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Lively, emotional, exceptional

Sivakumar advocates self-restraint and adheres to it himself.

HE HAS lived in abject penury, has started from the scratch and seen the hardest of days as a child. Cries and laughter come to him easily and perhaps naturally too, so much so that he has captivated audiences with convincing performances on the silver screen for decades. He is none other than the veteran Sivakumar for whom acting in films has been a life-saver.

"But for my acting, I would have been nothing but what I was portrayed in one of my films `Rosappu Ravikkaikari'," he said as a matter of fact during a freewheeling conversation after delivering a lecture at the Madurai Kamaraj University here recently.

Given his position today, it is strange to believe that he was considered an "unlucky child" in his place of birth — Kasigoundan Puthur — a village 20-km away from Coimbatore. He had the fire in him from childhood to prove himself to others one day.

He remembers his mother with great reverence. "My father expired early in my life. Just imagine how difficult it would have been for a widow to raise her children in that obscure place with no one offering any help. But my mother stoically withstood the circumstances and all pressures and even managed to send me to school," even today he recollects with moist eyes.

In a way, the sufferings only hardened him and made him wiser to take on challenging situations. "Each time I encounter any difficulty, I am reminded of my mother's will power and commitment and the very thought rejuvenates me and shows me the way to go ahead".

A strict disciplinarian to the core, Sivakumar is wary of the negative impact of glamour industry. "The temptation and the tendency to err are strong. One has to have a strong character or else the image gets tainted very easily", he cautions.

Sivakumar is respected for his modesty and discipline by his colleagues and junior artistes in the industry. "I am a teetotaller. I gave up even coffee and tea in 1958. I practice yoga and do other physical exercises to maintain my health," he shares the secret of his appearance. Not many in this world are able to practice what they preach. But Sivakumar is an exception. He advocates self-restraint and adheres to it himself.

Like his acting, Sivakumar is equally known for his brilliant paintings.

Painting has become an inseparable passion.

"There is a saying in Tamil that "chithiramum (drawing) kai palakkam" but it stands good only for those with an aptitude for drawing and not for all," he says.

After finishing his studies, Sivakumar entered the Fine Arts College in Madras. After six years of learning the nuances, he struck a perfect chord with his works.

He sat for hours at a stretch forgetting the world around to complete a painting.

He rates his paintings of a crying baby and a girl with a flower basket as the best ones for his detailed efforts.

"It took months to complete those paintings because I was driven by a passion to bring out the finest emotional details".

Sivakumar is also known for his paintings of the Brahadeeswara Temple, Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Thirumalai Naick Mahal. The grandeur of these paintings has earned him rich encomiums from the critics. But what he finds as most impressive is a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi.

Coming to his entry into tinsel town, Sivakumar says he always preferred acting to direction. "I feel I can emote the feelings as stated in a script very well,'' he says, adding that he is happy with "what I am and where I am".

A little known fact about Sivakumar is that he is endowed with a superb memory power and is a voracious reader.

"Things just get imprinted in my mind whenever I come across interesting lines. I do not consciously memorise them but I am able to retain them well,'' he says, sharing his ability to recite the verses of Bharathiar and poems of Sangam Literature with flair and ease.

It is equally surprising to discover that the veteran actor is also a good writer.

"Writing is not easy. You must have the ability to express what you feel. My work `Idhu Rajapattai Alla' is widely acknowledged and even included in the 91-92 curriculum of Loyola College," he says.

After a long lecture - lasting over three hours - Sivakumar shows no sign of fatigue.

His enthusiasm bubbles up when asked about his sons.

"They are my alter egos. They follow all my principles and abide by my advice," is the father's proud comment. His on-screen effervescence always regaled the audiences and those who were listening to his lecture that evening were no exception either.


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