Though not a fault of his, the late Tamizh film actor Sivaji Ganesan was born in
Half of us would agree with that recognition though, while the other half is too busy watching Miley Cyrus grow.
Forget about the world, even India never recognised his contribution whereby the National Award, often looked upon as the Oscar of India without the glamour and cleavages, did not honour him, giving him a best supporting actor award for walk in the park role he did with Kamal Haasan in Devar Magan during his twilight years.
There used to be saying among the Tamizh film fans, there is no role Sivaji has not done. Wrong. Sivaji himself has been on the record saying that he wished he had played rationalist Periyar in a biopic. The man was humble and realistic. To see that the role was taken by a hack recently shows the state the Tamizh film industry is in without the great Sivaji.
The thing is there is no way anyone can act as everyone. Even the great Sivaji knows his limitation. When asked about his talent, he just brushes it off, “I know a little bit of acting, that’s all”. Try listening to that when the younger generation of actors get overblown credit for merely shaving off his moustache in the next venture or gone completely more wooden than usual because it was ‘artistic’.
What made Sivaji a great actor was that he knows he has to do a role without the smugness that he was the best. He gave his best, he brought extra to the table and he pounded those wonderful array of roles into our cranium that those were the images that comes out of your mind when, say, someone mentions Veerapandiya Kattabomman, Karnan, Ranggan, Barrister Rajinikanth or Inspector Choudary.
That he had pushed himself needed no public relations. That he had strained to stretch himself needed no advertisements. Making difference to routinely written roles and gaining credit for it needed no propaganda machineries. Sivaji’s roles spoke louder than the modest actor who himself knows his own limitation and kept it out of the public’s eyes.
It is the humility, willingness to stretch without making loud announcement and moving along taking on challenging roles and at the same time challenging and inspiring his fellow actors and technicians (though this may not apply in the 80s) to bring forth a quality production in terms of great movies that makes him tower all the actors from that region. To borrow words from leadership guru, Stephen Covey, Sivaji, “found his voice and inspired others to find theirs”. Such was his unique power.
That, alas, is lacking in the current age with obsession for opening collection, with actors mistaking getup change for good acting, and heroines mistaking excessive makeup, less cloth and borrowed voice for great contribution. Humility, to have the power to overcome limitations and to inspire others is something that the current crop of actors can aspire for and need another lifetime of the same career to achieve. This is merely a single chapter from the humongous actors’ guide book called Sivaji Ganesan. No, make that a single page.