was touched and moved by such an expression of love, which she thought was lacking in the old man's life.
According to Juliana, she was soon being threatened by a lawyer and those claiming to be friends of the first family, wanting her to stay away from Gemini Ganesan's life. They also reportedly offered her monetary compensation, for returning to her old life and employment. She even claimed to have been threatened, and had her mangalsutra snatched away. Juliana would have none of it, not at least until she had seen her husband and talked it out with him.
If someone thought that it was the last of Juliana that he had heard, when the media was full of politics and elections, that was not to be. She has sprouted all over again, this time writing to Chief Minister Karunanidhi, detailing her troubles, and seeking his intervention, for reuniting with her husband.
"Today, I have been pushed out of our rented accommodation, and I have been living by selling my jewellery," she has said in the letter to the chief minister. According to her, Gemini Ganesan had talked to her twice from the US, and also once from Madras in August this year, when he was in town, but was again flown back. Then again, the chubby woman says, her attempts to meet her husband at GG nursing home had been thwarted.
The interesting part of the letter is Juliana's claim that her marriage with Gemini Ganesan had been blessed by the chief minister. However, official sources have not taken kindly to the letter getting into the Tamil media.
As is known Gemini Ganesan and Juliana had a civil marriage, under the Indian Marriage Act.
Gemini is said to own vast real estate in Madras and elsewhere - and that, as the grapevine has it, is the central issue.
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