October 14, 2002 
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Sivaji Ganesan
How V C Ganesan became Sivaji Ganesan
A tribute to the legend who traversed 2003 years through his characters

Shobha Warrier

On the day Villupuram Chinnaya Ganesan was born in 1927, his father Chinnayya Manrayar was arrested for participating in the Nationalist movement. Ganesan met his father for the first time at age four when his father was released from jail.

Ganesan's life as an artiste started at age seven when he ran away from home and joined a drama troupe that visited his village and enacted Veerapandya Kattabomman.

He grew up playing different characters in various dramas, having had very little time to be himself. His powerful portrayal as Sivaji in the drama Sivaji Kanda Hindu Samrajyam written by Annadurai (who later went on to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu), impressed Periyar (E V Ramaswamy Naicker, who started the Dravida Kazhagam), so much that he conferred upon the young man the title Sivaji.

Then on, he was not V C Ganesan, but Sivaji Ganesan.

On Anna's recommendation, Ganesan got his first role, a lead role in the film Parasakthi. Many old-timers still remember the famous court scene in Parasakthi, where Ganesan delivered long-drawn yet extremely powerful and poetic dialogues written by Karunanidhi.

With his very first film, Parasakthi, Ganesan was catapulted to unimaginable heights.

Ganesan's life had more drama than a stage play. These dramatic moments that were captured so elegantly and beautifully in his own words in the book that was released in Chennai on his 75th birthday last week.

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Ram Kumar, Prabhu and Dr Narayana Swamy had planned everything to the minutest detail; they were going to present Ganesan the book, Enathu Suya Sarithai (autobiography) on his 75th birthday, and autographed copies would be available for sale. Everything went according to their plans.

But before the finale, the man bid farewell to the world.

This is not a conventional autobiography in the sense that it is not written by the subject. He was asked questions by Dr Narayana Swamy on a variety of topics ranging from the events in his life to acting per se. Through these questions, Ganesan looks back at his life, the struggles he went through from a very young age, the kinds of people that he encountered in the long journey and the innumerable twists and turns and ups and downs in his life.

At Ganesan's insistence, the autobiography was given the question and answer format.

It took several years of research on the part of Dr Swamy, going through every bit of news that appeared in the newspapers and magazines on Ganesan and meeting people connected to the thespian one way or the other. Thousands of photographs of the actor were unearthed from various sources, several which were never released to the public.

What brings tears to the eyes of those who worked hard on the book is the bitter fact that Sivaji Ganesan is not alive to see the book.

Vairamuthu (Tamil film lyricist) said at the release function, "Sivaji achieved what no one ever in the history of the world has. He has lived over 2003 years, from playing Socrates to Veerapandya Kattabomman to Chidambaranar to Sivaji to Shiva; characters across centuries."

Also Read:
Ram Kumar on father Sivaji Ganesan's 'will'
'A book on my life as it came out of my mouth'


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