Gemini Ganesan

Lothario of Tamil cinema known as the 'King of Romance'

Known as the "King of Romance" for his liaisons both on- and off-screen, Gemini Ganesan was the first real Lothario of Tamil cinema, who charmed southern audiences, mostly female, with his tangled hair, dreamy eyes and moon-struck demeanour for nearly four decades. In over 200 films, Ganesan captured the imagination of a generation of cinema-goers as the irresistible philanderer whose on-screen affairs did not always end with the film.

Ramaswamy Ganesh (Gemini Ganesan), actor: born Madras, India 17 November 1920; four times married (one son, seven daughters); died Madras 22 March 2005.

Known as the "King of Romance" for his liaisons both on- and off-screen, Gemini Ganesan was the first real Lothario of Tamil cinema, who charmed southern audiences, mostly female, with his tangled hair, dreamy eyes and moon-struck demeanour for nearly four decades. In over 200 films, Ganesan captured the imagination of a generation of cinema-goers as the irresistible philanderer whose on-screen affairs did not always end with the film.

Like all top film personalities in southern India, Ganesan was accorded near godlike status. The influence of film stars in Tamil Nadu is best illustrated by the cult of Ganesan's contemporary M.G. Ramachandran, who in the 1970s became state chief minister entirely on the strength of his acting career. Scores of Tamilians committed suicide by setting themselves alight or by jumping out of trains when "MGR" died in the late 1980s.

But Ganesan had no inclination to join politics, concentrating instead on what he believed he was destined for, good at and liked doing best - wooing beautiful ladies. This real-life disposition was best epitomised by his role in Naan Avanillai ("I Am Not He", 1996) as the philanderer who changes his identity nine times in pursuit of women.

He was born Ramaswamy Ganesh into a middle-class family in Madras, capital of Tamil Nadu state, in 1920, his first job as a junior chemistry teacher at the Madras Christian College. When he tired of teaching, he joined the city's Gemini Studios in 1947 as production executive, adopting its name as his own.

Ganesan's film début came the same year with a minor role in Miss Malini, a Gemini studio production, in which he starred opposite Pushpavalli, whom he married soon afterwards. Rekha, his stunning daughter from this union, became one of Bollywood's leading stars but, reportedly disapproving of her father's philandering ways, she declined to attend his funeral.

It was not until 1953 when he starred as the villain in Thai Ullam ("Mother's Heart") that audiences begin to take notice of his talent and dreamy good looks. Featuring as the hero the following year in Manampol Mangalyam ("Ideally Matched Husband and Wife") alongside Savitri - whom he later married - established Ganesan as "Kadhal Mannan" or "King of Romance".

Ganesan carved a niche for himself in Tamil cinema, featuring in garishly outlandish and raucous films that demanded little acting talent. Later in his career, he switched to character roles in television serials, acting even in several films in other southern Indian languages like Telegu, Kannada and Malyalam as well as a few in Hindi.

But his last noteworthy film, in 1996, Avvai Shanmukhi (a remake of Mrs Doubtfire), had Ganesan once again reverting to type by playing a love-struck widow who falls in love with his granddaughter's governess.

A keen cricketer, Ganesan was passionately fond of dogs and, despite his cult status and innumerable dalliances, assiduously avoided entanglement in any scandal or controversy.

Kuldip Singh

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century