Sivaji Ganesan, M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) and Gemini Ganesan comprised the triumvirate that dominated Tamil cinema in India from the fifties to the seventies of the 20th century. The most senior of the trio was M.G.Ramachandran who was born in 1917. MGR passed away in 1987. Gemini Ganesan born in 1920 breathed his last in 2005. The youngest of the three was Sivaji Ganesan born in 1928. He died in 2001.Though Sivaji, MGR and Gemini were hailed as the ‘Moovaenthar’ (Three Kings) of Tamil cinema, it was widely acknowledged that Sivaji Ganesan was the finest actor among the three. He was called “Nadigar Thilagham,” meaning ‘Doyen of Actors’. It was the Tamil film journal” Paesum Padam” which bestowed upon him the honorific.
“Nadigar Thilagham” Sivaji Ganesan passed away peacefully at a Chennai hospital on 21 July 2001. His 20th death anniversary was commemorated ten days ago. This column therefore will focus this week – with the aid of earlier writings – on the life and times of Sivaji Ganesan and his worthwhile contribution to Tamil cinema.
Sivaji Ganesn’s acting career, which began at the age of eight, could be divided into three phases -1936 to 1952, when he acted only on stage; 1952 to 1974, when he acted for the big screen and also gave stage performances; and 1974 to 1999, when he acted only in films.