Kalyanamalai, November 2009

Potpourri of titbits about Tamil cinema - Gemini Ganesan , part -1

Gemini Ganesh was popularly known as ‘Kaadal mannan’. I got his friendship through his secretary Gemini Mahalingam, who was also an actor. We got closer in course of time. During our friendship spanning two decades, Ganesh had shared many of his personal and other things with me. His incredible memory and his ability to maintain absolute health had surprised me quite often.

Once, he told me, "When I was a student, I stayed at Ramakrishna Home in Mylapore. My brother Subramanian taught me good conduct. Also, he taught me the Vedas, Bhagavat Gita and Yogasanas. I am doing yoga even today, I am keeping good health because of that. I don’t know why, even after my marriage, many women fell in love with me. I ‘escaped’ from 90% of them! But after I received the title ‘Kaadal mannan’, I was pushed to a situation in which I married three more women in course of time! I can never forget those days when I studied in Christian College, Tambaram. The students called me Aswathama because I used to sing the songs of Thyagaraja bhagavathar and Aswathama.

This sowed the seeds in my mind for entering the celluloid world. Success will elude everyone at the beginning, but we have to have perseverance and self-confidence. When I worked in Gemini Studios, actor Chandrababu became my friend and remained my friend till end. Chandrababu had only disappointments in his beginning days in the industry that he consumed copper sulphate one day. It was a brush near death. Camera man Thambhu and I rushed him to the Royapettah Hospital and saved him. After this incident, I encouraged him, infusing self-confidence in him. Later, he had regretted many times for his cowardly act of attempting suicide.

Gemini Ganesh had many things to share with me. He told me, "I celebrated house-warming ceremony when I built a new house at Nungambakam. I invited all the VIPs. T. R. Mahalingam’s concert was held first and it was followed by veena recital by S. Balachander. During the veena recital, ‘Arignar’ Anna and ‘Kalaignar’, who were seated in the front row, were talking between themselves about something very interestingly. Balachander, who was irritated at this, stopped playing and told them that he would resume after they finished talking. I was very much embarrassed. When I went to them to defuse the tension, ‘Kalaignar’ apologized to Balachander after which the recital was revived. Initially, S. S. Rajendran was signed to play Vallaithevan in the film Veerapandya Kattabomman. When he was unable to work, they approached me. I insisted to P. R. Panthulu, the director that they should get me a letter from Rajendran that he couldn’t act. When Panthulu asked me for the reason, I told that I didn’t want to earn the bad name that I grabbed the opportunities offered to other artistes. Rajendran gave the requested letter to Panthulu.

I had introduced many artistes to Tamil cinema. But, I do not tell everything I had done because people might mistake that I blow my own trumpet. Kalathur Kannamma film was a milestone in my film career. Initially, direction was done by T. Prakash Rao, but it was taken over by Bhimsingh in the middle. They were looking for a child artiste for the film. During the shooting of a song sequence for this film at A. V. M. Studios, Charuhasan was there. I took Kamalhasan, who had accompanied his brother and who was only five years old at that time to Meyyappa Chettiar. He was very much impressed with Kamal’s sprightliness and signed him for the film to play my son. We got a great artiste through this film.

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