Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sivaji Ganesan: A Force to be Reckoned With

Today marks the eight year since the passing of a brilliant stage and film actor named Sivaji Ganesan. A showman par excellence and screen performer whose fierce energy sometimes tears right out of the screen, big or small, and catches you by the throat, Sivaji Ganesan is not your average by the number hack actor looking to cash their paycheque or ply the trade for pride and glory.

No. Sivaji as he is known (real name V.P Chinnaiyahpillai Ganesan) was a born actor. Born to be the king of onscreen performances, at least in India. His towering talent was so great that it overshadowed many good, decent performers of his time and our time. He left such a mark that his works are still talked about in the mainstream media and forums; online websites, including blogs and forums. In a forum I regularly participate in, Forumhub.mayyam.com, the thread on him is one of the most popular, currently on fifth part (one part equals to hundred pages) and the fifth part alone is at 42nd page and has so far garnered 47,963 visitors! Bear in mind that most of the visitors of this forum are generation Xers and Yers, mostly who were born when Sivaji went into semi-retirement.

His films are eagerly snapped up in video stores and are still played on almost regular basis in the Malaysian satellite TV stations. His fandom has grown judging from the participation in that particular forum, where real film pundits who would sneer at Stallone and revere the likes of Goddard and Kurosawa would put aside their notion of what screen acting should be (underplaying mostly) and bow to the power that was and will forever be Sivaji Ganesan.

As a matter of fact, I would say that he had not been this popular, say, in the nineties, where they know him just as Kamal’s dad in Devar Magan, and the popular films that used by apologists to counter the often-criticised “over-acting” namely Muthal Mariyathai, and earlier classics like Veerapandiya Kattabomman, Karnan or Gauvravam.

I believe after his passing, there were an avalanche of “who is Sivaji Ganesan actually” curiosity, especially when one finds luminaries like actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan keep mentioning his name as a major influence. In fact, Rajinikanth has never failed to credit Sivaji as his inspiration. Once he said, “If I am king of style, Sivaji is the emperor of style”. Not only Rajini agreed to star in Sivaji Productions' Chandramukhi, there is an extended tribute scene in the film and he named the next mega project as Sivaji.

It may be coincidence, but it is certainly not something one should deny, of the emergence of two major powerhouse performers in Hollywood and the Tamizh film industries, namely Marlon Brando and Sivaji Ganesan. Both titans broke the conventional cinematic acting style and brought in raw energy, ruthless determination to inhabit the character they are playing and basically drawing awe from the co-actors, film crew and the audiences alike.

While Brando later squandered away his career life doing roles that ill-fitted his tremendous talents, and succumbed to discipline problem and ultimately losing interest in the craft, Sivaji went on to make one spectacular films after another, stumbling only occasionally when the script and the direction begs for quality. In that case, his body of work resemble the more prolific and professional actor who stands shoulder to shoulder to Brando, Paul Newman.

Like Newman, and more than Newman ever did, Sivaji attempted and succeeded at varying degree to play a grand array of characters actors these days can only dream of achieving…day dream, I mean. I need not repeat here the films and the characters he has done, it has to be seen to be believed. And trust me, being a huge fan, I must have only seen 70% of these “miracles”.

July 21, 2001 was one of the saddest days in my life. But every July 21st after that has been a day of pondering, rather than mourning; a day to revisit the miracles, rather than a day to lay wreath; a day to remember and acknowledge that the force that is Sivaji Ganesan was proven to be unstoppable, and even his death has never put a brake on it.


ஜோ/Joe said...

என்றும் வாழும் மகத்தான கலைஞனுக்கு அருமையான நினைவு கூறல்.

இப்படி ஒரு நடிகன் இருந்தானா என வரும் சந்ததி கண்டிப்பாக வாய்பிளக்கும்.

வாழ்க நடிகர் திலகம் புகழ்!

premmathavan said...

Sad indeed. Time flies

Rakesh Kumar said...

படித்ததற்கு நன்றி ஜோ. Shakespeare போல இன்னும் பல நூறாண்டுகளில் பேசி வாழ்த்திகொண்டிருப்பார்கள்.

Rakesh Kumar said...

Don't be sad, Kumar. He left behind a legacy of work to be cherished. There is never enough time to appreciate the work he left behind to both fans and aspiring actors.

V.P.Jaiganesh said...

Really a tricky thing to compare any other great actor with sivaji - for he fully made us realise what is great acting and in this we thamizhs are one helluva lucky lot