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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

on relocating the statue of actor Sivaji Ganesan .......

A statue has stirred  some controversy and created ripples in the city….

Some may not instantaneously recognize VC Ganesan … but every Tamilian and most South Indians would easily recognize Sivaji… ~ a versatile actor Sivaji Ganesan [1928-2001]- popularly known as Nadigar Thilagam.  In my earlier days there were so many fans of Sivaji who would keep talking hours together on his versatile acting skills. He really rose from the ranks, from a stage artist to one of National acclaim – in a career spanning close to five decades he acted in nearly 300 films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi. Ganesan was the first Indian film actor to win a "Best Actor" award in an International film festival, the Afro-Asian Film Festival held in Cairo, Egypt in 1960. Most heroes would state that they were influenced by Sivaji and most of them would have spoken the dialogue of Veera Pandia Kattabomman to get recognition of directors.   He was also awarded  Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
the long list displayed at Santhi theatre

His life came a long way and redefined cinema from the early Parasakthi to winning the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian cinema in 1997. His portrayal of Lord Shiva in the movie Thiruvilayadal won him lot of accolades.  In the film Navarathiri (1964), Ganesan played nine different roles that represented the nine emotional states of a person. His epical portrayals in films likeThiruvilayaadal, Thiruvarutselvar, Saraswati Sabatham, Harichandran, Thirumal Perumai, Karnan and Thillana Mohanambal won him critical acclaim. He played a variety of roles such as freedom fighters like Kappalottiya Thamizhan, Vanchinathan, Tiruppur Kumaran, Bhagat Singh  and epic characters like Harichandra, Karna, Bharatha, Narada,Appar, Nayanmars and Alwars.  His portrayal of Raja Raja Cholan and Veerapandia Kattabomman are awe-inspiring.

It is his statue unveiled in Kamarajar Salai in 2006 that is now under cloud.  The statue of the actor is at the junction of Kamarajar Salai and Radhakrishnan Salai.

The controversy is nothing anew.  At the time of its installation, there was a petition against it stating that it would hide the view of Gandhi statue.  Now the objection states that the statue obstruction of motorists waiting to turn in to Radhakrishnan Salai from Kamarajar Salai [beach road].  

Last week, the First Bench, comprising acting Chief Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice M. Sathyanarayanan, directed the jurisdictional assistant commissioner of police (Traffic) to file an affidavit in this regard.  On Tuesday (26.11.13), the police submitted that  because of the statue, visibility of motorists who intended to take a right turn on to Radhakrishnan Salai from Kamarajar Salai was affected. The affidavit states that because of obstruction of visibility due to the statue, several accidents had taken place at the junction. Last year, there were 12 accidents, including one that was fatal. This year, there had been eight accidents so far. It adds that if the statue was removed, motorists on Kamarajar Salai would get more space to take a right turn at the junction. The statue may be shifted to the Marina beachfront where there were other statues, the police said.


There are some including the Cine Directors who are opposing the removal of the statue.  So many statues dot the Marina beach…. Many of them installed during the Tamil World Conference adorn the area. Poets : Kambar, Ilango, Avvaiyar, Thiruvallur, Bharathiyar, Barathidasan stand amidst Kannagi, Gandhiji, Kamarajar, Nethaji Subash Chandrabose, Annie Besant, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda, Robert Caldwell, GU Pope, Tamil thatha Saminatha Iyer  as also the one of ‘triumph of Labour’. ~ only that of Sivaji Ganesan stands on the middle of the road…………….curiously enough, Sivaji sports a sherwani, a white beard and a North Indian look !!!!

Unlike the case of Temples [even some of them have been re-located…] ~ these statues have no significance to the place of their pedestal but have brought in some significance to that place… that way Sivaji at the present place has little relevance [place-specific] and if it were to be relocated to a place on beach front, theoretically it should not upset the fans of Sivaji in any manner.  Safety of the people is more important ….

Before concluding Sivaji Ganesan had his share of International acclaim too…..President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt  was given a party by Sivaji.  Sivaji visited US  in the cultural exchange programme of the US government, in 1962, invited by the then-US President, John F. Kennedy.  During his visit there, he was honoured by being made the honorary mayor of Niagara Falls, New York for one day and was presented the key to the city. The only other Indian who has had this honour before Ganesan was Jawaharlal Nehru.

Back at home, his political career never took off the way his cine  career did.  He was made Rajya Sabha MP by the Congress party.  In 1987, he floated his own political party (Thamizhaga Munnetra Munnani) which faced debacle in the elections. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
27th Nov. 2013.


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