Saturday, February 07, 2009

Nagesh, made generations to laugh, passes away

Nagesh, made generations to laugh, passes away

C.K.Nagesh-Gunddu Rao,Born:
September 27, 1933(1933-09-27)
Died :January 31, 2009 (aged 75)

Born as Gunddu Rao in a Brahmin community, Nagesh was born to Kannada speaking Brahmin Madhwa parents. He walked out of his house telling his parents that he would be back only after establishing himself in some career. In Chennai, he stayed in a one-room bed-sit at West Mambalam (then a remote area) with lyricist Vaali and veteran actor Srikanth. He found a small time job in the Indian Railways, but he was not satisfied.

Nagesh in Server Suntharam, 1964.

Early in his life, he saw a Tamil play Kamba Ramayanam enacted by his colleagues, and felt that he could do a good job. He persuaded the secretary of the Railways cultural association to give him the role of a man suffering from stomach pain. MGR, then chief guest, seeing this play, in his speech praised Nagesh for his performance. From then onwards, Nagesh played small roles in various drama troupes.

Jerry Lewis Of India

Producer Balaji who spotted Nagesh and gave him his first role in films. The most memorable performance of Nagesh out of the 1000 odd films he has acted in, is his role in Thiruvilayaadal in which he speaks a soliloquy. In this movie,he played a poet who had fallen into bad times. When Sivaji who played Lord Siva in the film saw it he asked the director to retain it in full without a cut.

Nagesh ,MGR And Ashokan

Directors such as C.V. Sridhar and Balachander were those who brought out the acting talents of Nagesh. The movie Server Sundaram portrayed Nagesh in the role of a restaurant waiter who later becomes a successful movie actor in a case of life imitating art and art imitating life. He plaed the villainous comic pimp in Thillana Moganambal starring Sivaji and Padmini. In Apoorva Raagangal he plays a drunkard who talks to his shadow and then finishes his dialogue by saying Cheers and throwing the cup on the wall. In the theaters where the film was shown the audience imitated him and threw cups on the wall of the lobby during interval.

He shined like a diamond in the hands of the directors Sridhar and Balachandar.

MGR Opening Nagesh Theater

His professional connection with Kamal Hassan is of great relevance. He was one of the four bad guys in Apoorva Sagodharargal (1989), where Kamal played three characters. In Michael Madhana Kamarajan (1990), where Kamal played four characters, Nagesh showed his funny side in his style. Later he played a dead man in Magalir Mattum (1993) produced by Kamal Hassan.

The Man Who Made Generations Laugh

Nagesh was a self-taught man who believed that an actor could learn from watching life and its characters. He would often sit in his car on busy roadsides and watch the people on the streets to grasp the mannerisms of people that he would later re-enact on screen.

On the personal front Nagesh was one of the few comedians to have acted with both MGR and Sivaji and invested his money in real estate. Later on, he had a fallout with MGR and it led to his removal from many films. Nagesh theatre owned by him in Chennai was on the verge of getting seized for non-payment of dues but he met MGR and was bailed out. Though financially he was saved, his career had stalled and he moved on to character roles.

He died on 31 January, 2009 at the age of 75 due to diabetes and a heart ailment while he was admitted in Balaji Hospital. He is survived by three sons, including actor Anand Babu.

A million smiles faded when comedian Nagesh died of cardiac arrest in Chennai on Saturday. He was 76.

The Tamil film industry is in a state of grief following the demise of one of its most senior artistes. Nagesh, a veteran with more than 1000 films to his credit, is one of the most respected and revered figures in the industry. He had not been in good health in the recent past. Today morning, he complained of chest pain and passed away when he was being taken to the hospital. He is survived by 3 sons, Anandh Babu, Ramesh Babu and Rajesh Babu. The final rites are expected to be performed tomorrow at around noon at Besant Nagar.

His demise has sent a shock not only across the film industry, but to all the people who have watched him in movies over the years. Many names from the film industry have been pouring in right from the time the news of his demise was known. CM Kalaignar Karunanidhi has also expressed his grief over the death of Nagesh.

Among those who paid their last respects to Nagesh since morning are Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Manorama, S.S.Rajendran, Delhi Ganesh, K.S.Ravikumar, Kovai Sarala, K.Balachander, Bharathiraja, Vasanth, Suriya, Vivek, S.Ve.Sekar, Y.G.Mahendran, Mohan, Rajesh, Santhana Bharathi, Goundamani, Murali and many others.

“He was a big inspiration for me, just like how Sivaji sir is. There has not been a day when I’ve not spoken about Nagesh sir. His death is a personal loss for me,” said actor Kamal Haasan, who was largely responsible for Nagesh’s final innings as an actor, in the last two decades.

The actor had teamed up with Nagesh in films 'Magalir Mattum', 'Nammavar', 'Pancha Thanthiram', 'Dasaavathaaram', 'Avvai Shanmugi' and 'Vasool Raja MBBS'. “He has made us laugh all his life. He was a great comedy actor but he was not just that. He has donned so many roles, including the one that we find him now in,” the actor said, perhaps referring to the role of a corpse that Nagesh did in Kamal’s 'Magalir Mattum'.

Kamal And Vaali Paying Respects

Actress Manorama, who has done over 200 films with Nagesh, was visibly moved and said a sense of loss gripped her. “His death is an end of a great era. Nagesh is irreplaceable. There’s nobody today to do the gamut of roles that he single handedly tried, from the 60s until today,’ she said.

Rajinikanth, whose first movie 'Aboorva Ragangal', said Nagesh was among India’s most important actors. “Nobody would have slogged in filmdom the way Nagesh sir has. I pray for his soul to rest in peace,” he said.

One of the early duet hits of the combination of Nagesh and Manorama was the song Cheeddukkaddu Raajaa (Veaddaikkaaran, 1962).Even today every time a comedian tries to launch himself as a hero, the question - if he would manage both successfully like Nagesh did?- does creep in. For instance, recently when the news of 'Kadhalikka Neramillai’s remake was announced, every lip had one question that went unanswered: Who can actually do Nagesh’s role at least the way he did, if not better?

As actor for more than five decades, Nagesh had an uncanny ability to fuse humour and sadness, in most of the roles he essayed on screen. A spontaneous comedian who sent viewers into peals of laughter with his superb timing and body language, Nagesh was a tough act to follow, say industry compatriots, film critics and friends who interacted with him over the last few decades. They are also quick to add that his super star status did not spill over to his personality. They remember him as a generous, simple person minus the fussiness of an industry veteran. They also credit him with making comedy, an indispensable part of cinema and not just a sidetrack.

"He made the role of a comedian the most indispensable and important part of films. When he was at his peak, he could devote only two hours per film per day. Even Sivaji Ganesan and MGR had to wait for him to come to the set. He was such a crowd puller that distributors insisted on Nagesh being there for all the films then," said actor, playwright and political analyst Cho Ramasamy, who also shared screen space with Nagesh.Nagesh's inimitable style and dialogue delivery is something that top-notch comedy actors strive for till date.

The Comedian Sleeping

"When you deliver lines at break neck speed, you tend to lose clarity. But, Nagesh combined speed and clarity and was easily the master at it. You may come across actors who try to imitate his body language but his talking style was unique. It cannot be mimicked," said actor Vivek, a leading comedian in Tamil cinema.

Acting wasn't at the top of his mind, when he came to the city. But, with a room mate like lyricist Vaali, the interest in plays and acting caught on soon enough. He went on to act in nearly 1,000 films.

"He brought in a new style of comedy modelled on Hollywood actor Jerry Lewis. At that time, the comedy was more verbal but Nagesh brought along body language and movements. He essayed some very serious roles in his later movies," said film historian Theodore Bhaskaran, whose personal favourite is a lesser-known black and white classic, "Yaarukkaga Azhuthan", scripted and directed by acclaimed writer Jayakanthan.

Evergreen Nagesh favourites include "Ethir Neechal", "Thillana Moganambal", "Major Chandrakanth", "Kadhalika Neramillai", "Server Sundaram" and "Thiruvillaiyadal." His last film was the Kamal Hassan starrer Dasavatharam, which released last year.

Some of Nagesh's ardent fans in the corporate world include Pepsi Co CEO Indra Nooyi and HCL Technologies founder Shiv Nadar. In earlier interviews to ET, Nooyi's mother revealed that her daughter enjoyed Tamil classic starring Nagesh. On the other hand, Shiv Nadar is said to have a DVD collection comprising every film that Nagesh has appeared in.

Rajini,Kamal And Achi Manorama Mourning