The young singer was hovering around the compound wall of the huge house yearning to have a few moments with the great actor. The guard at the entrance tried to shoo him away, in vain. When a few minutes later the singer saw the actor from a distance he made a beeline for him. The veteran welcomed him, took him inside and was overjoyed to hear him sing melodies from his films in typical A.M. Raja style. He was all praise and made a cup of coffee with his own hands for the guest!
The actor was Gemini Ganesan, whose sobriquet ‘King of Romance’ suited him to a T, and the zestful singer, C.A. Raja, who replicates yesteryear playback singer A.M. Raja’s voice, just as it was! “The doyen giving me an audience and playing perfect host remains an unforgettable experience in life,” said C.A. Raja, at the stage show that his troupe Pranavam, put up this week, as a tribute to Gemini Ganesan, on the occasion of the actor’s fifth death anniversary.
Film editor Subhash welcomed the special invitees, who converged on the venue in large numbers, presented interesting insights into the life and career of Gemini Ganesan. Beginning as a casting director at Gemini Studios, he was the only actor to have entered cinema after graduation. His education and good looks placed him apart and despite the all-pervading presence of the two giants of South Indian cinema – MGR and Sivaji Ganesan – Gemini Ganesan was a front runner along with them. An actor with an incredible female following, he went on to act in more than 150 films. “A vexed Chandrababu, the inimitable comedian of that era, decided to end his life when his aspiration to make it in cinema proved fruitless. He wrote a caustic letter to S.S. Vasan of Gemini Studios stating that he was going away without his aim being fulfilled, but that Vasan should understand the abundant talent around him instead of scouting for it in other places. ‘One such potential actor is your casting director,’ the note had said. That Chandrababu was saved in the last minute and went on to earn his share of fame is another story,” said Subhash.
“Gemini Ganesan’s career had two innings. Sridhar and A.M. Raja played significant part in his first innings while K. Balachander and P.B. Srinivos were important part of his second,” Subhash averred, as P.B. Srinivos, who was seated in the first row, listened intently.
C.A. Raja had planned the concert well. The choice of songs, all from Gemini Ganesan’s films, was rich in variety. While, as expected, Raja took up all A.M.Raja’s originals, popular stage singer Kovai Murali ably handled T.M. Soundararajan’s numbers for Gemini Ganesan and Subramaniam pitched in with PBS’ refrains.
The orchestra comprising 10 violins, a strong percussion group, sax, flute, bass guitar and keyboard among others made up the imposing dais, with a huge vinyl painting of Gemini Ganesan looking on from the background. Getting to the hiccups and hurdles of the evening is redundant, because merits outnumbered the gaffes. From ‘Sadhaaram’ to ‘Poova Thalaiya’ the spread offered a lot to savour and enjoy.
The average age of the audience that evening was probably 45, but that so many of them found it worthwhile to forego the IPL temptation and make it to Kamarajar Arangam, Chennai, was proof of Pranavam’s draw and the effervescence of film music of yore. For those who plump for old film songs and yet missed the show -- Mega TV should be airing it one of these days. Which means you can still catch up with it in the near future!