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Sivaji: Actor with a Large heart
Chennai online internet web
Thespian Sivaji Ganesan was not just a legendary actor. In his own way he took part in charity endeavours and was an unofficial ambassador of the Tamil and Indian people whenever he went abroad. Sivaji would always be remembered as the first to donate a lakh of rupees (a big sum those days) to late prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, towards 'Mid-Day Meals' for poor school children. When Madras city was ravaged by floods in 1962, he supplied food packets and cash to thousands of affected hut-dwellers. Taking the initiative, Sivaji organised a drama troupe and the famous ‘Veerapandiya Kattabomman’ was enacted free of cost by his troupe at various places lik
Rabhindranath Tagore Centenary Hall, Bangalore
Sarabhoji College, Thanjavur
Victoria Institute, Bodinayakanur
Municipal College, Salem
Ramakrishna Mission, Madras
And he was able to collect Rs 32 lakh from these stage shows.
Right from 1962, every year, for more than 10 years, a series of dramas were performed by him at Bombay in aid of Bharathi Kala Mandram Building and Library. The funds generated for them was an average of a lakh of rupees every year.
These dramas were chaired by esteemed personalities like the Governors of Maharashtra like Prakasha and Vijayalakshmi Pandit, chief minister Y B Chavan, Kannamwar and other ministers of Maharashtra as well as Central ministers including Dr P Subbarayan and Humayun Kabir.
Sivaji had also made significant contributions in south India towards flood relief, The National Defence Fund, construction of schools and hospitals, provision of water facilities in the rural areas and various other deserving causes including aid to numerous students in schools, colleges and technical institutions.
Sivaji was also respected by foreigners in high places. He played host to visiting President Nasser of Egypt, being the only person granted permission by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, to do so. The spectacularly arranged function was attended by dignitaries from various walks of life.
In 1969-70, during troubled times with Pakistan, Sivaji led a group of artistes to the frontier to entertain the jawans. The group of over 70 artistes organised shows called ‘Sridhar-Sivaji Star Night’ at various district headquarters and an amount exceeding Rs 17 lakh, apart from his own personal contribution, was raised for the Defence Fund.
He and his troupe staged a drama in Chennai for the Welfare of Indian Air Force men which raised about a lakh of rupees.
Sivaji was the first artiste from India to visit the U S under a cultural exchange programme of the US government in 1962, establishing himself as a distinguished cultural ambassador.
During his visit there, he was honoured by being made the 'Honorary Mayor’ of Niagara Falls City for one day and was presented Golden Key to the city. The only other Indian who has had this honour before Sivaji was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
On March 12, 1976, he went over to Mauritius on an invitation from Prime Minister Ramgoolam to participate in their Independence Day celebration, and stayed as their government guest for four days.
He was the President of the South Indian Artistes Association (Nadigar Sangam) in Chennai for a period of eight years. During his tenure, he constructed a big auditorium where dramas could be held and films screened as well, the infrastructure being valued at Rs 25 lakh. From the income generated here, he arranged to give some amount to the poor artistes on a regular basis through the Nadigar Sangam.
On March 10, 1983, Sivaji Ganesan was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the President of India on the recommendation of the then Congress government led by prime minister Indira Gandhi and was an MP until April 2, 1986.
The French Chevalier award came as a reward for earning several admirers abroad. The then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa arranged a massive function to felicitate him on his receiving the award. (Our Correspondent)