When we talk about actresses (non-heroine) who have
had a great impact on Tamil cinema and are highly respected
in the industry one’s mind will naturally thing
about Manorama. No doubt, this actress is a legend in
her own right and the above description holds true for
her too. But, my choice for all time favorite is different.
No Tamil cinema lover could have possibly not watched
Padhinaaru Vayadhinile and if you have watched the movie
it is also hard to forget the actress who played Sridevi’s
mother. I am talking about Gandhimathi.
If the first response that you had on seeing the name
was a smirk, you are not alone. I have received similar
responses from many people before. But, I feel that
Gandhimathi has not been duly recognized for her talents
and contributions to Tamil cinema. Yes, she has not
acted in a huge number of movies or won a lot of awards
but the few roles that she did play are etched in our
memories. Small or big, major or insignificant, her
presence always lent a lot of weight to a role, like
the one in Kizhakke Pogum Rail. While many have associated
her only with the village lady type of roles which involve
loud dialogues and the customary ‘opparis’,
what has gone unnoticed is the other side of the actress.
Watching movies like Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi will
give you an insight into the lighter side of the actress.
Of course, the most noticeable aspect of the roles that
she played was the ‘Enna pettha rasa’ kind
of dialogues, but that is not the beginning and end
of Gandhimathi, the actress.
More than the actress, I also have great respect for
the person that Gandhimathi is. The roles that she played
might belie the person within. She was a social thinker,
a communist at heart and has acted in many short films
to promote the communist movement. For such a person
to transform herself into the illiterate lady of villages
in movies is indeed praiseworthy. The proof of her acting
skills perhaps can be found in the endorsement of two
greats of our times, Kamal Haasan and Bharathiraja.
These are people who have a special eye to pick talent.
Gandhimathi has featured in many of the movies of these
two greats. Whilst she was a Bharathiraja regular at
one time, Kamal always wanted her in at least a small
role in any movie that he made with a village as its
premise, Devar magan and Virummandi. This is perhaps
the greatest recognition that she has received, a recognition
that has not been recognized by many others.
Sudhakar, with inputs from Arun.)
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