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Sivaji Ganesan

Sivaji Ganesan (born Viluppuram Chinnaiahpillai Ganesan, October 1, 1927 - July 21, 2001) was a legendary Indian film actor, active during the latter half of the 20th century. His fame came from his versatility and expressive prowess in Tamil cinema. He is the first and only South Indian film actor who has won a best actor award in an international film festival, the Afro-Asian Film Festival held in Cairo during 1959. Sivaji's legacy of acting is still admired today, also being an influence to many other Indian film actors. It has been admitted by most of the leading South Indian film actors that their acting was influenced by Sivaji.

Film career

At the age of nine, Ganesan was so interested in stage plays that he ran away from home to pursue a career in theatre. His mother helped him get into a famous drama troupe.

Ganesan's first film was Parasakthi in 1952 opposite noted actress Pandari Bai. The script for the movie was written by Karunanidhi.

1952 - 1977

He has acted in 300 movies which includes Tamil,Hindi,Malayalam,Telgu,Bengali and Kannada. His majority of his movies are in Tamil. The others are Four In hindi,Two in Malayalam,Two in Kannada and Nine in Telugu

He took his stage name from one of his most famous roles, Emperor Shivaji.. He is also known as Nadigar Thilagam, meaning considered to be one the most influential and greatest actors of all time, and Nadippu Chakravarthy (translated as "the King of Kings of acting). Sivaji's Karna served as the basis for Dana Veer Soor karna. In the film Navarathiri (1964) Sivaji Ganeshan donned nine different roles that represented the 'navarasas' or nine emotional states of a person. The Hindi actor, Sanjeev Kumar, was inspired by this film and wanted to do that kind of cinema, and reprised the nine roles in 'Naya Din Nayi Raat' in 1974. Sivaji struck a balance between commercial cinema and experimental cinema like his contemporaries, artists NTR and Rajkumar. He experimented in films like Thiruvilayaadal, Thiruvarutselvar, Thirumal Peumai, Karnan, Veerapandiya Kattabomman,Thillana Mohanaambal and Raja Rishi. When it came to commercial cinema he was compared with another legend MGR and NTR for his movies like Thirusoolam, RishiMoolam, Pasamalar, Paalum pazhamum, Bhagappirivinai and many more. His role in the film Manohra made him the first South Indian actor recognized outside India in the Afro Asian film Festival at Egypt.He was uniquely known for his superb acting in the film aalyamani which was later remade in telgu by NTR. When Devanand was screened the movie Raja Raja Chozhan he hailed Sivaji as thespian in acting. There was no denying that only Sivaji could do the roles of Lord Shiva not only in Tamil but also in Kannada,Hindi and Telgu. This was a great tribute to Sivaji's charismatic cine genius.

1977 - 2001

He was awarded the title of Chevalier, the Order of Arts and Literature by the Ministry of Culture, Government of 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 22nd April 1995, at a glittering ceremony held at the MCA stadium, Madras, Dr.Sivaji Ganesan was presented the Chevalier Title and Medallion by the French Ambassador to India Mr.Philip Petit. Ms.Jayalalitha, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest of the function.The entire Tamil film industry and representatives of all other Regional and National film industries were present at this function. At the function Dr.Sivaji Ganesan presented a cheque for Rs.100,000/- to the Tamilnadu Chief Minister's Relief Fund, and another Rupees One Hundred Thousands to the Film Employees Federation of South India.The balance of money after all expenses (which was collected from the film industry) was used to form the Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan Educational Trust. The money accruing from these Trust funds are being given towards education of children of poor film artistes.

Political career

Until 1955, Ganesan was a staunch sympathiser of the D.M.K. party. He was expelled from the party because of his visit to Tirumala Venkateswara Temple which was not permitted by the rationalistic DMK. . In 1961, he become a strong supporter of Indian National Congress and particularly the veteran leader K. Kamaraj. When the congress split in 1969 he remained loyal to K Kamaraj and the Congress (O). Only after the death of Kamaraj in 1975, he switched his allegiance to Indira Gandhi. In 1982, Indira Gandhi made him a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha. After 1987, he left Congress and floated his own political party (Thamizhaga Munnetra Munnani). He became the president of the Tamil Nadu faction of the Janata Dal in 1989. His political career was unsuccessful.


Suffering from respiratory problems, Ganesan was admitted to the Apollo Hospital in Madras on July 21, 2001. He also had been suffering from a prolonged heart ailment for about 10 years. He died at 7:45pm (IST) on July 21, 2001 at the age of 73.

Minister Sri Nara Chandra Babu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh sent his condolences to Sivaji's family. A documentary, Parasakthi Muthal Padayappa Varai (English: From Parasakthi to Padayappa was made to commemorate Sivaji Ganesan's legacy.

Popularity - Opinion polls

Sivaji Ganesan has remained as the most popular Tamil actor with the most of number of fans. This fact has been confirmed by many independent surveys conducted in a scientific manner.

Popular Tamil magazine Kumudam conducted a survey in 1990. Sivaji Ganesan was voted as the most popular actor with 58.76% votes followed by MGR - 54.11% (2nd position) , Rajini Kanth - 51.06% (3rd Position) and Kamal haasan 49.99% (4th position). Though the survey was conducted in 1990, when Sivaji Ganesan has almost retired from acting and Rajini Kanth and Kamal haasan were at their peak in the Tamil film industry, still Sivaji ganesan secured the no.1 position.//

Another survey conducted by Loyola college in 2008 gave 1st position to MGR 21.3% and second position to Sivaji with 18.9%, way ahead of the present day Superstars Vijay and Rajini Kanth. (MGR's higher rating in this survey can be attributed to the fact that the referred survey had few questions related to politics. MGR being the most popular politician and ex-chief minister of Tamil Nadu is more popular politically than Sivaji Ganesan) . Eventhough 2 gerations have passed away after Sivaji & MGR (namely Rajini, Kamal era & Vijay, Ajith..era) Sivaji Ganesan & MGR continue to top the popularity rankings.

Few other surveys conducted in a scientific manner have thrown up similar results reaffirming Sivaji Ganesan’s supremacy.


Other Awards

  • He was awarded the title of Chevalier, the Order of Arts and Literature by the Ministry of Culture, Government of 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.



Actors Day

  • The South Indian Film Artistes' Association President Vijaykanth declared that October 1, the birth day of Ganesan, would be observed as Actors' Day in Kollywood.

Other work

  • Donated money and modelled for the erection of Shivaji Maharaj statue at Mumbai.
  • Ganesan erected the statue of Kattabomman at Kayatharu

In America

  • During a visit to the U.S. in June 1995, Sivaji Ganesan found himself in Columbus, Ohio. Mayor Greg Lashutka named him honorary citizen of Columbus at a special dinner.
  • In 1962, Ganesan toured the U.S., where he was given the honour of being the mayor of Niagara City for one day. He along with the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru were the only two Indians to be honoured this way.
  • Actor Marlin Brando visited India and was shown movie clips of Sivaji Ganesan . From then on Brando has admired Sivaji Ganesan for his acting style. He also said that Sivaji Ganesan can act like him but he cannot act like Sivaji Ganesan . This was something special as it has not been said to any other Indian actors from a popular American actor.


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