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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrator - IT - Fixed Term, Part Time

£17340 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Come and join one of the UK's leading ca...

Recruitment Genius: Property Sales Consultant - Chinese Speaking - OTE £70,000

£18000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity for a Fluent Chines...

Recruitment Genius: AV Installation Engineer

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to business growth, this is...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent