Gemini Ganesan - Romance King of Tamil Films

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

G
emini Ganesan one time heart throb of Tamil cinema passed away peacefully
in his sleep at 1.30 am on March 22nd at his residence in Nungambakkam,
Chennai. In a career spanning five decades the octogenarian made his mark in
Tamil films as the romantic hero par excellence and was known as "kaadhal
Mannan" (King of Romance). His on screen and off screen persona were
intertwined and the evergreen Gemini with four wives had several liaisons with
attractive women. As Tamil Nadu chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram remarked his
death is truly "an end of an era in Tamil cinema".

His real name was Ramasamy Ganesan. The prefix "Gemini" stuck to him
because prior to acting Ganesan had worked as casting director at the
prestigious "Gemini" studios in Tamil Nadu. By a coincidence his contemporary
and namesake Sivaji Ganesan too got the prefix "Sivaji" due to his acting as the
Mahratta King  in a drama written by former DMK chief Minister CN Annadurai.
Sivaji, Gemini and MGR (Ramachandran) comprised the triumvirate that
dominated Tamil movies from the fifties to the seventies. Another  Thespian SS
Rajendran strove valiantly to make this a quartet but failed.

Gemini however was the odd man out among the three musketeers.Unlike MGR
and Sivaji he had no professional experience as a stage actor. Both MGR and
Sivaji had learnt the ropes as part of the Madurai Boys Company drama group.
Unlike them Gemini had tertiary qualifications. He was a B Sc graduate from
Madras University whereas the others having taken to the stage in childhood
were schooled by life.

MGR and Sivaji encouraged fans associations and participated in politics Gemini
remained aloof from politics. He even declined a Rajya Sabha MP nomination
proposal by Rajiv Gandhi. While he was always cordial towards fans and friends
he never promoted  "Rasikar Mandrangal". This phenomenon continues to this
day in Tamil Nadu and other South Indian states with proliferating  fans
associations dedicated to various film stars.

While MGR's on screen hallmark was swashbuckling action sequences and Sivaji
that of powerful dialogue delivery Gemini cooed and wooed his way into many a
heart. All the world loves a lover! Gemini was the greatest lover on Tamil silver
screen making hearts flutter. His  handsome features, dashing personality,
cavalier attitude, soft speech, twinkling eyes and impish humour proved an
irresisistible combination.

Though he proved his mettle in many movies with fight scenes and heavy duty
dialogue Gemini was not classed as a fighter or actor in the MGR - Sivaji mould.
This softie image led to a nickname "Sambar" or vegetable broth. Gemini was
also called Ganesh, Gemini Mama  and RG. His real name was Ramaswamy
Ganesan.

He was born into a well - educated middle class Brahmin family in Puthukottai on
November 17th 1920. After rceiving secondary education at Rajahs College he
moved to Chennai for higher studies. GGGanesan studied at Madras Christian
College  and graduated in Science. He worked as a demonstrator in cHemistry
for a while at his Alma Mater. Utterly bored with academia he obtained
employment at Gemini Studios run by the mercurial SS Vasan. Vasans father in
law Ramachandran was Geminis grand uncle.

He worked as casting director at Gemini. One of his duties was to interview
prospective actors and actresses. Among his finds was Chandrababu, Ranga
Rao, Savithri and Balaji. It was this stint at Gemini that bestowed Ganesan his
name Gemini. His first film role was in "Miss Malini" a film based on a short story
by RK Narayan. His name in the credits was RG. Later he played Lord Krishna in
"Chakradhari". He came to be noticed as an actor by playing the villain opposite
RS Manohar in "Thai Ullam". His turning point was as the hero playing  dual roles
in "Manampol Mankalyam" in 1952.

From then onwards there was no looking back.  He has acted  in more than 200
films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi. Most films however were
in Tamil his mother tongue.  Among successful movies that Gemini acted as hero
were Kanavane Kan Kanda Theivam, Vanjikottai Valiban, Kalyanap Parisu,
Missiyamma , Then Nilavu, Meenda Sorgam, Sumai Thangi, Patha Kanikkai,
Parthiban Kanavu,  Kairasi,  Kalathoor KannammaKonchum Salangai Katpaham,
Ramu, Valkai Padagu, Shanthi Nilaiyam, Thamarai Nenjam, Vellivila , Punnagai
and Naan Avanillai.

He also acted in several blockbusters with Sivaji Ganesan playing second lead.
Notable among these were Pennin Perumai, Veera Pandiya Kattabhomman,
Kappalottiya Thamilan, Pathi bhakthi, Pavamannippu, Parthal Pasi theerum,
Kandan Karunai, Saraswathie Sabatham and Unakkaha Naan. His only film with
MGR was Muharasi where he played elder brother. Gemini also starred with SS
Rajendran in "Vairakkiyam.In Kalathoor Kannamma Kamalahasan as a child
artiste acted as Geminis son. Decades later in Avvai Sanmugi the aged Gemini
played father in law to Kamal.

Gemini has acted opposite several leading actresses like Anjali Devi,
Pushpavalli, Padmini, Vaijayanthimala, Savithri, Devika, Vijayakumari, Saroja
Devi, Vanishree, Rajashree, Kanchana, Bharathi, Jeyanthi, KR Vijaya and
Jayalalitha. His screen chemistry with almost all his heroines was superb. Some
of the love songs Gemini crooned on screen are evergreen numbers. Several
playback singers have sung for Gemini but it was AM Rajah, PB Sreenivas and
SP Balasubramaniam whose voices blended  most harmoniously on screen. The
directors who brought out his acting abilities out best were Ragavaiah,
Bhimsingh. Bhanthulu, Sridhar, Shankar, Gopalakrishnan, Balachandar,
Nagarajan etc

Some of his roles are unforgettable. The ugly dwarf in Kanavane Kankanda
theivam; the valiant military commander Velliathevan in Veera Pandiya
Kattabhomman; the freedom fighter Madasamypillai in Kappalottiya Thamilan;
the burdened family man seeking solace as a Catholic priest in Sumai Thangi.
The widower with child caught up in a triangular relationship in films like
Katpaham, Ramu etc. The Nathaswaram playerlip synching to perfection on
screen the music of maestro Karukurichi Arunasalam in Konchum Salangai,
Vikkarama Cholan in Parthiban Kanavu, the warrior Verramallan in Saraswathy
Sabatham. Lakshmana in Lava kusa; Lord Siva in Kandan Karunai; Lord Krishna
in Veera Abhimanyu; the devotee to truth in Punnagai are someperformances  
lingering in memory.

His magnum opus however was in his own production "Naan Avanillai" (I am not
he) directed by S. Balachandar. Gemini played nine roles. The story was about a
bigamist posing off as different men in different disguises to different women. It
was a case of art imitating life and Gemini was in his element playing all roles. It
was a sign of Gemini's remarkable sense of humour that he chose to film such a
story as the only film he has ever produced. Unfortunately it did not click at the
box office.

Geminis first and only legal wife was Alamelu called fondly as "Bopji". Gemini
married at 19 and had his first child when 22. This did not prevent further
marriages done according to religious rites. One such wife was Pushpavalli with
whom he acted in his first film . Another was the illustrious actress Savithri with
whom he has acted in many films. She was known as Savithri Ganesh. Gemini
made headlines a few years ago by his marriage to a woman more than fifty
years his junior Julianna. He also had a live in relationship with the actress
Rajashree.

Ganesans  other extra- marital liaisons were numerous and added grist to the
gossip mills of Kodambakam. Gemini was no gigolo but a casanova.. He was not
a hypocrite and candidly admitted to these saying his life was an open book.
Some writers have compared him to Gary Cooper in this respect. His wife Bopji
stood by her philandering husband throughout like the typical Indian loyal wife.

She and Gemini have four daughters. Three of them Revathy, Kamala and Jeya
are medical doctors. A fourth Narayani is a journalist on Times of India. Gemini
has two daughters by Pushpavalli. The elder is Rekha the well - known Hindi
actress. The younger Radha also acted in a few Tamil films but then opted for
marriage and migration to the USA. Savithri and Gemini have two children. The
daughter Vijayasamundeeswari is a Physiotherapist. She acted in films as a child
artiste "Baby Savithri". Gemini's only son Satheesh Kumar is also living abroad.

Despite the fickle love life Gemini was a shrewd businessman and invested
heavily in real estate and property development. He was a good sportsman
having captained the College Cricket team. He also played Tennis, Golf,
Badminton . His other interests were swimming, riding horses, ball room dancing
and reading. He has visited Sri Lanka several times and had many good friends.

The MGR - Sivaji - Gemini Period at its best was the golden age of Tamil cinema.
The last of that trio has breathed his last. Many actors have romanced their
heroines in the past and no doubt will do so in the future. The "romantic king"
crown however belonged to Gemini Ganesan and all other aspirants only
pretenders to the throne.He was and will be forever the "Kaadhal Mannan"  of
Tamil cinema just as MGR was the "Puratchi Nadigar" (revolutionary Actor) and
Sivaji its "Nadigar Thilakam".
[Sunday Leader]
Hear More
Songs....[Tamil Tune]
To see six of Gemini
Ganesan's seven daughters  
together is a rare sight: [Rediff]

From left to right: Dr Revathi
Swaminathan, Narayani
Ganesan, Dr Kamala Selvaraj,
Rekha, Vijaya Chamundeswari
and Dr Jaya Shreedhar.