Sridhar Chaama   startrek on 05 19 2001
Now I have fans among youngsters too, says Saroja Devi
CHENNAI: B Saroja Devi Sri Harsha made her debut in a Kannada film, Mahakavi Kalidasa. Director K Subramanyam introduced her to M G Ramachandran. She vividly remembers the day she first saw him at the then Revathi Studios in Vadapalani. ‘‘I was captivated by his handsome looks. He had the radiance of a hundred suns, as if he were a demigod!’’

Her meeting with MGR paved the way for her introduction to Tamil filmdom. Nadodi Mannan, her first Tamil film, was the first to be shot partly in colour, as if to welcome her arrival into Tamil cinema. The film was a huge success, as were the others that followed - Bagappirivinai, Thirudathe, Kalyanaparisu etc.

She felt at ease doing Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films and did a limited number of Hindi films (opposite leading heroes of the day like Dilip Kumar and Sunil Dutt) mainly to make her presence felt in national mainstream cinema. The native Malayali dress demanded that she should appear before the camera sometimes without the upper part of the ‘mundu’. She was uncomfortable with this and so decided against acting in Malayalam films. Among the 200 films she did in four languages, about 90 were in Tamil.

She ruled supreme when 40-day call sheets were in vogue. She starred in several hits along with Shivaji Ganesan, M G Ramachandran, S S Rajendran, Gemini Ganesan, N T Rama Rao and Rajkumar. Big directors of the day like C V Sridhar (Kalyana Parisu, in which Saroja Devi played the heroine, was his first film as director), K S Gopalakrishnan (Kula Vilakku, Panama Paasama), K Balachandar (Thamarai Nenjam), and Bhim Singh (Palum Pazhamum) cast her in their films, notwithstanding her ‘Konju Tamil’ with a slightly Kannada accent. And those were the days when learning the language was a necessary ‘qualification’.
Now I have fans among youngsters too, says Saroja Devi
She was the recipient of the Padmashree award in 1969 and Padmabhushan in 1992. The Abhinaya Saraswathi title was conferred on her by the ex-CM of Karnataka, S Nijalingappa, for her dazzling dance performance in the Kannada historical Amara Silpi Jakkanna opposite Kalyan Kumar. The film was shot at real locales at Hampi. She did the same film in Telugu opposite A Nageswara Rao. As if to justify the honour bestowed on her, she underwent rigorous dance training subsequently under the master Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai.

Her late husband Sri Harsha was a mechanical engineer with Siemens in Germany and migrated to India later to work with BHEL. He was a source of immense strength to her until his death when she was still young. She was left with the responsibility of bringing up two daughters and a son. One of her daughters, a victim of migraine, died in 1997. Fighting her grief and spending her time practising yoga and gardening, she has decided to let time do the healing.

Acting in TV serials like Ganga Yamuna Saraswathi (Tamil) and Bhoomika (Kannada) provides her with a vital link to today’s world. ‘‘The idiot box has its own advantage. It has enabled the present generation to see old films. Now I have fans among youngsters too,’’ she says.

Satisfied with her role as Chairperson of the Kannada Censor Board, she donates liberally to charities in memory of her mother, husband and daughter Bhuvaneswari. She derives the spiritual strength to carry on from these activities. ‘‘Do you know? When you are a spiritual person, you are never alone,’’ she says.

The articles copied from Internet wep page"" (05 19 2001)

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