'We felt we were in the presence of a diety!'

Tamil and Malayalam cinema luminaries pay their tributes to Sivaji Ganesan:

Nagesh: I revered him, thought he was the last word on everything to do with acting. One day, after a shot -- he normally needs only one take -- he looked at me and asked, "What do you think?"

Nagesh I said I thought maybe we could go for another take. At once, he told the director to take again. I felt very bad, very small.

After the shot was canned, I went up to him and said, "Anna, what is this? I only made a comment, how can you listen to me and take me so seriously?"

He told me, "My boy, there are lakhs of people like you out there. If you thought that take could have been improved, lakhs of others might think so too -- only, by then, it would have been too late. So for me, it makes sense to go with your gut feeling, to do another take."

V K Ramaswamy: He lived for his art. I got into the industry five years before Sivaji, so I am his senior. I've seen him from the days when he was doing female roles on stage.

One day, I came to the set at 2300 hrs. Sivaji told me, "You've taken your money from the producer, haven't you? Then why are you late?'

I told him that my callsheet was for 2300 hrs.

"That may be," Sivaji said, "but how can you act like that? How can you not be on the set when the film you are working in is being shot? I have done some scenes this evening, now you have to react to those, you have to do the reaction shots. How can you do that well if you don't know how I did my shots?"

I learnt a lesson that day.

K Balachander Sivaji was like that. Even if a junior artiste was acting, he would remain on the set, in full make up, he insisted on doing that, he would never go away and rest. He said, "I have to see what the others are doing, only then can I know how to do my own role, my scene."

K Balachander: He was an institution, a university. There is no actor, no director, no movie person in Tamil Nadu today who can say that he hasn't learnt something from Sivaji Ganesan, that there is not a little bit of Sivaji Ganesan in his own art.

Sivaji Ganesan is not about Tamil cinema, but about Tamil itself -- today, Tamil has lost one of its biggest, most irreplaceable, pillars." Bharatiraja

Bharatiraja: There are many dozens of people who taught us how Tamil should be written -- Thiruvalluvar, Mahakavi Subramanya Bharati, Perarignar Annadurai, Kalaignar Karunanidhi, so many of them.

But in Tamil history, there is only one man who taught us how Tamil should be spoken, and that is Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan. He was a phonetic dictionary for the language."

Satyaraj: When you think about it, what we know of historical characters is what Sivaji Ganesan showed us. Whether it is Subramanya Bharati or Rajaraja Cholan or Kappal Ottiya Thamizhan VO Chidambaram Pillai or Veera Pandiya Kattabomman, when we think of them we see what Sivaji showed us.

Satyaraj He defined those characters for us. He showed us how they must have walked and how they talked. I wonder -- if we want to make a film on Sivaji Ganesan, for the generations yet to come, who will we find to act as Sivaji, to make him come alive for us? Who is there who is good enough?

K Bhagyaraj: They say punctuality is the politeness of princes. In that case, Sivaji Ganesan was an Emperor. He was always ahead of time, never behind. And it is these little things that, for me, really defined him.

One time, I was directing him. We were on location. The set was about 15 minutes from the lodge we were staying in.

One evening, he asked me, "When is the shooting tomorrow?"

K Bhagyaraj I told him, 0730 hrs. I got to the set at 0700 hrs, got his first shot ready. Then thought, while waiting I might as well take a little incident shot that didn't require his presence. The camera was running when Sivaji landed up at 0720 hrs.

When he saw that shooting was going on, he was very upset. I pacified him, told him that I was just filling time. "That is not the point," Sivajisir told me. "People when they see the cameras running and me arriving just now, will think I was late!"

He seemed off mood all day, that day. Next day, the shooting was again due to begin at 0730 hrs. When I got to the set 15 minutes before time, I found Sivajisir already there.

"Let them think you are late," he told me. "But I can never be late, I cannot disrespect my art that way."

Vivek: When we think of Sivaji, we think of Parasakthi, his debut film, and that famous courtroom scene.

In a recent film of mine, just for fun, I tried to rework it, to rewrite the lines Karunandhi wrote for today's context. And then, when I acted it out for the cameras, I realised just what Sivaji Ganesan was all about.

Today we have dubbing, we can do all sorts of things, make mistakes, get away. But those were the days of live sound. If you listen carefully to that scene, you will see that throughout, the cadences, the continuity of dialogue delivery, the crescendoes and diminuendoes, are all perfect.

You can't improve on a single bit -- you have to be very very good to even do half as well. And when you think of that, think also of this -- this film was his debut!

Someone was saying today, how when Sivaji once was playing the role of a police officer, each time he walked off the shot, the policemen on security duty would salute him.

There is nothing strange about that -- even when he walked into a room without makeup, the rest of us would want to take our footwear off.

Mammootty We felt like we were in the presence of a deity.

Mammoootty: "I won't presume to talk about Sivaji's acting. When it comes to the Chevalier, I am not an actor, but merely one among millions of his fans.

"There are many people in the industry who were inspired to enter films by watching him act -- I am one of those."

Also Read:
A Tribute to the Legend Sivaji Ganesan

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