Gemini Ganesan - A starry life that spilled out of screen

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS
Friday, February 11, 2011

NEW DELHI - The story of late Tamil superstar Gemini Ganesan was larger than life in star-struck Tamil Nadu with the screen spilling into his home as well.

He wooed women and they loved him in return. Parallel families and eight children kept Ganesan on his toes as his career as the cherubic hero flourished for years.

For his children, however, the situation was a tad confusing for they had to reconcile with their extended families, says, Narayani Ganesh, his daughter, in “The Eternal Romantic: Gemini Ganesan”, a tribute to her superstar father.

Gemini Ganesan, loved by his fans as “Kadhal Mannan” (the king of romance), led a multi-dimensional life, says the daughter in her book published as part of Roli’s Family Pride series.

Gemini Ganesan was one of the triumvirate of the Tamil movie industry along with Shivaji Ganesan and M.G. Ramachandran, who later became the chief minister of the state. He was born Ganapati Subramanian Sarma or Ramaswamy Ganesan Nov 17, 1920, in the princely state of Pudukkottai.

According to the writer, a senior journalist, Ganesan was born at the stroke of midnight and the heavens opened up at his birth.

He died in 2005.

Ganesan’s first break as an actor was in the 1948 production, “Chakradhari,” with Pushpavalli with whom he started a relationship and a family later.

Rekha, who later became a Bollywood super actress, is his daughter from this relationship.

Narayani Ganesh met her half-sister at the Presentation Convent in Chennai.

“A girl struck up conversation with me after school one day. I must have been nine or 10 years old. ‘Why do you and your sister go home in different cars,’ she asked. I was puzzled.

“My two elder sisters had finished school and my younger sister was a baby. I was puzzled. ‘Come, I will take you to her,’ she said holding my hand,” Narayani Ganesh recalls.

Narayani Ganesh met Rekha that day for the first time.

“She was pretty and her eyes were lined with mascara. She said her name was Bhanurekha. ‘What is your father’s name,’ I asked. ‘Gemini Ganesan,’ pat came the reply. My eyes were filled with tears. How can that be? He was my father,” she said.

“Then there was Rekha’s younger sister Radha, who was even prettier. I thought her resemblance to Appa was startling. When I was a little older, I learned that they were born to Pushpavalli and Appa (Gemini Ganesan). And they lived with their mother and other siblings too,” Narayani says in the book.

Bobjima, as Gemini Ganesan’s first wife was known, and her daughters respected Rekha.

“Rekha is a very private person and we respect her for that. As children, we did not have much interaction with her as she grew up with her mother and very soon left Chennai for Mumbai.

However, in the later years, when our parents grew old and we siblings too were all grown up, we did touch base with her,” Narayani Ganesh told IANS.

Now, the half-sisters keep in touch. “But there is no demand from anyone, neither from us or her. It is a relationship of mature individuals and we all understand the peculiar circumstances under which we grew up,” the author said in an interview.

Narayani Ganesh writes that her father’s relationship with Pushpavalli, his co-star, was “perhaps the first one outside marriage and from the way they remained friends and enquired about each other, they were comfortable with their past”.

According to Rekha, “her mother had only good things to say about Gemini Ganesan and about Bobjima”.

“Though he never lived with us, we ‘felt’ his presence wherever we went for whatever we did. My mother constantly spoke about him, his likes and dislikes.

“Whatever you wish to call it - love or affection - the feeling my mother had towards him was strong and positive that lasted throughout her life,” Rekha says in the book.

Pushpavalli, it seems, was unaware that the superstar was a married man when she fell for him.

“Appa began to reciprocate. She was a beautiful and accomplished woman and it would have been difficult to spurn her love,” Narayani Ganesh says.

However, unlike Pushpavalli, Savitri, another of the superstar’s women, walked into a relationship with her eyes wide open.

“There’s was a sustained union that lasted for more than a dozen years with a marriage, household and children. The Gemini-Savitri relationship worked wonders for their private as well as screen lives,” Narayani Ganesh says.

Savitri and Gemini Ganesan had married secretly at the Chamundi Temple in Mysore during the making of their first movie, “Manam Pola Mangalyam” (Marriage of the Minds) in the early 1950s.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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