'He had the luck of a king'


Manorama Manorama revered Sivaji Ganesan as an actor. She loved him like her own brother. And respected him as a senior costar.

Every word of praise from him made her immensely happy and she had no qualms in admitting that she cared a lot for his opinion.

All those who had watched the funeral procession of Sivaji Ganesan saw Manorama standing on the van, near the body, crying inconsolably.

I met her when she was shooting for a Tamil serial, three days after Sivaji’s death, she looked devastated. As she talked, she choked, tears welled up in her eyes and trickled down uncontrollably. At times, she had to pause for a second or so to control her sobs:

It was in 1955 that I first met 'Nadigar Thilakam' Sivaji Ganesan. I was acting in a drama company in Thindivanam, and Sivaji had come to watch a performance of ours.

The play was Neethipathi.

I can’t say how excited all of us were when we came to know that he would be coming to watch the play. We had seen his films like Parasakthi and were great fans of his. On that day, all I could think of was Anna’s visit. I could not even think of what I was going to say on stage.

I had a double role in the play; I was the heroine and also the villain. Anna watched the whole drama intently and then spoke.

Sivaji Ganesan He said, "The girl who played a double role in the drama acted superbly. She enacted both the roles so differently that it is difficult to find that it was the same person. I am amazed. It is not at all easy to do a double role in a drama. I can only compare her acting talent to that of Anjali Devi."

I was in the seventh heaven. Anjali Devi was the topmost heroine those days. When Anna compared me to her, I could not control my tears.

After the function, he came to me and said, “I am certain you will come up in life. You have a great future.”

That was my first meeting with Sivaji Ganesan -- an unforgettable one.

Later, I came to Madras and started acting in Kalaignar Karunanidhi’s dramas.

Anna would watch them and tell others that I acted very well. Not once did he tell me directly that I was good. Even when I gave a good shot, he would say, "It was good but you can do better."

He said so because he wanted me to excel.

But he would tell others, "There is no one who can beat Mano in emoting," and those people would come and tell me.

It was only after I did Thillana Mohanambal with Anna that people started accepting me as an actress. I was very frightened before the shoot began. The very thought of me acting opposite Sivaji made me a nervous wreck.

There was a scene in the film where I had to listen to him play the nadaswaram, and then play the same ragam. We had to compete with each other; it was a memorable experience.

Another scene will be etched in my mind always -- his line was: “We should be brother and sister not only in this birth but in all the other births too.” Then, I was to reply: “Anna, even now, I am your sister and that will never change.”

I can't forget these dialogues and the way he delivered them. You had to be there near him to enjoy his skill. I was one of those fortunate people.

Only once did he tell me that I acted well -- that was on May 26 this year. It was my birthday. And, as usual, I had gone to take blessings from my Anna. He blessed me and gave a Rs 100 note as a gift.

We started talking about various things, and his wife happened to comment about somebody else who made a mess while delivering dialogues in the Madurai dialect.

Immediately, Anna looked at me and said, "Come on, is there anybody else here who can talk in different dialects like Mano? She is the only person and she is an expert."

Those words still resonate in my ear; they transported me to heaven. That was the first time he directly praised me.

I don't want to say how good an actor he was -- everybody knows how good he was. All those who came after became famous because of his dialogues.

Even Kamal Haasan as a little boy got attention in Kalathoor Kannamma by repeating the dialogues that Anna said in Veerapandiya Katta Bomman. Why? Because Anna was the authority in acting.

He was an acting encyclopaedia.

Have you seen his introductory scene in Parasakthi?

Sivaji Ganesan S S Rajendran was trying to wake him up but he was not supposed to. When he did, you should see the way he threw away the sheet and looked at the camera! It was like a lion getting up from his sleep.

The lion which woke up from his sleep, nearly 50 years ago, never slept after that; he was roaring ever since.

Have you heard of any other actor who rose to such heights with one film? There is only one -- Sivaji Ganesan. No one else has such talent, ability and good luck.

God has given him such luck that it never left him till the last moment. I am witness to it.

After the day’s shooting at a casino in Kathmandu, we decided to try our luck out.

Anna put in a 50 paise coin and turned the knob. You should have seen the number of coins that poured out! He put one more coin. Again, there was a flood of coins.

That is why I say he was born with the luck of a king, and he remained a king even after his death.

One of my dreams was to act in a film directed by him. Unfortunately that was never fulfilled.

In real life too, he was my brother. I would enter his house and run upstairs, where he would be resting.

I shared everything, both happiness and sorrow, with Anna. He would console me whenever I was down.

Manorama He was not like my own brother; he was my own brother. When my mother passed away at 5:45 hrs one morning; Anna was at my home in fifteen minutes. He wanted me to inform my brothers and sisters. When I said, I had none, he pacified me by saying, ‘You have me, your Anna’. He immediately took charge just as my own brother would and sat outside till the body was taken to the crematorium.

How could I repay him?

He knew to act only before the camera; he never acted in front of people. He was genuine.

The moment I came to know of his death, I ran to his house and sat there near the body. I didn’t get up till his body was taken out. I refused to even to drink a drop of water.

Later on, I stood in the lorry for three hours and accompanied his body to the crematorium. The others told me to eat; but I refused. I wanted to punish my body and show my gratitude to my Anna. How else could I show my love for my own brother?

In October, he would complete 74. We wanted to have a huge celebration for his 75th birthday, but that was not to be.

I have lost my own brother. My only wish is to be born as his own sister in the next birth.

As told to Shobha Warrier

Also Read:
A Tribute to the Legend Sivaji Ganesan

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