Sivaji Ganesan

Date of Birth: October 01, 1927
Actor, Supporting Cast
Major Awards, International Awards, State awards
Years Active:
Sivaji Ganesan
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Born Villuppuram Chinnaiahpillai Ganesan
October 1, 1927(1927-10-01)
Villuppuram, Tamil Nadu, India
Died July 21, 2001(2001-07-21) (aged 73)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Other names Nadigar Thilagam
Years active 1952-1999
Spouse Kamala Ganesan

Viluppuram Chinnaiahpillai Ganesan Manrayar1 (Tamil:), popularly known as Sivaji Ganesan (Tamil: ) (October 1, 1927 - July 21, 2001), was a popular Indian stage and film actor active during the latter half of the 20th century.2 He was regarded as one of the most respected film actors in India.3 He is well known for his versatility and acting skills with numerous roles depicted on screen.4

Sivaji Ganesan was the first South Indian film actor to win a best actor award in an international film festival, the Afro-Asian Film Festival held in Cairo, Egypt in 1959. Many leading South Indian film actors have stated that their acting was influenced by Sivaji.567 He was also the first Indian actor to be made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.8

Sivaji Ganesan is remembered as the icon figure of Tamil cinema.910 He is referred to as 'The Marlon Brando of South Indian Cinema'.1112 During end of his career Sivaji was conferred the highest and the most prestigious of awards the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian cinema from the then President of India in 1997.

Early life

Sivaji Ganesan was born on 1 October 1927 to Chinnaiya Manrayar and Rajamani in a Tamil middle-class Kallar family. On the same day, his father Chinnaiya Manrayar was arrested for taking part in an anti-British campaign in Viluppuram.1516 His outstanding portrayal of the character of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the great Maratha warrior, in the stage play "Shivaji Kanda Hindu Rajyam", has earned him the title 'Sivaji' which was conferred on him at a public function presided over by E. V. Ramasamy.

Acting career

Apart from acting in Tamil cinema, he has also acted in Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam films. Ganesan's first film was the Tamil film Parasakthi in 1952, co-starring actress Pandari Bai18 The script for the film was written by the current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi.

Donning versatile roles
Ganesan (right) with N. T. R., M. G. R., Gemini Ganesan and film director Sridhar.

In his career spanning 5 decades, Sivaji Ganesan has donned many characters. The portrayal of Lord shiva in the movie Thiruvilayaadal won him lot of accolades.citation needed In the film Navarathiri (1964), Ganesan played nine different roles that represented the nine emotional states of a person. Hindi actor, Sanjeev Kumar, was inspired by this film and reprised the nine roles in Naya Din Nayi Raat in 1974. Ganesan could strike a balance between commercial cinema, Mythological cinema and experimental cinema. He experimented in films like Thiruvilayaadal, Thiruvarutselvar, Thirumal Perumai, Karnan, Veerapandiya Kattabomman, Thillana Mohanaambal and Raja Rishi. His role in the film Veerapaandiya Kattabomman won him the Best Actor Award at the Afro-Asian Film Festival held in March 1960 at Cairo.20 Sivaji Ganesan was the first Indian actor to get an award for Best Actor abroad.citation needed His roles included V.O.C., Vanchinathan, Thiruppur Kumaran, Bhagat Singh (freedom fighters), Karnan, Bharathan (epic characters), Naradhar, Appar, Aazhvar (puranic characters), lepor, doctor, judge, advocate and rickshaw puller. He also played supporting role to Rajendra Kumar in the Hindi film Dharti in 1970 which was a remake of Sivanddamann (which starred Sivaji in the lead) and Sivaji played the role which Muthuraman had essayed in the original. Rajendra Kumar played the role which Sivaji did in the Tamil film Sivanndamann (1969).

Appealing to the masses

He co-starred with his counterpart, M. G. Ramachandran in one film, which was Koondukkili. He has worked with many actresses, including Bhanumathi Ramakrishna, Pandaribai, Savithri, Padmini, Devika, B. Sarojadevi, K. R. Vijaya, Vanisri and J. Jayalalitha. He also co-starred with other lead actors such as Gemini Ganesan, Muthuraman, M. R. Radha and Jaishankar.

Though he accumulated awards throughout the 1950s and '60s, it was in 1972 that Ganesan delivered his first all-time blockbuster Vasantha Maaligai. In 1979, he delivered his second and final all-time blockbuster Thirisoolam, adapted from the Kannada film Shankar Guru in which Dr. Rajkumar had played the lead role. After this, Sivaji Ganesan began acting in supporting roles. Due to his popularity and his rival MGR's success in politics Shivaji entered politics and had to face big setback as he lost consecutive elections. But due to his proximity with the then prime minister Indira Gandhi he was made the member of rajya sabha in 1983. Indira Gandhi's death in 1984 also brought Sivaji's political career to an end.

Nearing retirement

In the 1990s, as Ganesan was aging, he co-starred with several other actors. His notable films supporting roles were Veerapaandiyan, Jalli Kattu, Pudhiya Vaanam, Thevar Magan, Pasumpon, En Aasai Raasaave and Once More. His last film before his death was Padayappa in 1999. His last film released was Poopparikka Varugirom.

Apart from his numerous roles as a single star on screen, Ganesan has acted in supporting roles with many leading actors from different eras. Ganesan has co-starred with M. G. Ramachandran, M. N. Nambiar, Gemini Ganesan, Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Sathyaraj, Vijayakanth, Prabhu Ganesan, Mohan Babu, Y. G. Mahendran, Sivakumar, K. Bhagyaraj, Mohan, Karthik Muthuraman, Arjun Sarja, Sarath Babu, Joseph Vijay , Mohanlal and Abbas. He has also worked with a vast amount of directors and producers.


Suffering from respiratory problems, Ganesan was admitted to the Apollo Hospital in Chennai on July 21, 2001. He also had been suffering from a prolonged heart ailment for about 10 years.22 He died at 7:45pm (IST) on July 21, 2001 at the age of 73. A documentary, Parasakthi Muthal Padayappa Varai was made to commemorate Sivaji Ganesan's legacy. His funeral was attended by thousands of viewers, politicians and personalities from the South Indian film fraternity.
Ganesan with M. G. Ramachandran at the Annai Illam.

When His Excellency the Late President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt visited India, Sivaji Ganesan was the only individual person, granted permission by Shri Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, to host a party to the visiting V.V.I.P The spectacularly arranged function at Madras , was attended by all dignitaries of various walks of life. President Nasser was given a number of valuable Mementos depicting the civilization and culture of this part of India.24 Sivaji Ganesan was the first artist from India to visit the United States of America , in the Cultural Exchange programme of the US Government, in 1962, where he established a good impression as Indian Cultural Ambassador. During his visit there, he was honored by being made the 'Honorary Mayor' of Niagara Falls City for one day and was presented the Golden Key to the city. The only other Indian who has had this honour before Ganesan was India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.25 On March 12, 1976 he went over to Mauritius on an invitation from the Prime Minister Shri Ramagoolam and took part in their Independence Day Celebration and stayed as their Government guest for four days.26

During his visit to the USA in June 1995, he visited Columbus city, the capital of the Ohio State . Participating in the dinner hosted to honor Dr.Sivaji Ganesan, the Mayor of the city, Greg Lashutka, honored him by announcing him as a 'Honorary Citizen' of Columbus City . On the same occasion the Mayor of Mount Vernon, another city in the USA , read out and gave him a Special Welcome Citation. The 'Columbus Tamil Sangam' was formulated on that day, and Dr.Sivaji Ganesan was made the Honorary President of that association.

Posthumous honours

A statue of Sivaji Ganesan was erected on Kamarajar Salai, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu to honour the actor and was unveiled by the Hon'ble Chief Minister Dr. Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi on 21.07.2006.28 The South Indian Film Artistes' Association as a tribute to Ganesan, declared that October 1, the birth day of Ganesan, would be observed as Actors' Day by the Association Chennai film industry.29
Actor Sivaji Ganesan meeting with Hollywood star Marlon Brando.

Sivaji Ganesan has remained as one of the popular Tamil actors with numerous fans. This was also evident in a survey conducted by Kumudam magazine, in 1990, where Sivaji Ganesan was voted as the most popular actor with (35%) votes.

Awards and honours
Légion d'honneur

Sivaji Ganesan's most prestigious award was the 'Chevalier' in 1995, awarded by the National Order of the Legion of Honour in France. This is one of the main decorations of the French Republic which is conferred to honour the most original and talented personalities, for their remarkable contributions in the field of Arts and Literature in France and all over the world. On April 22, 1995, at a ceremony held at the MAC Stadium, Chennai, Sivaji Ganesan was presented the Chevalier title and medallion by the French Ambassador to India, Philip Petit. J. Jayalalitha, the entire Tamil film industry and representatives of all other Indian regional film industries were present at the ceremony.30

On July 15, 1997, the then Honorable President of India Dr.Shankar Dayal Sharma conferred on him the highest and the most prestigious of awards given to eminent personalities in the field of Indian cinema, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, in appreciation of his contribution to the Indian Cinema.

Major Awards
International Awards

* Afro-Asian Film Festival Best Actor Award, 1959
* Chevalier (Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France), 1995

National level

* Padma Shri, 1966
* Padma Bhushan, 1984
* National Film Award - Special Jury Award for Thevar Magan, 1993
* Dadasaheb Phalke Award, 1996

State awards

* Kalaimamani, 1997
* NTR National Award, 1998 from Andhra Pradesh
* Honorary doctorate