Revisiting five best performances of Sivaji Ganesan on his 19th death anniversary
Actor Sivaji Ganesan is unarguably one of the finest actors of Indian cinema. Even though he predominantly worked in Tamil industry, he was widely popular for his versatility and acting prowess across industries. With over 250 films to his credit in a career spanning over four decades, Sivaji made his acting debut with critically-acclaimed 1952 Tamil film Parasakthi, which had a screenplay by late Tamil Nadu former chief minister M Karunanidhi. Sivaji went on to star in many memorable films and roles throughout his career. On the occasion of his 19th death anniversary, we revisit five best performances of the veteran.
R Krishnan and S Panju directed Parasakthi holds a very special in Sivaji’s filmography. The story is centred on the misfortunes of a Tamil family during World War II. The film serves a strong commentary on the social law and the constitution. As Gunasekaran, one of the immigrant brothers from Madurai living in Rangoon, Sivaji made a very strong impact in a role that was not easy to pull off. The film was a testament to Sivaji’s impressive acting skills and his effortless ability to deliver long lines. One of the most powerful scenes in the film unfolds inside a court where Sivaji, in what can be described as masterclass in acting, questions the societal norms and practices.
Very few actors could portray a variety of roles as effortlessly as Sivaji Ganesan, who never restricted himself to certain type of roles. In BR Panthulu-directed Veerapandiya Kattabomman, a biographical war film, Sivaji played the role of brave warrior Kattabomman. The film had its premiere in London, and then released in Tamil Nadu six days later. Sivaji’s performance as Kattabomman received praise from all quarters, despite some criticizing the film for its inaccurate portrayal of the central character. The film, which won the National Award for best feature film in Tamil, also fetched Sivaji the Best Actor award at several national as well international film festivals.
Sivaji is known for several of his collaborations with filmmaker BR Panthulu. One of their best collaborations happened in the form of Karnan, the story of Karna and his role in Kauravas to battle the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra. The film brought together Sivaji and veteran Telugu star Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (NTR) for the first time. Centered on the life of Karna, played by Sivaji, the film was made on a lavish budget and it went on to be a huge box-office success. Even when the film was digitized and re-released a few years ago in cinemas, audiences thronged to see it on the big screen. Even after so many years since its release, Sivaji’s performance in the film continues to wow viewers.
AC Trilogchander directed Deiva Magan saw Siva play triple roles for the first time. An adaptation of the Bengali novel Ulka by Nihar Ranjan Gupta, the film was centred on a scarred man who desperately attempts to reconnect with his family who abandoned him. The film fetched Sivaji Tamil Nadu state award for Best Actor. Sivaji’s performance in triple roles was very well received, but a lot of praise was directed towards his character of Kannan. The film also featured late J Jayalalithaa in a crucial role.
In Bharathan-directed Thevar Magan, which also starred Kamal Haasan, Sivaji played one of the best roles of his career. As the chieftain of a village that’s affected by the long-standing family feud, Sivaji played the role of Periya Thevar with unbelievable restraint. Originally, Vijay Kumar and SS Rajendran were considered for the role of Periya Thevar, but it was Haasan who approached Sivaji and brought him on board. Sivaji completed his portion in the film in just seven days. The film was loosely inspired from The Godfather as it centered on the life of a reluctant son forced to occupy his father’s throne full of thorns.
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