Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Nadigaiyar Thilagam (Mahanati): A Gemini Fan's Perception

A whole lot of movie buffs and fans of legendary actress Savithri had a great time watching the bio-pic of the actress, Mahanati(Nadigaiyar Thilagam) last month. There were some counter opinions on the movie among family members of yesteryear actor Gemini Ganesan, who was Savithri's husband.

As these debates started to gain momentum, I started to wonder how actually the fans of Gemini received the movies. This is when I caught up with 'Gemini' Sridhar, who was a close acquaintance of the veteran actor. He shared about the relationship between the star couple Gemini-Savithri during their youth and after. He also expressed his views about Mahanati and how his fellow fan-club members received the movie. Here is a gist of facts he told me 'on record'.

They have known each other for 45 years. "Yes, I was not just a fan, but also a brother to him. A brother with whom Gemini anna never hesitated to share even his personal life incidents," opened up Sridhar.

His original name is Bulusu Sridhar. But, due to his love for and fandom of 'Gemini' Ganesan, he had changed his name to 'Gemini' Sridhar - the way he is widely known among Gemini Ganesan fans and cinema journalists now.

"A couple of members of his fan club were close to the star pair. As you see in the movie Gemini and Savithri loved each other so deeply," said Sridhar.

When asked whether they liked the movie, he said, "We enjoyed the movie a lot. We never thought that Mahanati would be this kind of an epic. Our family members too were totally awestruck watching it."

But why has a controversy risen from the side of Gemini Ganesan fans and some of his family members? "One has to accept that Mahanati is the bio-pic of Savithri amma. In that sense, we cannot expect a lot to be shown about Gemini in that movie. Also, the movie was made in Telugu and dubbed in Tamil. So, there could be less information about Tamil industry. But, the expectation among Gemini fans and family members was to have more content about our Kadhal Mannan. For us, we were totally satisfied with the scenes about him in the movie."

Since the movie has portrayed him as being egoistic, how has that been received by Gemini Ganesan fans? "We agree that there were a couple of elements in the movie about Gemini that was wrongly conveyed or received. Especially in the scenes where Gemini and Savithri ride on an elephant and in the scene where Gemini asks her to consume liquor. For me, who personally knew Gemini as a brother, he was never a person of such rugged, stubborn or egoistic character," said Sridhar. Further, he boasted that Gemini was a man of utmost simplicity. "He was jovial and treated us as one among his family," he added.

So, what else do they see as far from reality? "It was from the residence of Gemini Ganesan and Alamelu that the last rites of Savithri was made and her body was carried to the burial ground. Alamelu, the first wife of Gemini was so close to Savithri amma and they had perfect understanding. She was the one who asked to perform the rituals at their residence. This was not shown in the movie. Due to this, one feels like the movie ends showing Gemini as the villain," he worried.

Apart from this, he also stressed, the main reason for the separation of the pair was the decision Savithri made to produce Praaptham movie.

"Gemini was not interested in making the movie and insisted Savithri not to do the same. But, she did it. The movie was a big flop and so she lost a major portion of her properties which even led her to liquor addiction," he said.

Asked about the elements he loved in the movie, he said, "Keerthy Suresh is the one we all loved. The way she performed in the movie was 100 per cent Savithri. We never expected that she would be such a great performer. Also, the movie has made us remember the days we had spent with Gemini." And, when asked how did he like Dulquer as Gemini, he said, 'How can you ask a Gemini fan this question? Who can replace Gemini Ganesan? The look, the persona and especially his Roman nose - nothing can have an equivalent.' Our conversation, on and off the record, extended for over an hour at the end of which, I left his place at Nanganallur after clicking a selfie with him.

So, apart from Gemini Savithri, what else does Sridhar know about the cinema industry during the golden MGR-Sivaji era? To start off with MGR, well... that's off the record.

- Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, June 26, 2018.