Gemini Ganesan’s 100th birthday: The King of Romance held his own alongside MGR and Sivaji Ganesan

Posted on November 17, 2020


K Balachander and Sridhar were two filmmakers who used the actor in consistently challenging roles: he fit easily into them because his on-screen persona was like water, capable of taking the shape of the vessel.

Most people today, when you speak of Gemini Ganesan, will probably remember him as ‘Mahanati’ Savitri’s husband. Or as the intolerant, disciplinarian father of Kamal Haasan in K Balachander’s half-masterpiece Unnal Mudiyum Thambi (1988). Or as Kamal Haasan’s father-in-law in the Mrs. Doubtfire-inspired Avvai Shanmugi (1996), which has a meta layer if you look for it: Gemini hates Kamal as a man, but loves (literally loves) Kamal when dressed as a woman. Put differently, one generation’s heartthrob (‘Kadhal Mannan’, King of Romance) falls for another generation’s heartthrob in drag. The man was clearly a sport. Or maybe he had a soft spot for Kamal, who debuted as his cherubic son in Kalathur Kannamma (1959). It’s a film wokesters will rip to shreds today, but it’s also a film of its time. It’s a melodrama. It’s a “family story”. It has an amazing soundtrack.

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