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The day of the heroine?

T.R. Rajakumari was one of the earliest to attain stardom. Hailing from Thanjavur, she was one of the very few `native' actresses, as many of the leading Tamil stars were originally from Andhra Pradesh.


Rajakumari

LAST WEEKEND, Tamil viewers in their thousands were glued to their television sets at home, watching the recorded telecast on Sun TV of the ``Mega Cinema Nite'' programme which took place in Malaysia recently.

Certainly, it was a big show of the ``who's who'' of the Tamil film industry with the participation of artistes of different generations from Manorama to Rajni-Kamal to Sathyaraj to Silambarasan. The performances of the artistes were very entertaining, as they were staged with all the ``cinematic effects'' of sound and music.


Savithri

But beyond all these, Kamal's repeated observation that ``I am still awaiting the arrival of an artiste of Savithri's calibre,'' caught the attention of perceptible observers. That statement was, indeed, a tribute to the actress, who stole the hearts of Tamil cinema-viewers.

A household name in Tamil Nadu in 1950s and 1960s, she lived an extremely private life in her final years. That phase should have been very painful to her. In fact, many of her ardent fans feel that Savithri's life itself turned out to be a classic example of tragedy.

Notwithstanding her sad end, Savithri, in the prime of her career, was always superlative. She could do a ``character role'' as effortlessly as a ``comedienne role''. Her portrayal in films `Pasamalar' and `Kaikodutha Deivam' was powerful. In `Maya Bazaar', she did briefly the role of Gadodkajan, a mythological character known for his insatiable urge to eat and physical prowess, with finesse.


Simran

But, any critical admirer of Tamil cinema would say that Savithri belonged to a genre of great actresses that the Tamil film industry had generated all along.

T.R. Rajakumari was one of the earliest to attain stardom. Hailing from Thanjavur, she was one of the very few `native' actresses, as many of the leading Tamil stars were originally from Andhra Pradesh.

Rajakumari had powerful and beautiful eyes, which she used very effectively in her performances. This could be seen in `Chandralekha' (in which she was the heroine) or `Manohara' (wherein she played the role of a vamp).

Bhanumathy's mother tongue was Telugu and her `trademark' was that she invariably depicted herself on the screen as a smart and driving woman. `Arivali' was a film in which Sivaji Ganesan and she competed in excelling each other, while, in `Annai', Bhanumathy played the role of a woman, who was so possessive of her adopted son that she would do anything to stop the original mother from contacting the boy.


Jyothika

Padmini was another actress who rose to fame in no time and her Bharatanatyam background lent grace to her performance in the films in which she acted. The famous dance contest between her and Vyjayanthimala, an equally brilliant actress, in ``Vanjikottai Valiban'' is still remembered by many. Her portrayal of a danseuse in ``Thillana Mohanambal'', having a running battle with a Nadaswaram artiste (played by `Sivaji' Ganesan), was memorable.

All these actresses dominated the scene during 1940s-1960s. The performances of Bhanumathy and Padmini in ``Nadodi Mannan'' and ``Mannadhi Mannan'' respectively along with MGR were noteworthy.

Devika and Saroja Devi, who succeeded them as stars, always produced performances of a high standard. Caught between her former lover and her husband who was battling for life, Devika in ``Nenjil Oru Alayam'' strongly displayed the plight that any woman in such situations could face.

Similarly, Saroja Devi, who shined in ``Kalyana Parisu'', played a brilliant role in the thriller movie ``Pudhiya Paravai'' where she, as a police officer, fell in love with the man, to catch whom she was assigned.

The list continues. K.R.Vijaya, Lakshmi, Sridevi, Sripriya, Sujatha, Radhika, Revathi, Urvasi to Simran and Jyothika, the last two being the ``current stars''. Consistently, all of them have come up with top class performances, though provided with limited opportunities.

Not many may disagree with a view that Tamil cinema has, in terms of recognition, not given actresses their due, compared to heroes who instantly command idolatry. Kamal's tribute to Savithri has perhaps corrected this impression to some extent!

By Ramakrishnan T.

Photos: S. Thanthoni
and K. Pichumani

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