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Updated: November 23, 2010 11:40 IST

A rare personality

Randor Guy
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Sivakumar, one of the most successful star-actors of Tamil cinema, is a very rare personality in the field. Handsome and still looking young, he is fondly referred to as ‘Markandeyan' (one who ever remains ‘sweet 16'). Although he has given a large number of successful and critically acclaimed films, he remains the same old rural lad who came to Madras (now Chennai) years ago full of dreams. Professional success has not gone to his head. For one who wanted to be a painter, movies and stardom — public adulation and all that go with it — were perhaps not on the boy's mental horizon when he landed in the city.

At the College of Arts and Crafts, Sivakumar drew sketches of many rural folks and impressed his colleagues as well as friends in the city and in his native village in Coimbatore district. When he was just 15, he sketched the superstar, icon, and cult figure M.G. Ramachandran. This sketch and those of other celebrities such as Sivaji Ganesan and N.S. Krishnan are reproduced in the book under review.

Obviously somewhere in his mindscape was lurking the desire to don the greasepaint. And so when the call of the world of lens and lights came, Sivakumar readily responded by taking up work in theatre. Here he quickly made a mark, and the coveted break in movies was not long in coming. It was by sheer hard work and discipline — virtues hard to come by in the tinsel world — that he rose to be a top actor and star of Tamil cinema. Above all, the fact that Sivakumar, a handsome person, is one of the very few leading lights in the film world about whom there has been not even a whisper of scandal is in itself a great achievement.

This book is an English translation of the autobiography Sivakumar had written in Tamil. The original title, Idhu Raajapaattai Alla, has been retained for the translated version, with a subtitle ‘Towards a new dawn' added. The translation by Malathi Rangarajan, a well-known film critic working for The Hindu who has built a reputation for herself in the field, reads like a original work, a refreshing departure from the trend.

There are not many books in English about Tamil film personalities and the few that are available fall in the category of hagiography. For this reason alone this book is definitely worth a read, and full marks to Malathi Rangarajan for giving an eminently readable translation.

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