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Tearful farewell to Sivaji Ganesan

By M.R. Venkatesh and T.S. Shankar

CHENNAI, JULY 23. The mortal remains of the thespian, Sivaji Ganesan, were consigned to flames here today, after the State police presented a gun salute and sounded the bugle, bringing the curtains down on the ``Sivaji era'' in the south Indian cinema.

Thousands of mourners bade a tearful farewell amid cries of ``Amarar Sivajikku Jai and Parasakthi Sivajikku Jai'', ``immortalising'' their favourite hero, as they walked the nearly 10-km funeral procession route from the veteran actor's T.Nagar residence to the Besant Nagar electric crematorium in South Chennai.

The air was dense with cries and wails as ardent fans and people from far and near poured on the arterial roads en route to have a glimpse of the flower-bedecked truck carrying the body.

At the end of an over three-hour procession, also watched by tens of thousands of people from every vantage point--from tree tops to rooftops of highrise buildings and the RBI residential quarters overlooking the crematorium--a sudden silence descended on the crematorium complex before the last rites began.

Pall-bearers had some anxious moments as the bulky freezer containing the body was brought down from the truck and kept near the entrance to the crematorium. Top film personalities including Mr.Kamal Hassan, Mr. Rajnikant, the music director, Mr. Ilayaraja, Mr. Sarath Kumar and Mr. Vijayakanth who accompanied the body, wept inconsolably during those last moments.

Sivaji Ganesan's eldest son, Mr. G. Ram Kumar, accompanied by his brother, Mr. G. Prabhu and some close relatives, completed the formalities inside the crematorium, even as the entire array of film personalities and television artistes stood grieved. The emotion-choked stars, coming out later, expressed the hope that ``Sivaji's legacy will continue''.

The Sri Lankan Minister for Arts and Culture, Mr. Allavi Moulana, was among the dignitaries who attended the funeral, while the AIADMK Government was represented by its Ministers, Mr. S. S. Thirunavukkarasu, Mr. Nainar Nagendran and Mr. Dalavai Sundaram. The TNCC president, Mr. E. V. K. S. Elangovan, was among the representatives of other political parties who paid their last respects.

Earlier, the mourners continued to throng Sivaji Ganesan's residence all through last night. At 5 a.m., precisely 24 hours after the body was kept for public viewing, the people had to be stopped to enable the family members to perform a few rites. Some of the other political leaders who could not make it yesterday such as the Dravidar Kazhagam general secretary, Mr. K. Veeramani, rushed early today to pay their homage.

The last cries heard in Sivaji Ganesan's household, before the members of the South Indian Artistes Association came in a procession to join the funeral `yatra', were the most poignant. Scores fans were uncontrollable and surged towards the truck as they could not reconcile themselves to the `departure of their hero'. The police had a tough time ensuring that the funeral convoy moved.

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