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Nagesh: A legacy like no other

[IndiaGlitz, Sunday, 1 February 2009 09:55 No Comment]

image The fifties, sixties and the early seventies are considered by many as the Golden Age of Tamil Cinema. The era had everything in it to entertain the masses. Moreover actors and actresses were not expected to reinvent themselves much because the general movie-going – public expected them to be doing what they do best on screen. Every established actor or technician proved to be towering personalities and were simply loved by the masses. That was an era when everything fell in place as far as the film world was concerned….with benevolence and fun.

MGR and Sivaji Ganesan were obviously the Kings of the time. The likes of M. N. Nambiyar and Asokan terrorized audiences with villous performances.  The stage was absolutely set for a talented ‘funny’ man like Nagesh. Not a single big film released without the services of Nagesh. Though there were other talented comedians like Chandrababu and Thangavelu at the time, it was clear from box office collections that Nagesh ruled the hearts of movie lovers.

Snapshots into the eventful career of Nagesh spell out absolute brilliance. A role that went down as probably the best comic fare in Tamil Cinema featured in the film ‘Thiruvilayadal’ (1965). Who can forget the interaction between Nagesh and thespian Sivaji Ganesan? Nagesh as a struggling poet gets divine intervention from Lord Siva (Sivaji Ganesan) and presents the work to the King of the land. The court poet dismisses the poem as having errors in it. The distraught poet (with obvious lure for money) is disappointed big time and reports the happenings to Lord Siva. An outraged Siva debates with the court poet.

Nagesh as the poet sparkled in every shot bringing the roof down with laughter. These are scenes that are hugely popular even with the kids of the 21st century.

As a young boy Nagesh reportedly ran away from home telling his folks that he’d return as a ‘big guy’. Nobody took these words seriously. He came over to Chennai and started performing in a theater troupe ‘Ragini Drama Troupe’ until he was noticed by director Sridhar who cast him in ‘Nenjil Oru Aalayam’ in which he played the role of a ward boy.

Gradually this thin man with exceptional talent was noticed and was cast in many films. One of the directors who made it a point to work with Nagesh in many of his films was none other than K. Balachander.

The roles Nagesh enacted in ‘Server Sundaram’ (1964), ‘Kadhalikka Neramillai’ (1964), ‘Kuzhandaiyum Deivamum’ (1965), and ‘Anbe Vaa’ (1966) were all massive successes that were talked about a lot. In ‘Server Sundaram’ Nagesh played a person who serves at a restaurant but then had dreams to make it big as a film star. Ironically though, his dream materializes. Here was a performance that made the whole of Tamilnadu sit up and take note. The thin funny man had entered the hearts and minds of people indelibly. In ‘Anbe Vaa’, Nagesh played the role enacted by Walter Slezak in the English classic ‘Come September’ (Anbe Vaa was an inspired version of Come September in patches). The mastery of Slezak was matched by Nagesh in all respects. (Nagesh played the caretaker of a palatial mansion who rents it out as a hotel in the absence of the owner). The combination scenes that involved MGR and Nagesh were outstanding and oozing with fun.

Nagesh had a long screen association with the Guinness Record holder Manorama and Kumari Sachu. Comedy in the form of dialogue, slapstick and situational humor was explored in many many movies.

The Nagesh – Manorama combination sizzled the screen in movies such as ‘Nenjil Nindraval’, ‘Galatta Kalayanam’ and ‘Anubhavi Raja Anubhavi’ (a song sequence in this film ‘Muthukullika Vaareegala’ featuring Nagesh and Manorama became a smash hit).

Nagesh prevailed in the industry even after the heydays of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan were over. It was about this time that Nagesh acted in films such as ‘Aboorva Raagangal’ and ‘Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal’. The film industry was changing shape and Nagesh was unassailable with his brilliance.

In the 1980s Nagesh acted in films such as ‘Thillu Mullu’, ‘Kadal Meengal’, ‘Padikkathavan’ etc. It was in this period that Nagesh was cast in more serious roles. In a major surprise move Nagesh was cast as a villain in the Kamal Haasan starrer ‘Aboorva Sagodharargal’. A spectacular performance form Nagesh in ‘Michael Madana Kamarajan’ was followed by a beautiful portrayal of a dead boy (Nagesh won rave reviews for this) in the film ‘Magalir Mattum’.

Nagesh’s association with Kamal Haasan was very fruitful and films like ‘Nammavar’, ‘Avvai Shanmugi’, ‘Panchathanthiram’ etc bear testimony to that.

Nagesh also has the credential of acting with the present generation of actors. With Madhavan (Minnale), Dhanush (Kadhal Kondaein) and Simbu (Saravana) and many more.

The film that saw Kamal Haasan in ten different roles ‘Dasavatharam’ was Nagesh’s last film.

An eventful career like no other. Let’s salute the genius that Nagesh was….after all who can forget this thin man with funny looks striding about making people laugh.

A lifetime of making people laugh is over….or is it? Nagesh will continue to make people laugh and get enamored with his performances every time his films are telecast on television and projected in movie theaters. The legacy of Nagesh will live on….

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