Sivaji Ganesan (Viluppuram Chinnaiahpillai Ganesan, October 1, 1927 - July 21, 2001) was a legendary Indian film actor, active during the latter half of the 20th century. His fame came from his versatility and expressive prowess in Tamil cinema. He is the first and only South Indian film actor who has won a best actor award in an international film festival, the Afro-Asian Film Festival held in Cairo during 1959. Sivaji's legacy of acting is still admired today, also being an influence to many other Indian film actors.
Film careerAt the age of nine, Ganesan was so interested in stage plays that he ran away from home to pursue a career in theatre. His mother helped him get into a famous drama troupe.
Ganesan's first film was Parasakthi in 1952 opposite noted actress Pandari Bai. The script for the movie was written by Karunanidhi.
He has acted in 300 movies.
He took his stage name from one of his most famous roles, Emperor Shivaji. He is also known as Nadigar Thilagam, meaning considered to be one the most influential and greatest actors of all time, and Nadippu Chakravarthy (translated as "the King of Kings of acting). Sivaji's Karna served as the basis for Dana Veer Soor karna. In the film Navarathiri (1964) Sivaji Ganeshan donned nine different roles that represented the 'navarasas' or nine emotional states of a person. The Hindi actor, Sanjeev Kumar, was inspired by this film and wanted to do that kind of cinema, and reprised the nine roles in 'Naya Din Nayi Raat' in 1974. Sivaji struck a balance between commercial cinema and experimental cinema like his contemporaries, artists NTR and Rajkumar. He made many mythological movies with NTR and convinced NTR to act in Tamil films also. He experimented in films like Thiruvilayaadal, Thiruvarutselvar, Thirumal Peumai, Karnan, Veerapandiya Kattabomman and Raja Rishi. When it came to commercial cinema he was compared with another legend MGR and NTR for his movies like Thirusoolam, RishiMoolam, Pasamalar, Paalum pazhamum, Bhagappirivinai and many more. His role in the film Manohra made him the first South Indian actor recognized outside India in the Afro Asian film Festival at Egypt.
He was awarded the title of Chevalier, the Order of Arts and Literature by the Ministry of Culture, Government of France. This is one of the main decorations of the French Republic which is conferred to honour the most original and talented personalities, for their remarkable contributions in the field of Arts and Literature in France and all over the world. On 22nd April 1995, at a glittering ceremony held at the MCA stadium, Madras, Dr.Sivaji Ganesan was presented the Chevalier Title and Medallion by the French Ambassador to India Mr.Philip Petit. Ms.Jayalalitha, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest of the function.The entire Tamil film industry and representatives of all other Regional and National film industries were present at this function. At the function Dr.Sivaji Ganesan presented a cheque for Rs.100,000/- to the Tamilnadu Chief Minister's Relief Fund, and another Rupees One Hundred Thousands to the Film Employees Federation of South India.The balance of money after all expenses (which was collected from the film industry) was used to form the Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan Educational Trust. The money accruing from these Trust funds are being given towards education of children of poor film artistes.
Until 1955, Ganesan was a staunch sympathiser of the D.M.K. party. He was expelled from the party because of his visit to Tirumala Venkateswara Temple which was not permitted by the rationalistic DMK. In 1961, he become a strong supporter of Indian National Congress and particularly the veteran leader K. Kamaraj. When the congress split in 1969 he remained loyal to K Kamaraj and the Congress (O). Only after the death of Kamaraj in 1975, he switched his allegiance to Indira Gandhi. In 1982, Indira Gandhi made him a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha. After 1987, he left Congress and floated his own political party (Thamizhaga Munnetra Munnani). He became the president of the Tamil Nadu faction of the Janata Dal in 1989. His political career was unsuccessful.
Suffering from respiratory problems, Ganesan was admitted to the Apollo Hospital in Madras on July 21, 2001. He also had been suffering from a prolonged heart ailment for about 10 years. He died at 7:45pm (IST) on July 21, 2001 at the age of 73.
Minister Sri Nara Chandra Babu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh sent his condolences to Sivaji's family. A documentary, Parasakthi Muthal Padayappa Varai: From Parasakthi to Padayappa was made to commemorate Sivaji Ganesan's legacy.
- Best Actor Award, Afro-Asian Film Festival, Cairo, Egypt 1960Ganesan in Thayaipola Pillai Noolaipola Selai, 1959
- Padma Shri Title, 1966
- Padma Bhushan Title, 1984
- Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France).
- Dadasaheb Phalke Award, 1996
- He was awarded the title of Chevalier, the Order of Arts and Literature by the Ministry of Culture, Government of France. This is one of the main decorations of the French Republic which is conferred to honour the most original and talented personalities, for their remarkable contributions in the field of Arts and Literature in France and all over the world.
- A statue was erected in Chennai, Tamil Nadu to honour this legendary actor in 2006. It was unveiled by the Chief Minister M Karunanidhi who was Sivaji Ganesan's best friend for more than half-a-century.
- The South Indian Film Artistes' Association President Vijaykanth declared that October 1, the birth day of Ganesan, would be observed as Actors' Day in Kollywood.
- Donated money and modelled for the erection of Shivaji Maharaj statue at Mumbai.
- Ganesan erected the statue of Kattabomman at Kayatharu
- During a visit to the U.S. in June 1995, Sivaji Ganesan found himself in Columbus, Ohio. Mayor Greg Lashutka named him honorary citizen of Columbus at a special dinner.
- In 1962, Ganesan toured the U.S., where he was given the honour of being the mayor of Niagara City for one day. He along with the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehruand N.T.Rama Rao(Telugu Legendry actor) were the only two Indians to be honoured this way.