Saturday, October 25, 2014

S.S. Rajendran: Dialogue delivery was his forte

Tamil cinema’s veteran actor Sedapatti Suryanarayana Thevar Rajendran, popularly known as SSR, who had worked with the former Chief Minister, M.G. Ramachandran, thespian Sivaji Ganesan, DMK leader M. Karunanidhi and AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa, died here on Friday. He was 86 and is survived by two wives, including actress C.R. Vijayakumari, and eight children. Born at Sedapatti in Madurai district in January 1928, SSR, like all his contemporaries, cut his teeth in acting on the stage as part of Boys Company and later in the theatre group run by T.K.S. Brothers. He was also a good singer; a few could match his Tamil pronunciation. He, however, kept to the minimum the theatrical elements that dominated the histrionics milieu of his time. From the early 1950s to 2008, he had acted in over 75 films. In his recent autobiography, Naan Vantha Paathai (The Path I Trod), he had said he could get into the famous TKS troupe after singing a song set to raga Karaharapriya to the satisfaction of T.K. Bhagavathi, the younger brother of T.K. Shanmugam. In fact, SSR entered the film world as a playback singer, in the music of G. Ramanathan, because he was considered too young for villain by Modern Theatres Sundaram. After penning his autobiography, SSR kept the manuscripts with him. “IAS officer Rajendran and artist Trotsky Marudhu persuaded him to publish it,” said poet Vennila, whose publishing house Agani has brought out the book recently. Closely associated with the Dravidian movement, SSR was an admirer of the DMK founder C.N. Annadurai. He was the first actor to be elected to the Assembly in the country, from Theni in 1962 on DMK ticket. He also represented the DMK in the Rajya Sabha during 1970-76 and was re-elected to the Assembly as an AIADMK candidate from Andipatti in 1980. Though he was a close friend of Mr. Karunanidhi, he fell out with him. In his autobiography, SSR has vividly recalled his war of words with the DMK president at an executive meeting of the party. After his expulsion from the DMK, he joined the AIADMK. Again, he entered the electoral fray from Periyakulam in the 1989 Assembly elections as a candidate of the AIADMK faction led by Ms. Jayalalithaa. But he could not win. Parasakthi, starring Sivaji Ganesan, gave him the much-needed break, though he had earlier acted in a few films such as Paithiyakaran and Aandal. In Parasakthi, he campaigned for the laudable objective of its scrip-writer Mr Karunanidhi to rehabilitate beggars. With a fine diction and facial expression, SSR excelled as a hero, and in many secondary roles. His role as ‘Muthazhgu’ in Sivagangai Seemai testified to his acting talent. He acted with Sivaji Ganesan in Patchai Vilakku, Manohara and Alayamani. In Poompuhar, for which the dialogues were penned by Mr. Karunanidhi, he played the role of Kovalan, the hero of the epic Silapathikaram. In Manimagudam, SSR worked with Mr. Karunanidhi, who penned the dialogues, and Ms. Jayalalithaa. He paired with MGR in Kanchi Thalaivan and Raja Thesinku.

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