Having witnessed first hand the euphoria that goes along with every re-release of a Sivaji Ganesan film, I’ve been dumbstruck by the innumerable diehard loyalists of the actor. More than a decade has gone by since his death, but Ganesan’s fan base is intact -- in fact, despite stray criticisms of his portrayals, the fascination only seems to be growing! So when a group of his admirers decided to join hands and begin a film society in his name, I was curious. NTFAnS (Nadigar Thilakam Film Appreciation Society) was inaugurated on Sunday last, when the golden jubilee of ‘Paarthaal Pasi Theerum’ was also celebrated. ‘Paarthaal Pasi Theerum’ was first released on the day of Pongal in the year1962. Personalities involved in the making of the film shared their memories of Sivaji Ganesan.

Said Y Gee Mahendra, an established Ganesan fanatic, and president, NTFAnS: “When some steadfast Sivaji-ians came up with the idea, I jumped at it. Every two months, members will get to watch a classic from the past. Actors and technicians of the film concerned will also be invited and honoured.” Those present that day at Bharat Kalachar, the venue of the event, and tasted the kind of spread that awaits them in the days to come, must have found it worthwhile, because I saw many making a beeline for the membership counter during the short break. For details visit www.nadigarthilagam.com

Close your eyes and listen to Ramkumar and you could mistake the voice for his father, the great Ganesan’s. Such is the similarity! “I’m becoming a member straightway. Personally, ‘Paarthaal …’ is my most favourite among Sivaji’s films,” he noted. He had reasons. P.N. Pillai, the erstwhile general manager of Sivaji Films, had worked only for two people in his life – Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and Sivaji Ganesan! “We’ve heard a lot about the army from him. Appa was inspired and decided on a film with patriotic fervour, and ‘Paarthaal …’ happened,” recalled Ramkumar. “Also it was probably the only film that had a physically challenged hero limping and singing a duet with élan,” he smiled. True, how can anyone forget the melody of Mellisai Mannargal’s ‘Kodi Asaindhadhum Kaatru Vandhadha,’ Saroja Devi’s exuberance or Ganesan’s stylish demeanour in the sequence?

‘Paarthaal …’ remains an incredible musical bonanza from M.S. Viswanathan and T.K. Ramamurthy. Sadly MSV couldn’t make it to the event, but TKR’s presence made up for it. Listening to A.L. Raghavan sing a few lines of ‘Andru Oomai Pennallo …’ another evergreen hit from the film, TKR said he regretted not having a violin with him to play the wondrous notes, just as he had done for the original. Raghavan’s voice was as fresh as it was 50 years ago when he had first sung it!

Sowcar Janaki had travelled all the way from Bengaluru for the event. “N.T. Rama Rao once told me that more recognition will come my way only late in life. Today I feel he was right,” she observed. Ganesan always described her as “a classy lady,” Mahendra said, and Ramkumar cheerfully echoed the sentiment, “She’s still one, and a beautiful one at that!”

The renowned dialogue writer of ‘Paarthaal …’ Aaroordas, came up with nuggets that were matter of fact. Though the audience could make out that Janaki didn’t quite agree with some of the points he made, she was sportive.

If Dr. Kamala Selvaraj accepted the memento for her dad, Gemini Ganesan, the other hero of ‘Paarthaal…,’ Madhuvanthi Arun did the same as the granddaughter-in-law of the inimitable Savithri Ganesan, one of the three heroines of the film. And receiving the honour for Sivaji Ganesan was grandson Dushyanth.

Nalli Kuppuswami proved his admiration for the actor, by sponsoring the day’s event. What exactly triggered the formation of a society in the name of Sivaji Ganesan? “Call it Kalaiveri,” chuckled Mahendra.

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