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Nagesh: Comedy King of Tamil Cinema

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

“Naghaichchuvai Mannan” (King of Comedy) Nagesh passed away in Chennai today (Jan 31st 2009). He was 75.

[Nagesh 1933-2009]

He had been hospitalised some weeks ago having fallen and hurt himself in the bathroom. There was internal bleeding and problems in breathing.

He was discharged after treatment and returned to his home at Alvarpettai on Friday Jan 30th. On Saturday after having breakfast he underwent chest pain and shortness of breath.

After being taken to hospital it was diagnosed that he had undergone a massive heart attack. Nagesh breathed his last 11. 20 am.

His body was brought to his Alwarpettai residence for people to pay their respects. A large number of fans and cine artistes paid homage to the comedian par excellence of Tamil cinema.

Nagesh was the undisputed king of comedians in Tamil cinema from the early sixties to mid-seventies of the previous century. After a “lull” the versatile actor re-entered Tamil cinema in a new “avatar” playing character and villain roles. Even during his stint as comedian, Nagesh acted in quite a few lead roles too.

News of his death revives nostalgic memories of the golden era of Tamil cinema. Those of us who grew up on a steady diet of Tamil films can never forget the man and his acting.

The first Nagesh starring movie that I saw was “Nenjil Or Aalayam” directed by the legendary CV Sridhar who also passed away last year. Nagesh played Peter a male nurse in a hospital.

The last Nagesh movie I saw was “Dasavatharam” with Kamal Hassan essaying ten roles. In that Nagesh played a venerable Muslim elder Sheik Mukthar.He acted as father of Kamal the “giant”.

Between “Nenjil Or Aalayam” and “Dasavatharam” I have seen hundreds of films with Nagesh. How much we enjoyed his scenes and laughed. How many times would we have imitated and mimicked those scenes later. For those happy memories “Nandri Nagesh”!

Screen Persona

He burst upon the Tamil film scene at a time when comedy in Tamil films was getting somewhat stale. The doyen NS Krishnan was no more. Others of an earlier vintage like “Friend” Ramaswamy,KR Saarangapaani, “Kaaka” Radhakrishnan, Kottappuli Jayaraman, Saayiraam, D. N. Sivathaanu etc were on the wane.

The comparatively “new” generation comprising comedians like KA Thangavelu, JT Chandrababu, TR Ramachandran, “Kuladeivam” Rajagopal,A. Karunanidhi, S. Ramarao was also on the decline.

It was at this juncture that this lean and supple creature with a pock-marked face ventured out on a trail-blazing career. Nagesh’s screen persona combined style and substance.

Witty dialogue delivered with a superb sense of timing, mimicry, mannerisms, facial expressions ranging from grotesque contortions to deadpan countenance, slapstick, humorous body language etc were his hallmarks.

He took Tamil filmdom by storm becoming an essential feature in almost every film made then. He was busy acting on the stage as well as screen. So busy was he that Nagesh at times worked three or four shifts a day.

Leading actors like MGR, Sivaji, Gemini, SS Rajendran,Jaishankar, Ravichandran and AVM Rajan had to adjust their work schedules according to dates given by the comedian who working round the clock shooting sometimes for six movies a day.

There was a time when he created a record when 58 films starring Nagesh were released in fifty-two weeks. Generally he maintained then an average of 30-35 films per year.

The first sighting of Nagesh on the screen resulted in ripples of laughter in theatres. Just seeing him was enough. As the film progressed viewers would squeal with delight and engage in side-splitting laughter as scenes unfolded.When he delivered his punch-lines there would be loud applause.

Kannada Brahmin

Few of the Fans hearing him deliver his lines at rapid pace with correct diction would have realised that his mother tongue was not Tamil. Nagesh was born to Kannada speaking Madhwa Brahmin parents on September 27th 1933 in Darapuram.

His father was Krishna Rao and mother Rukkumaniamma. Nagesh himself was named Gundappa but was known as Gundu Rao. After a tiff with his parents and neighbours, young Gundappah left for Chennai (then Madras) to seek his fortune. He swore then that he would return only after making a name for himself.

It was then that he began calling himself as Nageshwar. Being a skinny, he was the butt of jokes at his name “gundu” which meant fat colloquially. So he became Nageshwar instead of Gundappa or Gundu Rao. Nageshwar got shortened to Nagesh eventually.

For years he literally starved and struggled in Madras eking out a living by doing several jobs . These included swinging a “punka” fan for officers, selling bottles of pickles and waiting at restaurants. Finally he got a minor clerical job at the Railway dept.

While working there he saw a drama staged by his fellow employees and felt that he could act. He asked the secretary of the Railway cultural association for a role and was given that of a man suffering severe stomach pain.

The original super star MG Ramachandran (MGR) was the chief guest at one performance and praised Nagesh for his acting.

Benefactor Balaji

This praise from MGR set him off on a quest to shine as a Thespian. His first Tamil movie was “Thamaraikkulam” (Lotus pond) directed by Muktha Sreenivasan. It was a minor role.
It was a harsh world out there in Kodambakkam and for years Nagesh never got a good break. He played bit roles on stage and screen

This was a time of severe hardship. Nagesh had a benefactor. This was none other than the well-known actor Balaji who went on to become a very successful producer.

For nearly three years Balaji helped Nagesh financially while the latter tried hard to get a good opportunity. During this time he roomed up with poet “Vaali” and actor Srikaanth of “Vennira Aadai” fame in a boarding house.

Nagesh was the champion in carom and table-tennis during his “boarding” days. He also played cricket and was a good fast bowler.

Finally it was Balaji who introduced Nagesh to director Sridhar who was looking out for a “new face” to do comedy. The comedy dialogue was penned by Sridhar’s schoolmate and buddy “Chitralaya” Gopu.

Impressed by the unimpressive-looking Nagesh, Sridhar paid him an advance of 501 rupees and booked him for “Nenjil Or Aalayam”.

Nagesh-Manorama

Nagesh was paired off with Manorama in that film. Just as there was a triangular relationship among Kalyanakumar, Devika and Mutturaman in the main story , there was another “comic” triangle as a side story among Nagesh, Manorama and S. Ramarao.

The film shot in one set within a record time of 28 days was a huge success running for more than 175 days.The comedy scenes by Nagesh and Manorama added to its appeal.

From that time onwards there was no looking back for the Nagesh-Manorama duo. The pair became a successful comedy combination like NS Krishnan-TA Madhuram, Kali N Rathinam-CD Rajakantham and Thangavelu-M. Saroja.

Later Nagesh was to pair off with others like Madhavi, Kumari Sachchu, Pushpamala, Gitanjali, Jayanthi and Ramaprabha.But the Nagesh-Manorama partnership was the best of all.

Refreshingly Original

Nagesh’s acting was something fresh and sensational. Many compared him to Danny Kaye and Jerry Lewis. Nagesh himself was an ardent fan of Jerry Lewis. One could also detect shades of Charlie Chaplin, Marx brothers and the three stooges in his acting.

Yet his performances were not parodies. Nagesh was influenced by these actors but evolved a style of his own that was refreshingly original.

Much of the comic dialogue for Nagesh was written by A. Veerappan who also did comic roles on screen later. In the film “Panathottam” Nagesh and Veerappan did a Tamilised version of Laurel and Hardy.

But Nagesh himself was full of witty dialogue and instant repartee. Fellow actors and actresses would be taken aback by Nagesh’s sudden improvisations. Often Nagesh himself would suggest what the rejoinders should be.

Nagesh himself had the habit of observing in detail the movements and mannerisms of ordinary people. He would then adopt and adapt those accordingly whenever appropriate for the roles he was acting in and as.

There were any occasions when a comedy track totally separate from the main story was written especially for him. There was such public demand that Nagesh was indispensable. So roles were created and juxtaposed in order to accommodate him.

As is customary in Tamil movies the comedian played a subservient role to that of the hero. The comedian was like a second or third hero. Yet Nagesh often eclipsed the main actors by his scintillating performance.

He also graduated to lead actor in some films. Many of these did not do well at the box-office presumably due to a “mental block” among fans in seeing comedian as hero. Nevertheless Nagesh’s acting brought in rave reviews. Some like “server” Sundaram and “ethirneechal” were blockbusters.

Among his comedian contemporaries were “Cho” Ramswamy, “Thengai” Sreenivaasan, “Vennira Aadai” Moorthy and Surulirajan. Nagesh was like the moon amid stars and outshone them all.

“Server” Sundaram

Nagesh also began acting in dramas staged by the legendary K. Balachander. These were staged under the auspices of Ragini Recreations. Among those involved in these dramas were Nagesh , “Major” Sundararajan and Srikaanth.

[Sarvar Sundaram]

One drama was written and directed exclusively for Nagesh by Balachander. This was the famous “Sarvar Sundaram”. Having been a hotel waiter Nagesh played the “server” role to perfection.

AV Meiyappan Chettiar of AVM Productions was enthralled and produced it as a film. This gave Nagesh another dimension as an actor who could evoke tears from the audience through his emotional performance.

There was also a poignant scene where life imitated art. The “server” Sundaram becomes a successful filmstar in the movie and returns to his village to see his mother but is just on time for her funeral.

Likewise Nagesh after making it big time as actor, retuned home after many years in a posh car only to find his mother’s funeral was in progress.

[A.L. Raghavan sings for Nagesh in Panama Pasama]

Many playback singers have sung for Nagesh. These include TM Soundararajan, Seergali Govindarajan, PB Sreenivaas and AL Raghavan. But of all these, I think AL Raghavan’s voice suited him best just as SC Krishnan’s voice suited Thangavelu.

From humorous songs like “Saapidathaan Theriyum”, “Cheetukattu Rajah”, “Come Come Rosie Come, Come”, “vellaikkaara Kutti” “Vaalaithandu pola udambu Alek”,to the sorrowful “Saami Illaamal Oorkolama” Raghavan’s voice blended and harmonised with that of Nagesh.

K. Balachander

The director who brought out the best in Nagesh was K. Balachander. “Sarvar Sundaram”, “Neerkumizhi”, “Naanal”, “Anubhavi Raja Anubhavi”, “Major Chandrakanth”, “Ethirneechal”, “Poova Thalaiya”, “Thamarai Nencham”, “Bhama Vijayam”, “Iru Kodugal”, “Navakraham”, “Pathaam pasali” etc were all films by Balachander where Nagesh provided stellar displays of his histrionic talents.

In “Anubhavi rajah anubhavi” he played dual roles. The song “Muthukulikka Varrehala” in Tuticorin Tamil lingo was a hit. In “Poova Thalaiya?” Nagesh was the carter who played defiant son-in-law to the haughty S. Varalakshmi.

[Thamarai Kannangal-PB Sreenivaas sings for Nagesh in Ethir Neechal]

“Ethirneechal” saw him as an orphan who slept under the staircase and was called “Maadippadi Maadhu”. He would go door to door for leftover food saying “Maadhu vandirukken”. In a dream sequence Nagesh sings a lovely duet “Thamarai Kannangal” with Jayanthi

It is said that Balachander used to cite Nagesh as the yardstick for other actors to emulate. Kamal Hassan who is easily the best actor in current Tamil cinema would often be goaded by Balachander by admonishing Kamal saying “Nagesh would have brought out the correct emotion in a jiffy”.

[Apoorva Ragangal]

Though Nagesh has acted in many different roles in Balachander films, one sequence that is perhaps best remembered is the drunkard-doctor of “Apoorva Ragangal”.

One cannot forget the scene where the tipsy Nagesh talks to his own shadow with a liqour bottle in hand saying “cheers sollanum daa mundam” and clicks his bottle with his shadow on the wall. The bottle breaks!

Outstanding Roles

One has lost count of the films he acted in. But there are some outstanding roles indelibly etched in memory. There was TR Ramanna’s “Panakkaara Kudumbam” where Nagesh acted in four roles as son, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

This was an MGR movie. Naturally Nagesh had to underplay his roles in MGR starrers. One movie where he made his mark was as MGR’s younger brother in “Panam Paaithavan”. Another was as Kumaresa Othuvaar in “Rahasiya Police 115″.

In “Engalukkum Kaalam Varum” he was paired off with the beautiful Padmini then making a comeback after her marriage. It was on the familiar rags to riches theme.

[Kathalikka Neramillai]

Sridhar’s “Kathalikka Neramillai” was another milestone. Nagesh played Chellappa the elder son of estate owner Viswanathan played by veteran TS Balaiya.

Chellappa is an aspiring film maker in the film and the scene that brings the house down is the one where he relates the story of the movie he is making to his father in blood-curdling manner.

[Nagesh and Sivaji Ganeshan in "Thiruvilaiyaadal"]

Another striking role was as the poet Tharumi in “Thiruvilaiyaadhal” directed by AP Nagarajan. Sivaji Ganesan is Lord Siva. The interaction between Sivaji and Nagesh was fantastic particularly the question and answer session.

Among other films with Sivaji where Nagesh excelled were as the pimp “Savadaal Vaithi” in “Thillana Moganaambaal” and the underling “Panchawarnam” in “Vasantha Maaligai”

[Then Mazhai]

“Then Mazhai” starring Nagesh and Cho in chief comedy roles was another hit. It was a remake of an old English comedy. Cho himself wrote the dialogue.

Among other brilliant performances were Madhu in “Ethirneechal”,Joseph in “Yaarukkaha Aluthaan”, Mohan in “Major Chandrakanth”, VIswanatha Sharma in “Sila nerangalil sila manithargal”, Avinashi in “Michael Madanakamarajan”, Subbuni in “Minnale”, Fr. Rozario in “Kathal Kondein”, and Mokkaiyapper in “Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikesi”.

There were also other marvellous roles like in “Thillumullu” where Nagesh played himself, “Magalir Mattum” in which Nagesh was a “dead” body, “Panchathanthiram” where he was father in law to Yugisethu and “Nammavar” in which Nagesh was the father of Nirmala. He got an all India award for best supporting actor in “Nammavar”.

Another remarkable aspect to the man was his dancing ability. It was a pity that he acted as comedian thereby engaging in clownish movements while dancing. But he was one who could dance very well. His son Anandababu inherited the father’s talent. Nagesh was also familiar with both western and carnatic music

Popular Actor

Nagesh who was riding the crest of a wave as popular actor had a big fall in the late seventies and early eighties. While his popularity with fans had not decreased film producers were reluctant to cast him in their movies.

This was due to Nagesh having become an alcoholic. The problems he caused producers , directors and co-stars made him an untouchable.

He also had a lot of domestic strife. Nagesh had married Regina a Christian woman of a different caste and so got estranged from his Brahmin family. The wife and siblings were arrested on charges of murder in an acrimonious family dispute.

Nagesh was separated from family for many years and lived alone. His wife died years ago.

He did not want to discuss his personal problems with the media and so avoided the press like a plague. Thus Nagesh faded away from the public gaze for many years.

Financial Situation

Complicating matters further was his financial situation. Earlier he had wisely invested his money in real estate like Gemini Ganesh. But the domestic squabbles ate into his finances. Moreover he produced a film “Paartha Gaabagam Illaiyo”? with son Anandababu as hero. It was a flop that ruined him financially.

Another reason for Nagesh’s downfall was the estrangement he had with MGR. After MGR became chief minister people started avoiding Nagesh so as not to incur MGR’s displeasure.

At one stage Nagesh’s finances had plunged to an all time low and he was about to lose the last of his properties, the “Nagesh” cinema theatre. It was then that he mended fences with MGR and sought his help.

MGR was magnanimous enough to bail out Nagesh. He also arranged for medical treatment to cure Nagesh of his alcoholism. Mercifully Nagesh was rehabilitated but film assignments were not readily available. Meanwhile MGR also died.

Kamal Hassan

But Kamal Hassan who was a devoted Nagesh rasika came to the veteran’s rescue. Nagesh played the chief villain in Kamal’s “Apoorva Sahodaragal” to perfection. Thereafter Nagesh got several roles mostly as villain or character actor.

[Manorama, Kamal Hassan and Nagesh during the release of "Dasavatharam"]

Kamal himself provided Nagesh many chances. Incidently the only photograph Kamal has in his office is one of him with Nagesh.

Another cause of sorrow was his son Anandababu. Though he showed much promise and was a wonderful dancer the son too got hooked to alcohol and drugs. His film career plummeted and it was only recently that Babu made a comeback after getting medically rehabilitated.His other two sons are businessmen.

Elusive Introvert

It was indeed sorrowfully ironic that the man who made many people happy through his comedy was himself afflicted by tragedy in personal life. This made him an elusive introvert in personal life.

He was for long inaccessible to the media. For instance, Malathy Rangarajan of “the Hindu” had to wait six years before she got an interview with Nagesh.

In recent times he had begun coming out from his self-imposed cocoon. He wrote an auto-biography “Sirithu Vaala Vendum”. (Must Live Laughing). There was also a public function “Endrendrum Nagesh” (Nagesh forever) felicitating him last year on his 75th birthday.

Water Bubble

In the film “Neerkumizhi” (water bubble) where he played a terminally ill cancer patient, a song was picturised on Nagesh. It was sung by Seergali Govindarajan with words written by Suradha and music composed by V.Kumar.[Aadi adangum Vaalkaiyadaa]

It is a philosophical-mystical song about the impermanence of life and permanence of death. The opening lines go thus “Aadi adangum Vaalkaiyadaa, Aaradi Nilame Sonthamadaa” (All life’s activity ceases and only six feet of land is owned)

Those lines and the title of his autobiography “Sirithu Vaala Vendum” (Must live laughing) sum up the life and times of Nagesh the comedy king of Tamil cnema

D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be contacted on: dbsjeyaraj@yahoo.com

77 Comments

  1. Murugesan says:

    Nagesh is one of the greatest actors in Tamil Cinema…not just ‘King of comedy’ as the Tamil movie world knew him…..in fact he was a ‘Super Star’ for there is hardly anyone else who did or could do all those roles the way Nagesh did, as DBS Jeyaraj has mentioned in their lifetime.

    I very much liked his role as father of Arjun in Tamil movie Rhythm.

    Thank you for this detailed tribute.

  2. Rajkumar says:

    I liked him a lot. Enjoyed his fight scenes. will do funny things and fight villains without hittting hard. Nice acting

  3. Alex Sundaram says:

    Mr. D B S Jeyaraj
    thank you for this article.
    I am also happy that you and i can agree at least on Nagesh

  4. Tamil Film Fanatic says:

    It is a very good article.I read this news this morning and I was surprised to read a deatil biography of Nagesh.This shows your knowledge in politica as well as in cinema as per your own website.I have a doubt it is after your article that one of the Indian website must have collected information
    Keep up the good work and i hope to read more abot cinema.
    God bless you

  5. aratai says:

    “Aadi adangum Vaalkaiyadaa, Aaradi Nilame Sonthamadaa” (All ife’s activity ceases and only six feet of land is owned)

    Lucky, He is an Indian. If He is a Srilankan Tamil, He don’t have, even 6 inches to rest in peace.

    RIP.
    :-)

  6. Fan of Nagesh says:

    I have never missed any of his films.He is one of the best actors as far as comedy is concerned.You have given a very good comments of all his films and biograohy.You are a great person and I salute you for all
    inputs in films and politics.I do not think there is no other journalist who has such a vast knowledge .Good luck.

  7. Jamuna says:

    Mr. Jeyaraj is very correct about Nagesh acting. As children we also enjoyed seeing Nagesh fims. Your article makes us think of happy times.Thank you Jeyaraj

  8. M.Anton says:

    Nagesh was my favourite comedy actor in Tamil. Very sad he is dead. Thank you DBS for good tribute

  9. Raj Mather says:

    He was one of my favorite comedy actors, the other being Thangavelu. Thank you, Nagesh for years of laughter and thanks to you Mr Jeyaraj for such detailed information about him which I did not know.

  10. Arjuna says:

    He had passed away at a wrong time. Otherwise Sri Lankan Tamils would have paid a great tribute to Nagesh.

  11. Balakumaran says:

    Excellent tribute DBS to this remarkable actor. Your details on defferent roles Nagesh played is facinating.
    Thanks for your contribution!!!

  12. Mukilan says:

    I’m a fan of Hon Nakesh. it is great loss for entire Thamil Cenema. he is a great… great actor. we could not forget him.

  13. Hari Nair says:

    Undoubtedly we have lost an icon in the industry, he has given all he had, and earned the respect of countless millions. May he have the rest which he richly deserves!!
    He has humbled many a rising star and will do so for years to come, not because of his comedies, but rather his tragedies which he had overcome admirably.

  14. AS USUAL, YOUR INFORMATIVE ARTICLE IS PRAISE WORTHY.

    YOUR CONTRIBUTION IS GREAT

    REGARDS
    MUZAMMIL
    (SRI LANKA)

  15. Devi says:

    Nagesh very good actor. I laughed so much looking at his films. Big loss.

  16. லேனாட் says:

    பல ஆண்டுகாலமாக தமிழ் சினிமாவில் சிரிப்பை வாழவைத்த
    எமது ஆருயிர் நகைச்சுவை மன்னன் அவர்களே!
    நீர் பல தலைமுறைகளை சிரிக்கவைதவர் மட்டுமல்ல,
    உமது நகைச்சுவயை கேட்டு சிரிக்க பல தலைமுறைகள் பிறக்கவும் உள்ளனர்.

    நீர் ஒரு நகைச்சுவயை சமுத்திரம்!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Ruban says:

    Nice article DBS. keep it up. why dont you put clips of AL Raghavan singing for Nagesh. As you wrote I too like “Saamy Illamal oorkolama, thali illamal kalyanama”song by ALR for Nagesh. It was enkaluku kalam varum film I think

  18. Kokila says:

    Best film I liked from Nagesh was abubavi raja anubavi. He did double actor role in that. I remember his songs madras nalla madras and muthu kulikka vaariheealaa. very nice article Mr. Jeyaraj

  19. Kokila says:

    Oh Sorry I forgot. One other song I like from Nagesh was in Iru koduhal. he came in dream as Bharathiyar and singing pappa padiya bharathy naan thane.

  20. Thayalan Suntharalingam says:

    Nakesh was the original Break dancer sandly his dancing talents were not realized by the industry devastatinglly funny
    man.As many a None tamilian contributed to growth of the language that fed him. He will be greatly missed.

  21. shiran says:

    ஆருயிர் நகைச்சுவை மன்னன் அவர்களே
    நீர் ஒரு நகைச்சுவயை சமுத்திரம்

  22. Siva says:

    மறைந்த மிகப்பெரிய நகைச்சுவை நடிகர் நாகேஸ் அவர்கள் பல வருடங்களுக்கு முன்பு உடல்நலம் மிகவும் குன்றிய நிலையில் சென்னையிலுள்ள வைத்தியசாலையில் பல காலம்; இருந்தார். அப்போது தோழர் பத்மநாபா அவரை சில தடவைகள் சென்று பார்த்திருக்கின்றார்.

    அப்போது நாகேஸ் அவரிடம் யாரப்பா நீ? ஏன்று கேட்டிருக்கின்றார். அப்போது தோழர் பத்மநாபா “நான் உங்கள் ரசிகன். எனது பெயர் பத்மநாபா. ஏன்னை ரஞ்சன் என்று இங்கு அழைப்பார்கள்” என்று கூறிவிட்டு சிலநேரம் நாகேஸ் அவர்களுடன் உரையாடுவிட்டு சென்றுவிட்ட விட்டார்.

    ஆதன் பிறகு பல வருடங்களின் பின்பு தோழர் நாபா சென்னையில் புலிகளால் சுட்டுக்கொல்லப்பட்டார். அப்போது நாகேஸ் அவர்கள் தனது வைத்தியசாலை அனுபவத்தை நினைவு கூர்ந்து தன்னை எத்தனையோ பேர் வைத்தியசாலையில் வந்து பார்த்தார்கள், ஆனால் ரஞ்சனின் முகம் மட்டும்தான் இன்றுவரை என்நினைவில் இருக்கின்றது என்று தனக்கு நெருங்கியவர்களிடம் கூறு நெகிழ்ந்திருக்கிறார்.

  23. Navindran says:

    Excellent Article, DBS. I do not consider him a comedy king but actually the one of the or the best actors in the tamil flim industries. Comedy is not easy and until I saw server Sundram, i was amazed by his acting. Ironically alot of tamil comedy actors tend to lead sad lives while they bring joy to their audience.

    MGR and Sivaji dominated the industry preventing good talent from emerging. This not only included good actors but actress, music directors etc.

    On hindsight, MGR forgave Nagesh even though he insulted MGR by calling him a wig wearing old man. This was much delayed forgivness which led to Nagesh detoriating to his state. He had already fallen on MGR feet and asked for his forgiveness the very next day.

    Hence though it may look like MGR was magnaious in helping Nagesh, if actual fact if he had forgiven him then, Nagesh would have not been driven to the stage of hopelessness. The irony of the tamil cinema is the villian Nambiar was a hero in real life while the heroes MGR and Sivaji was worst then the villians they fought.

  24. Amrit Selvaraj Rajkumar says:

    Thank you Mr Jeyaraj for providing all informatiom on the sad demise of our beloved actor Nagesh. I am an ardent fan of Nagesh right from the year 1960 when i was 16 years old. I would be so happy not to miss a Nagesh movie and till date see it over and over again.He made the whole world happy with his wit and dances we will miss a lot. GOD BLESS HIS SOUL AND GIVE HIM ETERNAL REST. if possible could you enlighten us about hie wife and sons. Best regards. Rajkumar Dubai

  25. vinoth says:

    excellent article.. gud to read about actor nagesh and his life story!! keep up d gud work..

  26. Meenakshi says:

    What a great article and what a great actor he was… Its a big loss to humanity. Hope his soul rest in peace… he had made millions of people happy with a smile in the face coz his humor.
    What a life for such a great artist!!

  27. chandrashekar says:

    As long as people love him he is Imortal,i have seen many youngster imitating the Late MGR.Sivaji and other Veteran in the cine field but non have done a Nagesh, He is always reinventing mannersim and never constant ,Iconic in Indian Cinema

  28. kalpana says:

    These three are the best best of the best of Young Nagesh….

    Nammavar, Apoorva Sagotharargal, Magalir Mattum (irony is, in this film he acts like a dead corpse!!)

    is the best, best of the best of older Nagesh.

    Of course he is good in all his films, he has been a consistent performer. He gives so much to each and every scene, and we cannot deny his presence even for a moment!!

    Long live the fame of Nagesh…! Hope we get more stars like him to keep the Tamil industry going!

    May your soul rest in peace. Ange Sivaji, Padmini and all other great stars of tamil nadu-va kettatha sollunga!

    -Kalpana

  29. Kedaranath says:

    What a wonderful actor we have lost. His role in ‘Server Sundaram’ was a master piece. He just lived in any character given to him and never acted. The very presence of Shri Nagesh on the screen used to being peels of laughter and people used to forget themselves being completely immersed in his roles.Any amount of wrods will not be sufficient to describe the ‘Great Nagesh’. I don’t think we can see such actors now. He used to make people laugh and also cry in his roles. Unfortunate that the Government did not recognise such a great actor. Now the Government will shed crocodile tears on his loss. I sincerely pray Almighty to rest his soul in Peace. God bless his family.

  30. A.Joseph says:

    One of the finest actors of indian cinema has passed away. Yes, the versatile actor NAGESH. We grew up in Tamilnadu hearing to the comedy tracks of this gr8 man with the gr8 thespian Mr.Sivaji Ganesan in THIRUVILAIYAADAL. His explaination of the crime scene as an upcoming film director’s role in KAATHALIKA NERAMILLAI is really unbeatable. Who can forget his role as MAADU in ETHIRNEECHAL. The gr8 actors like Sivaji Ganesan,Manorama,Major Sundararajan,Muthuraman,MGR enjoyed a very fine on-screen chemistry with this genius. Veteran Director K.BALACHANDER was a pioneer in handling this “performance dynamite”. He invested less money in NAGESH and reaped huge profits. His death did not get needed media attention in TAMILNADU, where all of us had other “hot island news”.Neither the current CM nor the former CM of Tamilnadu who have risen to this position through tinsel world did not acknowledge this MAHAPERFORMER. The sad state of affairs is that Mr.VIVEK has been awarded Padma Bushan this year, but not NAGESH. MAY THIRU.NAGESH’S soul rest in peace

  31. Arun says:

    What a man he is… He is not only a comedian. Remember his performance in Nammavar ? I was moved by the way he acted in that movie. Even now it brings out tears if i happen to watch that movie. He is a true legend. And its a shame dat the TN government din give the recognition that he deserved !!

  32. Lal prasad says:

    Mehmood once said that Nagesh is the greatest comedian ever produced in Indian film Industry..! Whatever Nagesh acted as hero in south, Mehmood remade in Hindi. Firest he approached Nagesh to do Hindi version also. Nagesh politely refused stating that he is not very fluent in Hindi, then alone Mehmood acted himself… that includes ramake of ‘Madras to Pondicherry’ – made as ‘Bombay to Goa’. Lime me he was a kannadiga by birth, still excelled in Tamil Comedy…. he was famous in all south indian languages and also made guest appearance in ‘Farz’ if i am right… let his soul rest in peace…

  33. Lal prasad says:

    Once Sivaji said that ‘if Nagesh had slightly better look and little bit of fairness, he would have eaten me and MGR for sure…!’. That was the performace of Nagesh. I am yet to see another action comedian like him after Charlie Chaplin… though he excelled in action comedy. Dancer Prabhudeva once said that the energy Nagesh produces for his dance sequences (comical mostly with swift, magical steps) is un matched. With an ugly face and small pox marks, he is an example of self-confidence…!

  34. Muthu says:

    His timing was always fantastic. Even when he didn’t utter a word (as a corpse in Magalir Mattum), he was hilarious. He always be remembered as Dharumi, Maadhu, Server Sundaram & Vaithi. His pairing with the comedy actress Manorama was always successful.

    Hearty Condolences to his family. Tamil cinema has indeed lost a doyen.

  35. Bhavani says:

    i just love watching him on screen. he’s so sweet and funny. may his soul rest in peace. thank you so much for making us laugh. such a rare commodity in today’s world. we will miss you sir.

  36. Jothikumar says:

    I agree with arun. Why not much news in media. Is His Himalayan performance in acting for many decades was forgotten by Tamil field? Ungrateful field. While telegu channel could telecast his dubbed movie, why not tamil channels. I myself scanning all Tamil channels to know much about. What the leaders are doing in Tamil Nadu. Learn from Karnataka to respect theatre artists. What to do it is the fate of artists in Tamil Nadu. You should be a politician to get recognition in Tamil Nadu or should die when you are in peak or otherwise the same fate like Nagesh. The versatile actor is totally forgotten. Thanks for the enormous entertainment serials in Tamil Channels and other unnessary hot political topics to to chew. May his soul rest in peace and god give strength to his family to bear the irreparable loss.

  37. VENKAT says:

    Ethir Neechal, Serversundaram, Apoorva

    Sahodarar, Thiruvilayaadal.

    Nagesh is Nagesh–the great-the legend.

    Speedy talk–flexy body–great expression–

    ALL in one, my head bows in front of him,

    will never leave us-he is ETERNAL.

  38. mangalesh says:

    It is an art to make others laugh and am sure that Nagesh is one such gem who has learned and adopted the complete art of Comedy and he has taken that to heights.. It is always fun for people watching his movies.. he is one such actor with an excellent body language.. Edhir Neechal is one such movie where he has done all sorts of role.. Hero, Comedian and as a fantastic actor..it is our privilege to pay him tribute for his wonderful service that he has done through the Film industry.. Hats off and Salute to you sir.. May your Soul rest in peace…

  39. naren says:

    Nagesh was, is and will forever be incomparable.. he could have you in splits and at the same time could reduce you to tears with his acting prowess.. there can never be another Nagesh.. when I saw the news of his death.. I automatically had tears.. all the many movies I saw of Nagesh just came alive in my mind.. right from server sundaram to thiruvilayadal to ethirneechal to panchathanthiram.. Nagesh aiya, we will miss you forever.. you are irreplaceable..

  40. shivnarain says:

    So many people in the Tamil Film Industry or the whole Indian Film Industry got the awards like padmashree and other things. But this Veterean actor who ‘really’ did a Fantastic job did not get even a simple award from the Govt. What a shame!!

  41. S.N.Ramesh says:

    B y hearing the death news of Nagesh the great comedian & Hero & character artist, I am unable 2 control my tears for the last 2 days even till now. I do not think Tamil screen will another great like Nagesh.

    Mind U comedians & actors in any regional language in our country, any other is incomparable to Nagesh. \”And the comparison is Inept\”

    The man who took so much interest in shaping him is none other than the Direction Great called KB (K.Balachander). In fact I want 2 attend the funeral & C his body but unfortunately I am not able 2 is something uncontrable for me If I C him.

    The man with Character.

    This Nagesh will lives in the Heart of Millions of Tamils elsewhere in the country. There are so many movies V cannot forget & of those particularly NEERKUMIZHI/ETHIRNEECHAL/SERVER SUNDRM 2 watch. U cannot come out from the theatre without tears.

  42. Amutha says:

    I can still remember Nagesh coming to singapore in the late 80′s for a variety show with K.Balachander, Barathiraja & other. My late Father was a great fan of Nagesh, he took a photograph with Nagesh and Nagesh hands was around my dad’s shoulder.

    It a grear memorable photo which i still have

  43. karthik P says:

    It is an art to make others laugh and am sure that Nagesh is one such Gem who has learned and adopted the complete art of Comedy and he has taken that to heights.. It is always fun for people watching his movies.. he is one such actor with an excellent Body Language.. it is our privilege to pay him tribute for his wonderful service that he has done through the Film industry.. Hats off and Salute to you sir.. May your Soul rest in peace… Edhir Neechal is one such movie where he has done all sorts of role.. Hero, Comedian and as a fantastic actor..

  44. Satish.K says:

    MR NAGESH , IS ONE OF THE RAREST OF THE RARE ACTORS WHO SHOWED LANGUAGES ARE NO BARRIER TO HIM , HE WAS SPONTANEOUS , HE IS THE ONLY LEGEND WHO ACTED WITH NTR, ANR, MGR , SIVAJI, GEMINI KRISHNA, SOBAN BABU, KAMAL, RAJINI & RAJENDRA KUMAR & RAJKUMAR(HINDI) SALUTE TO HIM ,HE DESEREVES AT LEAST PADMA VIBHUSHAN. YESTERDAY I WAS WATCHING T.V ONE OF THE ACTORS WAS TELLING THAT EVEN MGR & SIVAJI USED TO WAIT FOR HIM . REALLY GREAT , FOR A TELUGU CINE GOER, IT IS ANOTHER RUDE SHOCK AFTER THE DEATH OF GREAT COMEDIAN RAJ BABU, WHO DIED 25 YRS AGO .THERE CAN”T BE ANOTHER NAGESH. GOOD BYE MR NAGESH, WITH YOU ANOTHER GLORIOUS ERA ENDED.

  45. Mani says:

    Les known facts..
    In 1976, his alcoholism resulted in Liver damage and it was only a miracle tht saved him. He openly professsed Christianty for a while.
    But later he was attracted by Gnanachery swamigal and started sporting Viboothi mark.
    His sons(all with a surname of Babu, ie the nick name of Mahatma, whom he revered.) made a Bharatha vilas of his house! Yaah. One married a christian, the second married a Muslim and the last one married a Brahmin!

  46. Ramani Velu says:

    DBS a fantastic article for an all time great actor.
    I grew watching his movies and the comic relief that he provided was to me the essence of all Tamil Movies. He was and in some ways still is one of the best to have ever grace the silver screen or theaters.
    Mr Nagesh may your soul rest in peace. Thank you.

  47. P Shantikumar says:

    Nagesh did of course earn unique place in Tamil cinema, with his ability to entertain. You too keep earning plaudits yourself for simply writing in his memory – deservedly so. Bringing together Nagesh’s memory is not a matter for people who do not know or well enough.

    Deep within comedians there is sorrow somewhere trying to find expression. Comedy is an excellent way to bring that sadness, and insecurity, which is rather pronounced than in most of ordinary men and women. Perhaps Sarvar Sundaram reflects that state of mind quite well.

    But, still would break into laughter from scenes in Kaathalika Neramillai, with Balaiah playing the father to Chellapah. I have not been a great film watcher in the last few decades although I remember Chellapah and his Oho production well enough even now. The dance scene in the video clip above of Nagesh and Kumari Sachchu ( as she was known then) and the audience of finacier Muthuraman and Ravichandran brought a flood of pleasant memories back. Remeber, Savudaal Vaithi in Thillana Mohanaambaal. These are of course some of the many hours of entertainment he provided for us to laugh our heads off. In a odd sort of way, it even triggered memory Thanga Velu and his Manaar & Co manager role in Kalyaana Parisu.

    Nagesh has always been very lovable character. He would undeniably be missed by his fans.

  48. Gowri says:

    An actor par excellence who has played every role in the book. A GREAT human being who has inspired even actors like Kamal Hassan with his brilliant work and simplicity. I salute him. He may be gone but will continue to live in our hearts.
    MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE

  49. Daniel.Devadoss says:

    He was the greatest inspiration of almost all the comedy artists across south India. He was not only a comedy actor but also a very good character artist and a dancer. Without any doubt I can tell he was the Greatest ever comedian of Indian cinema. Nagesh..always lives in the heart of millions.

  50. param.sivan says:

    Nagesh was not only an extra ordinary comedian but also a superb actor in any role.
    He had some fantastic dancing capacity which can be seen only in few of his movies.
    Rare talent and perhaps a rare human being..

  51. Jayanthi Balasubramanian says:

    It was a real shock to hear the demise of Mr Nagesh. I really enjoyed the comedy of the veteran actor right from my childhood. The moment I see the actor on screen i used to burst out laughing. It is real vacuum for tamil industry. All we can do is deep condelences to his siblings and may his soul rest in peace.

  52. rathna says:

    Very informative and tribute to a LEGEND.. But he is a wonderful dancer also, if his dance was utilized he would have proved more than Michael Jackson Prabu Deva.

    My uncle worked with him in railways and my uncle was good singer, so when railways produces dramas Nagesh used to act and my uncle who sings for I was told.

    I always admire Nagesh”s wonderful acting I met him when he was in shooting with s.p.muthuraman (AVM) “nimmathy Nimmathy Ungal Choice.

    May his SOUL REST IN PEACE..

  53. Indra Sebastian says:

    Nagesh was a great legend and did his best of him. He is still my favourite actor. There may be so many comedians but he proved himself to be an actor and lasted in our minds from childhood till rest of our life. There will be only ONE NAGESH in the tamil cinema. May his soul rest in peace and his blessings will shower on his family members as well.

  54. Vijay says:

    His acting as a hero in ‘Thenkinnum’, which released in 1973, was super. Those days no movie without Nagesh’s comedy. Nagesh also do make up as women in a few movies, if I am not mistaken he acted as a mother in ‘Naan’, where Ravichandran was the hero. His acting in ‘Nootruku Nooru’ a Jaishankar movie, also good, as a student. He also act with MGR in ‘Ulagam Sutrum Valiban’ travelling to Thailand, Japan and so on. May his soul rest in peace.

  55. VIJIVENKATESH says:

    As kamail rightly said there can only one nagesh. We can not only rate him at par with the legends like SHIVAJI or MANORAMA, many a times he had just wizz passed them with his inimmitable performance. A genius can be recognised by an another genious only. Geniuses like KB & KAMAL have proved this. Nagesh is the only actor who can bring laugher and also tears in you at the same moment. we are fortunate that he has not got good looks. we he had, we would not have got this legendary/ mega and maha performer. salute to his histrionics. if such a great performer is not been recognised by this govt – we should feel ashamed of. thanks to KB who always finds spark in persons and mould them to great/giant actors. only two rose beyond KB’s imagination. one of the two is NAGESH. The other? none other than KAMAL. Thanks to kamal too who had given the maha performer, second round to enthrall us all.
    may his soul rest in peace.

  56. Vijay says:

    Nagesh performance in Anbe Vaa, with MGR dan Monorama also good.

    There was a movie release in 1974, where Nagesh act in double role and hero, opposite of Pramila. I couldn’t remember the name of the movie but it has a trilling and interesting story. Anyone can remember the movie’s name?

  57. kumar srinivasalu says:

    Nagesh is not only a comedy actor but A Very good dancer
    His dance is excellent I really like his film kai niraya kasu,
    yathirneechal

  58. kumar srinivasalu says:

    Vijay that film name is Kai Niraya Kasu He acted with Pramila & CID Sagunthala his friend role srikkanth
    He played double(2) roles The story is based on insurance.
    Actually CID Sagunthala and his lover second nagesh
    planned to kill first nagesh but the second nagesh accidently killed that is the story he acted well in this movie’kai neraya kasu’

    Kumar Srinivasalu-walaja(VELLORE Dist) Now working in (USA)

  59. rany nathan says:

    Nagesh was the greatest comadian of all times.He was a breath of fresh air to a lot of sad people.In those days many fans went to see Nagesh in the movies and talked and talked about his jokes,and tried to imitate.He was a legend of comedy. I salute him and miss him.May his great soul rest in peace.
    Rany from Canada

  60. RAMESH says:

    NAGESH is the greatest comodian

  61. R.Radha Krishnan says:

    Mr.Nagesh was a great comedian, actor. I like very much his movies. The Government failed to recognise such a great actor and should have awarded prestigeous award during his life term.

  62. Vijay says:

    thanks Kumar Srinivasalu. You are right, the movie name is Kai Niraya Kasu. Actually Nagesh did his role well as an hero in movies like Kai Niraya Kasu, Thenkinnum, Vanga Parner Vanga and a few others. But not sure why, he acted as an hero only a few limited movies. His movies acted as an Hero even run better those days compare with other second or third class heroes.

  63. Vijay says:

    I heard that his children never take care of him properly, how far this is true? Anyone know about this?

  64. vijay says:

    it was a good blog.i enjoyed to the fullest

  65. RT says:

    Its a beautiful article summing up every detail of Nagesh.
    Who is going to beat the Nagesh- Manorama duet ?
    DBJ! you are not only good politico but also a an ardent Tamil film journo.
    Many thanks for the artilcle. it was nostalgic.
    Bharathi – WA. Australia

  66. Vijay says:

    Have you all watched the movie ‘Yarrukaga Azluthan’? Nagesh act as an cleaner in a hotel. Once, one of hotel customer lost his purse and Nagest was accussed for that. He take the accussed very easily even it really hurt his feeling. His act was marvelous in that movie. This movie with Nagesh as an hero even better than many massala movie.

  67. raj says:

    Good write up. i fully agree that Cho and Nagesh paired very well in all their films.cho with his wittiness and nagesh with his slapstick comedy thrilled all the cinemegoers.Films like “ninaivil nindraval”,bommalatam,evalavuthan ulagam,galata kalyanam etc will speak volumes of their talents.i think Cho will miss him alot.

  68. sr challa says:

    Nagesh was an exquisite actor , with impeccable timing . In terms of calibre he can be easily ranked along side S.V.R , Savitri . He was equally popular and well known to the telugu audience . The likes of him will perhaps never grace the silver screen again . All credit to Kamal Hassan and M.G.R for the care and concern they showered on him .

  69. Selvi Sivamani says:

    It is indeed a great loss to the Tamil film industry. There can be no other Nagesh. I grew up watching his movies. In my childhood it gave me a lot of fun and in my middle age till now his movies are the only stress breakers and energisers.Throughout this 10+months after his passing away, there has not been a single day where I have not recollected him.

    It is irony that not only the Government of TamilNadu it is even the very many television channels today do telecast his golden classic comedies. We invariably end up watching the low grade concepts and low grade language engulfing the Tamil movies and are shown repeatedly as “comedy sequences”

    Dear Nagesh Sir, please forgive our stupid channels …it may take ages for them to understand the class of your comedy and recognise it. If at all they did, may be my grandchildren may be fortunate to watch the great Nagesh’s comedy telecast in the “comedy times.”

    May your soul rest in peace as you live in the hearts of millions of your fans as in mine !!!

  70. Selvi Sivamani says:

    It is indeed a great loss to the Tamil film industry. There can be no other Nagesh. I grew up watching his movies. In my childhood it gave me a lot of fun and till my middle age now his movies are the only stress breakers and energisers.Throughout this 10+months after his passing away, there has not been a single day where I have not recollected him.

    It is irony that, not only the Government of TamilNadu, even the very many television channels today do not telecast his golden classic comedies. We invariably end up watching the low grade concepts and low grade language engulfing the Tamil movies and are shown repeatedly as “comedy sequences”

    Dear Nagesh Sir, please forgive our stupid channels …it may take ages for them to understand the class of your comedy and recognise it. If at all they did, probably my grandchildren may be fortunate to watch the great Nagesh’s comedy telecast in the “comedy times” in these channels.

    May your soul rest in peace as you live in the hearts of millions of your fans as in mine !!!

  71. mohideen says:

    there is no question how long lived? the question is how a person enjoyed his life? i’m in qatar.last year in january, i was thinking to meet & ask mr nagesh for the ulagam sutrum valiban’s tour expriences to share.but after i came the first week of feb i heard that mr nagesh passed away.i shocked.any way, one day every one will die.but he put lot of unforgetable memories in our mind. what to say?never can sit any one his place in filmy world.we missed the great comodian actor.he is long live in our hearts.

  72. Purandhar Setlur says:

    Well summed up on the comedian’s life.

    As Shakespeare, I believe, rightfully said, “When you laugh the whole world laughs with you, when you cry, you cry alone”

  73. Rajan says:

    King of comedy and comedians of the 20th and 21st century.

  74. R.Shankar says:

    I also agree with the comments.Every one read his history and should know the struggle he has faced to come as giant .Really amazing no one substitute his place.

  75. Dilkaran says:

    A good article on the versatile Nagesh. As an ardent MGR fan, I have seen most of MGR’s films. Nagesh’s role in Enga Veettu Pillai was quite a good one. Also, Chandrodayam was quite funny, especially when he wows to become a sanniyasi. The song “Kaasikku Pogum Sanniyasi” still leaves me in stitches. How about his role in Periya Idathu Penn? I agree that he may have had to under play opposite the great MGR. However, his charisma was never missing. I felt that during his bout with alcoholism, he did not look in good shape. I recall movies like Urimai Kural and Uzhaikkum Karangal He did not look well.

  76. Lakshminarayanan says:

    A good write-up on Nagesh. He was an actor in a class of his own, definitely inimitable. His impeccable timing and the emotional scenes were equivalent 100% with that of his comic ones, extremely hard to find out which one is 100%, this or that and very rarely one can see such talent. I am not underestimating other comedy talents during his period they too had the skill to do both comedy plus emotions, but with equal flair and ease (100%) he could only perform. I’m really happy after reading this beautifully edited article, very nice. Thanks for pushing me back to thinking about the good old classic comedy films.

  77. Great actor his acting is very realistic one ………