Actor Sarath Babu, who had a compelling screen presence and played lead and supporting roles in many films in multiple languages, died in Hyderabad on Monday. He had been hospitalised for a while.
Tall, striking, handsome and sartorially elegant, the bespectacled actor looked more like a corporate professional who was cast in the role by the director. He featured in some of Tamil cinema’s memorable song sequences, and was an able lead and supporting actor as well as villain on screen.
“He was the Aravind Swamy of the 1970s and 1980s. Who can forget the dashing engineer, Kumaran, in Mahendran’s Mullum Malarum, and the iconic song, Senthazham Poovil Vanthadum Thendral, under the cinematography of Balu Mahendra,” asked writer Suka.
Sarath Babu’s father was a hotelier, and wanted his son to take over his business. But Sarath Babu wanted to become a police officer. That dream crashed when he developed nearsightedness during his college days and was unable to clear the physicals.
“People told my mother that I was good-looking, and should try to get into films. The lecturers in my college said the same thing, and it was playing on my mind. My father was against it, but my mother supported me. I thought that even if I fail, I could fall back on the family business. In my heart, I knew that I didn’t fit into business or politics. I responded to an advertisement in the newspaper for fresh faces for a film, and I got through the audition more easily than I had expected,” the actor had said in an interview to The Hindu.
Director Balachander introduced him in the Tamil film Pattina Pravesam.
He had memorable roles in films starring the reigning heroes of that period – Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth – including that of Venkatachalam, the heroine’s brother in Nizhal Nijamagiradhu; Ragupathy, who would cover the body of his friend from being drenched in Salangai Oli; Prakash, the health officer in Mahendran’s Uthiripookal; and the friend-turned-foe, Ashok, in Annamalai.
Director Raj Bharath’s film Uchakattam portrayed the soft-spoken, handsome actor as a gruesome serial killer. It also became a box-office hit. In Kanavugal Karpanaigal, he played the love interest of an adolescent girl, and the song Vellam Pole Thullum Ullangale showcased the talent of Gangai Amaran as a music director.
Paadi Va Thendrale from the film Mudivalla Arambam;Koonthalile Megam Vanthu from Bala Nagamma;Naan Oru Ponnoviyam kanden and Naan Unna Nenachen from Kannil Theriyum Kathaikal; and Naana Paaduvathu Naana from Nool Veli are some of the songs featuring him that belonged to the golden era of Tamil film music.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin condoled the death of the veteran actor. “He made a mark on south Indian cinema. Roles played by him in Tamil films are still remembered by fans,” Mr. Stalin said in a statement and extended his condolences to the actor’s family, the film fraternity and friends.