Sivaji Ganesan: 13 Fascinating Facts About The Tamil Marlon Brando


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The Los Angeles Times once described Sivaji Ganesan as “the Marlon Brando of the South Indian film industry”, and in this article, we’re here to glorify his legendary renditions with the help of 13 interesting facts! One of the most keenly unique things about his name, for example, is the bestowed act of royalty, even if it’s self-imposed, or more correctly, given by his people. In December 1945, Ganesan added Sivaji to his name with his dramatic portrayal of the 17th-century Indian King Sivaji. Let’s dive into other fascinating things about the Tamil actor who was honored not only by the Government of India with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, which is India’s highest award in the field of cinema but also in 1995, by France when the country awarded him its highest honor, the Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour. Sivaji Ganesan is fondly remembered as an iconic figure of Tamil cinema. 

Sivaji Ganesan: 13 Interesting Things About The Tamil Actor Only Few Know! 

1. Sivaji Ganesan ran away at the age of 7:

At the young age of 7, the great artist Sivaji Ganesan sprouted his seeds. But keep in mind that Sivaji Ganesan was born on 1 October 1928, in Villupuram, India as the fourth son of Chinnaiah Manarayar and Rajamani Ammal.

Without his father’s consent, Sivaji Ganesan decided to join a touring stage drama company at the age of seven. Here he started playing child and female roles and then also played lead roles. At the age of 10, he moved to Tiruchirappalli and joined a drama troupe in Sangiliandapuram and started performing in stage plays. He got acting and dancing from working in a drama company. Ganesan had duly learned Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Manipuri dance.

2. Sivaji Ganesa was a method actor:

Whenever there is talk of method acting in our country, the name of Sivaji Ganesan (Method Actor Sivaji Ganesan) gets included in the list of those actors. Sivaji Ganesan by being one of India’s first method actors ever has created a different and unique identity in the hearts of people with his acting. Sivaji Ganesan was described by the Los Angeles Times as “the Marlon Brando of the South Indian film industry”. 

3. He was on a Google Doodle:

Google once celebrated the 93rd birthday of Sivaji Ganesan, and one of the most influential actors the country has ever produced. On this special occasion, Google has dedicated its doodle to him, The attractive doodle has been created by guest artist Nupur Rajesh Choksi from India. 

4. Sivaji Ganesa’s debut ran for 175 days non-stop:

Sivaji made his on-screen debut in the 1952 film “Parashakti”, the first of his more than 300 films in a cinematic career spanning nearly five decades. 

Ganesan made his acting debut in the 1952 Tamil film Parasakthi co-starring Pandari Bai. The film was written and directed by M. Karunanidhi, the now-Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. The film tells the story of the misfortunes of members of a Tamil family during World War II, and how they meet and are reunited by their individual destinies. The film made a record for running continuously for 175 days at the box office.

His acting was appreciated in this film itself and after that, he was seen working the magic of his acting in many films. 

5. Known for his expressive voice: 

Known for his magical voice and stellar performances in Tamil language cinema, Ganesan was known for his clear voice, clear dialogues, and excellent acting skills. Due to his performance, he established his identity at the international level as well. He worked in the film ‘Pasamalar’ which was released in 1961. This film was one of the most famous films of Sivaji Ganesan.

6. This is how Sivaji was named: 

At the nascent stages of his career, Sivaji Ganesan acted as Ganeshmurthy, his given name as he was born in 1928 in Villupuram, a city in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, India. 

But let’s keep in mind that the childhood name of Sivaji Ganesan was V. Chinnaiya Manrayar Ganesamoorthy. He played the character of Raja Sivaji on stage, which was loved by the people. Since then this name got associated with him and he came to be known as Sivaji Ganesan.

In December 1945, Ganesan played the character of 17th century Indian king Sivaji and  his dramatic portrayal rendered the actor famous overnight. His work was highly appreciated and he was given the name Sivaji because his acting had won everyone’s heart. 

Thus He came to be known by his stage name “Sivaji” and fully lived up to this name and ruled the hearts of people like King Sivaji throughout his life.

7. Offered diverse performances in Tamil language cinema: 

He was known for his versatility and the variety of roles he portrayed on screen, which also earned him the Tamil nickname Nadigar Thilagam (the pride of actors). 

Ganesan not only conquered the acting world by becoming Sivaji, but his fame also skyrocketed with his famous blockbusters the trendsetting 1961 film “Pasamalar”, an emotional, family story, which is considered one of the most important achievements of Tamil cinema. 

Sivaji Ganesan’s 100th film was aired in 1964 and played 9 different roles in this film. He not only proved himself with this film but also his every character also became a home in the hearts of the people. 

8. Ganesan quickly gained international fame: 

In the year 1960, he received the Best Actor Award at the International Film Festival for the film ‘Veerapandiya Kattabomman’ and was the first Indian artist to do so. 

Actually, as the first Indian actor to win the Best Actor award at an international film festival, Ganesan created history for his historical film “Veerapandiya Kattabomman”! This movie remains one of his biggest blockbusters.

In the year 1995, Sivaji Ganesan was also the first Indian actor to become a “Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” also known as “Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honor” by France. After two years i.e. in the year 1997, the Government of India honored Sivaji Ganesan with the highest award of cinema “Dadasaheb Phalke Award”. To expand, it was in 1997 when the Government of India awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award which is India’s highest award in the field of cinema. Even today his acting is highly praised and the current actors consider him as their inspiration.

Sivaji Ganesan is the first Indian actor to win the Best Actor Award at the Afro-Asian Film Festival held in Cairo, Egypt in 1960. 

Let us also tell a special thing about Sivaji when Egyptian President Kamal Abdel Nasser visited India, Sivaji Ganesan was the only person who was allowed to meet him by the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. 

9. Death of Sivaji Ganesan:

Sivaji Ganesan died on 21 July 2001 at the age of 72. Ganesan’s 100th film was the 1964 film “Navarathi”, in which he played a record-breaking, nine different roles. And yet when artists leave the planet, they play the role model to several artisans that come after. 

Sivaji Ganesan, suffering from respiratory problems, was admitted to the Apollo Hospital in Chennai on 1 July 2001. He was suffering from heart ailment for a long time for about 10 years. He died at 7:45 PM (IST) on 21 July 2001 at the age of 72, just three months before his 73rd birthday. His funeral the next day was telecast live on Sun TV and was attended by thousands of spectators, politicians and celebrities from the South Indian film fraternity. Ramkumar performed the last rites at the Besant Nagar crematorium in Chennai.

10. Family of Sivaji Ganesan:

Sivaji Ganesan was the fourth son of his family. He had three brothers and one sister. In 1952, Sivaji Ganesan married a woman named Kamala and together the couple had four children. Their younger son Prabhu is a notable Tamil actor. 

In the late 1950s, Sivaji Ganesan established a film production company which is now called Sivaji Productions, which is now looked after by his eldest son, Ramkumar. They have two daughters Shanti and Thenmozhi. Three of his grandsons also appeared in films, including Ramkumar’s two sons Dushyant Ramkumar and Sivaji Dev, both of whom had the stage name Junior Sivaji. Furthermore, Vikram Prabhu made his debut in 2012 with the critically acclaimed film Kumki.

11. He famously acted in multiple languages:

Sivaji Ganesan did a lot of remarkable work in the Tamil cinema of the South in the last five decades of the 20th century. He has worked in about 300 films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Hindi languages. He is also known by the title of Nadigar Thilagam, which means the pride of actors. Influenced by Ganesan’s acting, Many actors in South Cinema have admitted their inspiration. 

12. Got fame from politics also:

V. Chinnaiah Manarayar Ganeshmurthy, better known by his stage name Sivaji Sivaji Ganesan, was an Indian actor and producer. During the second half of the 20th century, He was active in Tamil cinema and within a career spanning nearly five decades, he acted in 288 films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi. Since he had the reach, Sivaji Ganesan also tried his hand at politics and he joined the Congress in the year 1961 after being in the politics of the Dravidian movement till the year 1955. 

Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan was a staunch supporter of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam – up until 1956. Once he went to Tirumala town in the Tirupati district and worshiped Lord Venkateswara in the world-famous temple there. Due to this act, he was heavily criticized by his party men; As DMK propounds atheism and is seen worshiping God. Sivaji Ganesan was deeply hurt by this incident.

Sivaji Ganesan became a strong supporter of the Indian National Congress – in the year 1962. Due to his popularity, he was requested to be a part of the National Congress in Tamil Nadu. His respect for Kamaraj led him to support the Congress. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi made him a Rajya Sabha member and he became a member of the Upper House of the Parliament in the year 1982, but Indira Gandhi’s death in 1984 also ended Sivaji Ganesan’s political career.

After 1988, he formed  a new party ‘Tamil Progressive Front’ also known as (Thamizhga Munnetra Munnani) and contested only 50 seats, trying to play it safe instead of contesting all the seats, which probably cost him the chance to win the election as none of the 50 seats There won’t be a significant difference for any election result.

In 1989, he became the president of the Tamil Nadu branch of Prime Minister V.P. Singh’s Janata Dal party. In contrast to his highly successful acting career, his political career was unsuccessful. His influence as an actor did not fetch him much political mileage which eventually led him to withdraw from politics.

13. Career of Sivaji Ganesan:

1955 to 1960:

After the tremendous success of his first film (the 1952 film “Parashakti”) he also played the role of Umapati in another film Panam in the same year. From 1955 to 1960, he acted in films like Thirumbi Paro, Anbu, Manidhanam Mirugamum, Thuli Vishami, Mudhal Thethi, Sampoorna Ramayanam, etc.

His portrayal of Kattabomman in the 1960 Tamil-language superhit film Veerapandiya Kattabomman won him the Best Actor Award at the Afro-Asian Film Festival held in Cairo in March 1960. He was the first Indian to receive the award abroad.

Veerapandiya Kattabomman, a superhit Tamil language film, was the first Tamil film to be released on a color screen, before which films were in black and white.

1960 to 1970:

In the film Navarathiri (1964), Ganesan donned different characters – specifically 9 of them! Hindi actor, Sanjeev Kumar, was inspired by this film and reprised nine roles in Naya Din Nayi Raat in 1974.

Apart from this, he acted in many films like Palum Pazhamam, Kappalottiya Thamizhan, Mahabharat (1965), Kai Kodutha Deivam and Pachai Vilakku, Neela Vanam, and Harichandra. His films were well-received in the 1960s and 1970s and he managed to deliver consecutive hits.

Apart from Tamil films, Sivaji Ganesan was also seen acting in two Hindi films “Manohar” (1954) and Dharti (1970).

1980 to 1999:

The 1980s was a period in which Ganesan started playing roles in films with good stories. From 1980 to 1999, he appeared in Tyagi, Bezavada Bebuli, Chiranjeevi, Simma Soppanam, Muthal Mariathai, Krishnan Vandhani and En Aasai Rasave. Got his acting done in many films like Muthal.

Mariathai (1985) won him the Filmfare Award and the Tamil Nadu State Film Award under the Best Actor category.


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