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Kalai mamani Savitiri
Savithri was born on December 6th, in the year 1936 in Chirravur, which is a village in Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh. Nissankara Guraviah and Subhadramma were her parents. She lost her father when she was just six years old. With her uncle’s support, she studied till third form (eighth standard) in Kasturi Bai Memorial School at Vijayawada. She learnt dancing while she was studying and got loads of appreciations whenever she performed on the stage.
She was bestowed into the film industry at a very young age (at the age of twelve) as she got an offer in the film ‘Agni Pariksha’. She merely missed the chance because she looked too young to play the role in that particular film. Soon after that, she got a key role in the film ‘Samsaram’, which was produced by the banner ‘Sadhana Chitra’ in 1950 but again bad luck shoved off the role since she felt very abashed and tensed up to take through with Akkineni Nageswara Rao as he is a big star.
As a result she was replaced by Pushpalatha but was offered a small role in that movie. When the film was released, the producers and directors recognized her inborn talent. She caught chances to act in films like ‘Sankranthi’, ‘Palleturu’ etc. She performed in a dance flick in the legendary film ‘Pathala Bhairavi’ in 1951. There was no looking back for Savithri, after she had performed as a second heroine in the film ‘Pelli Chesi Choodu’ in 1952.
Once when she took a chance to visit Gemini Studios, for the first time she met Gemini Ganeshan over there. Gemini Ganeshan used to be a well-known hero in the Tamil industry and was called as ‘Kaadal Mannan’ (King of Love) by the Tamil audience. Gemini Ganeshan, subsequently, said about Savithri “She would definitely develop into an outstanding actress in future.” Later his calculation turned out to be true when she got an offer in the film ‘Devadas’, pairing with Akkineni Nageswara Rao. She incurred a substantial position for her in the Telugu film industry after acting in the film ‘Devadas’ in the year 1953. This was the film, which raised Savithri's image as an artiste. Among the films of Savithri, the most illustrious films were ‘Missamma’, ‘Maya Bazar’, ‘Ardhangi’, ‘Kanya Sulkam’, ‘Devatha’, ‘Naadee Aada Janme’, etc., where her astonishing performance bewitched the spectators. She acted about 318 films in Telugu, Tamil and a few films in Hindi like ‘Bahut Din Huyen’, ‘Ghar Basake Dekho’, ‘Balaram Sri Krishna’, ‘Ganga ki Leharen’ etc. She almost acted with every top hero of the Telugu and the Tamil cinema fields. Savithri used to take over the scene regardless of the actor she was performing with. She was similarly triumphed over the Telugu and Tamil industries. She was treated as the number one heroine. Because at that time there used to be nearly 20 Savithri starred movies released in a year. Every role where Savithri had enacted made her to stand as a persistent symbol. The audience as well as the critics appreciated her. The women audience would adore Savithri for her liveliness and captivating performance. During her career, she focused her mind only on acting. She found no time to think about anything other than acting. She was very dedicated to her career. Since she was chubby, she even underwent severe dieting to suit her role while she was acting for some of her films.
Savithri was not only a distinguished actress but also a refined film director. She had directed films like ‘Chinnari Papalu’, ‘Chiranjeevi’, ‘Maathru Devatha’ and ‘Vintha Samsaram’in Telugu and a few films in Tamil. Her misfortune started with the film ‘Praptam’ (Mooga Manasulu in Telugu) the Tamil film, which was made under her own production and direction. The film took nearly five years to be completed and that pushed Savithri into non-recoverable debts. She would watch all the Hollywood movies and analyze them in an amazing manner. She loved Sophia Loren and Shirley McLain.
Her association with the Tamil actor Gemini Ganeshan feathered while they were acting together for a Tamil film ‘Manam Pola Mangalyam’ and it was again a love story, which directed to a secret marriage in the year 1956. Afterward it was revealed subsequently when Savithri gave her photo for the Lux soap advertisement, as it was signed as ‘Savithri Ganesh’ at the backside of the photograph. Savithri and Gemini were blessed with two children Vijaya Chamundeswari and Sathish. Savithri used to be very strict, disciplined and compassionate as a mother. Because of her work pressure she hardly found time to spend with her kids. Even then she used to capture some time out of her hectic schedule and spent a good quality of time with her kids. She gave her children complete liberty while insuring certain restrictions on them. She never raised hands at her children. She loved her kids immeasurably. Since there was no availability of televisions in our country at that time, she arranged a 16mm projector, to show the films that she had acted to her kids. Even though she discussed about films with her children she never entertained them to pick for films, as she never wished her children to experience the pains, which she had faced. Savithri's 100th film ‘Konjum Salangai’ (‘Muripinche Muvvalu’ in Telugu) happened to be paired with Gemini Ganeshan!
Apart from the films and her children, jasmine flowers and drizzling rain were her favorite whimsies. She used to have a jasmine garden at her home and she delighted plucking flowers from the bushes and wearing them on her hair. She used to swamp herself in the rain, which was an enjoyment for her. Before I forget Savithri was a left-hander. She also had a great enthrallment towards sports and games like cricket and chess. She never missed a cricket match that was played in Chennai. Famous West Indies cricketer Gary Sobers was her most favorite sports person. Even in those days she participated in the star-cricket with Sivaji Ganeshan. She even possessed an attractive chess table made of ivory. She was born with a tremendous sense of humour so as she got a great and perfect proficiency in mimicking others. She left no person that she had known not imitated. She enjoyed replicating people e.g. her husband Gemini Ganeshan, Relangi, Saroja Devi, Sivaji Ganeshan, S.V. Ranga Rao, Kabir Bedi and many others. Basically she was very strong-minded and unwavering person. No human factor could change her choices that she had made once furthermore she would never give up things easily. She would never tell her problems to anyone she led her life according to her own inherent aptitude. She was very freehearted and freehanded while extending helping hands to others. Once she went entirely bejeweled with gold and diamonds to meet the Prime Minister, Sri Lal Bahaddur Shastri and gave away all the adornment for the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. Some people exploited her quality of innocence and generosity.
She was awarded with the title ‘Kalai Mamani’ by the Tamilnadu State Government, ‘Nati Siromani’ by the Andhra Yuvathi Mandali and with an apt title as ‘Mahanati’.
Unfortunately marriage was not a good occurrence in Savithri’s life. When her husband, the person, whom she adored and trusted a lot, ditched her, she was awfully distressed moreover it was a great blow on her trust towards a person. The shock directed her to undergo depressed conditions in her later part of life. It was very painful for her to live alone in a vast house with two immature children. She lost trust in people and adopted dangerous habits like alcohol, sleeping pills, and drugs. Slowly the appetite vanished, intoxicants had overruled her sentiments and sensitivities. Savithri was hospitalized many times. She suffered a lot during her stay at the hospitals. On the course of her travel to Mysore for a shooting she broke down, went into coma, and was hurried back to Chennai where her children admitted her in a hospital. There she lost her speech and left this world on 26th, December 1981 at Madras. She left her screen life as an eternal model. But what she was offered in return ?