Remembering Sivaji Ganesan: The Iconic Actor Whose Legacy Lives On

OV Digital Desk
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Sivaji Ganesan

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Sivaji Ganesan (1 October 1928 – 21 July 2001) was an Indian actor and producer. He was active in Tamil cinema during the latter half of the 20th century. Sivaji Ganesan is acknowledged as one of the greatest Indian actors of all time and among the most imitated one by other actors.

Life and Career

He was born on October 1, 1928, in Villupuram, Tamil Nadu, he embarked on his acting journey with remarkable success.

In December 1945, Ganesan made a name for himself–literally–with his theatrical portrayal of 17th-century Indian King Shivaji. This regal stage name stuck and Ganesan carried the crown as “Sivaji” as he conquered the world of acting. He made his on-screen debut in the 1952 film “Parasakthi,” the first of his over 300 films spanning a nearly five-decade cinematic career. Renowned for his expressive voice and diverse performances in Tamil-language cinema, Ganesan quickly ascended to international fame. His best-known blockbusters include the trendsetting 1961 film “Pasamalar,” an emotional, family story considered one of Tamil cinema’s crowning achievements, and the 1964 film “Navarthri,” Ganesan’s 100th film in which he portrayed a record-breaking, nine different roles.

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His debut in the 1952 film “Parasakthi” catapulted him to stardom, thanks to his powerful and emotionally charged performance. Ganesan was celebrated for his versatility as an actor, seamlessly transitioning between roles that ranged from intense drama to comedy. Over his illustrious career, he starred in over 300 films, earning numerous accolades, including several National Film Awards and Tamil Nadu State Film Awards. He was known for his ability to portray complex characters with depth and empathy. His iconic roles in films like “Veera Pandiya Katta Bomman” and “Deiva Magan” solidified his status as a thespian.

Ganesan’s contribution to Indian cinema extended beyond his acting prowess. He was one of the first actors to introduce method acting techniques to the Tamil film industry, influencing generations of actors. His commitment to his craft and dedication to perfection set a high standard for the industry. Beyond the silver screen, he was a well-respected figure in Tamil Nadu’s cultural and political spheres, and he served as a Member of the Indian Parliament.

Sivaji Ganesan’s legacy endures through his timeless performances and the inspiration he provided to actors and film enthusiasts alike. He passed away on July 21, 2001, but his memory continues to be cherished by fans and the film industry, with his work serving as a benchmark for excellence in Indian cinema.


Sivaji Ganesan’s family is marked by a rich legacy in the Tamil film industry. The legendary actor, born in 1928, had two marriages during his lifetime. His first wife, Kamala Ganesan, bore him three children: Ramkumar Ganesan, Prabhu Ganesan, and a daughter named Shanthi Ganesan. Ramkumar Ganesan followed in his father’s footsteps, primarily working as a film producer. Prabhu Ganesan, one of Sivaji Ganesan’s sons, became a prominent actor in Tamil cinema, carving out his own successful career. Sivaji Ganesan’s second wife, Vijaya Chamundeswari Ganesan, gave birth to Vikram Prabhu, who is Sivaji Ganesan’s grandson through his son Prabhu. Vikram Prabhu, carrying the legacy of the Ganesan family, is an actor known for his work in Tamil films. This family tree reflects the enduring influence of Sivaji Ganesan in the world of Indian cinema, with multiple generations contributing to the industry’s success and creativity.

Movies and songs of Sivaji Ganesan

Sivaji Ganesan’s prolific career in the Tamil film industry spanned several decades, and he starred in numerous iconic movies and songs that remain cherished by audiences. Here are some notable films and songs associated with him:

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  • Parasakthi (1952): This groundbreaking film marked Sivaji Ganesan’s debut and featured him in a powerful role. It also had memorable songs, including “Oh Rasikkum Seemane.”
  • Veera Pandiya Katta Bomman (1959): Ganesan’s portrayal of the titular character in this historical epic is considered one of his finest performances. The film included classic songs like “Aayiram Thamarai Mottukkale.”
  • Pasamalar (1961): In this family drama, Sivaji Ganesan played a pivotal role as Chellappa. The song “Unnai Kaanadha Kannum” from this movie remains an evergreen favorite.
  • Deiva Magan (1969): Ganesan’s portrayal of a mentally challenged person in this film earned him accolades. The song “Poomalaiye Thol Serava” is remembered fondly.
  • Thillana Mohanambal (1968): This musical drama showcased Ganesan’s ability to play a classical dancer. The film features timeless songs like “Nalangu Stotram.”


  • “Unnai Kaanadha Kannum” (Pasamalar): This heartwarming melody, sung by T. M. Soundararajan, became an instant hit and is still loved by audiences today.
  • “Aayiram Thamarai Mottukkale” (Veera Pandiya Katta Bomman): This song, sung by T. M. Soundararajan and P. Susheela, is an iconic romantic number with unforgettable lyrics.
  • “Oh Rasikkum Seemane” (Parasakthi): This song, sung by T. A. Mothi and Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi, is known for its poignant lyrics and soul-stirring rendition.
  • “Poomalaiye Thol Serava” (Deiva Magan): Rendered beautifully by T. M. Soundararajan and P. Susheela, this song captures the emotional essence of the film.
  • “Nalangu Stotram” (Thillana Mohanambal): This classical song is a testament to Sivaji Ganesan’s versatility as it required him to perform a classical dance, and it remains an integral part of the film’s appeal.

These movies and songs are just a glimpse of Sivaji Ganesan’s extensive and impressive filmography, which continues to be celebrated by fans and connoisseurs of Indian cinema. His ability to bring depth and emotion to his characters, combined with memorable songs, has left an indelible mark on Tamil cinema.

Award and Legacy

Actor Sivaji Ganesan’s remarkable contributions to Indian cinema were duly recognized with a plethora of awards and honors during his illustrious career. He received the prestigious National Film Award for Best Actor on multiple occasions, underscoring his exceptional acting talent. In addition to his national accolades, he was a recipient of numerous Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, Filmfare Awards, and other regional honors. His ability to portray diverse characters with depth and authenticity set a benchmark for acting in Indian cinema. Ganesan was also known for introducing method acting techniques to the Tamil film industry, influencing generations of actors. His legacy endures through his timeless performances, iconic roles in films like “Parasakthi” and “Veera Pandiya Katta Bomman,” and his dedication to his craft. Beyond the screen, Sivaji Ganesan was a respected figure in Tamil Nadu’s cultural and political circles, leaving an indelible mark on the state’s cultural landscape. His memory continues to inspire actors and cinephiles, ensuring that his contributions to the world of cinema are remembered and celebrated for generations to come.

In 1960, Ganesan made history as the first Indian performer to win Best Actor at an international film festival for his historical movie “Veerapandiya Kattabomman,” one of his biggest blockbusters with people remembering the dialogues from the movie even today. Other distinguished accolades came near the end of his career. In 1995, France awarded him its highest decoration, Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour. The Indian government in 1997 honoured him with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award which is India’s highest award in the field of cinema. Today, his legacy is carried on for international audiences through the performances of the many contemporary Indian acting greats who cite Ganesan as a major inspiration.

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On 1 October 2021, Google celebrated Sivaji Ganesan with a doodle.

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