Yesteryear actor and singer S. Varalakshmi died here on Tuesday evening after a brief illness. She was 84. Ms. Varalakshmi acted in nearly four hundred films and worked with all the leading stars of Tamil and Telugu cinema, including M.G. Ramachandran in Needhikku Thalaivanagu and Maattukaravelan, Sivaji Ganesan in Veerapandia Kattabomman and Raja Raja Chozhan, Jaishankar in Poova Thalaiya, Kamal Haasan in Guna and Rajinikanth in Aduthavarisu.
She started singing at the age of seven and has sung for over 100 songs in various films. Her first film was Bala Raju, in Telugu when she was 15 years. Ms. Varalakshmi is survived by a son and a daughter.
In particular, two of her songs Manam Kanintharul Vel Muruga and Singara Kanne from Veerapandia Kattabomman and Eduthandanadi Thillaiyile in Raja Raja Chozhan, the first 70 MM film in Tamil, remain all time favourites.
She portrayed the role of authoritative woman with ease as was evident from her performance in Panama Pasama or Poova Thalaiya.
In an interview to this reporter a few months ago, she was all praise for her co-artists such as MGR and Sivaji Ganesan.
“It was really a golden period when I was working with such great artists. Each one of them was great in their own respect. Despite their huge fan following, they were kind and we used to feel like being part of one big family. But before the camera we used to fight for our place with our talent”.
Actor Lakshmi, who is shooting in Ooty, expressed her shock at the passing away of Ms. Varalakshmi. “She is a legend in her own way. I have done a couple of films in Tamil and Telugu with her. We were also family friends as she was a contemporary to my mother. I knew her from my childhood and her singing was a big attraction to all of us. Artists of those days were all disciplined and sincere to their work. Very rarely do one can find such artists like her today.”
In a statement here on Wednesday, AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa recalled her association with Ms. Varalakshmi. She said her mother and Ms. Varalakshmi were friends and they lived nearby. “I would always play at her house, and I was mesmerised by her sweet songs,” Ms. Jayalalithaa said, adding that it was a great personal loss to her.