Tamil News

Nellai Siva, Tamil Comedian, Dies of Cardiac Arrest

Nellai Siva, the Tamil comedian and supporting actor, died after he suffered a cardiac arrest, on Tuesday, in his hometown Panakudi in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu.


He was 69.

Siva, who predominantly acted in comic roles in Tamil films, was born on January 16, 1952, as Sivanathan Shanmugavelan Ramamoorthy. He later adopted the stage name Nellai Siva and has acted in over 500 films in his career spanning over three decades.

Siva, who is popular for his Tirunelveli (also known as Nellai) slang, debuted in the 1985 Tamil comedy film Aan Paavam, directed by Pandiarajan. He later went on to act in popular Tamil films, including Vetri Kodi Kattu (2000), Anbe Sivam and Saamy (2003), Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikecei (2006), Thamizh Padam (2010). Siva last appeared in Trisha-starrer Paramapadham Vilayattu (2021), which is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. However, he known for his comic scenes with Tamil comedian Vadivelu.

Siva also acted in TV shows Pandiyan Stores and Mama Mapillai.

Actor-comedian Chaams, who has collaborated with Siva in several projects and also appeared in Paramapadham Vilayattu, told Silverscreen India: “When I entered the cinema industry, there used to a tailor shop in Saligramam [in Chennai] where we used to discuss cinema. It was the time when I was finding opportunities to act and he [Siva] was busy acting then. I used to ask him ideas about how to go about approaching directors for chances. He was senior to me and gave me tips. As time passed by, we both went on our paths in acting.”


The actor has known Siva since 2002.

Speaking about an upcoming Tamil film that Chaams was working with Siva, he said, “For a film that we were shooting in Kumily [in Kerala], directed by Ravi Rahul, Nellai Siva sir’s role was a small one. Though I have acted in a few films with him before, this film gave me an opportunity to spend more time with him. I play the main comedian whose role is a hero. Nellai Siva sir plays the role of my assistant. Every day, actor Soundarajan, Nellai Siva sir, and I would travel together to the location. And that was when I began to interact with him frequently. He used to tell stories of hardships he had faced but in a comical way. He always makes his surroundings jovial. I also spoke with the director to extend his role and make it bigger. He was very caring of me as well.”

Chaams said that Siva was down-to-earth and humble when others gave him inputs on his performance.

“He also had a great interest in the language Tamil and used to quote Kalaignar [late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi] often. At the same time, he was also proud of his Nellai accent and continued it in all his roles. He kept his surroundings cheerful always and his demise comes as a shock to me,” Chaams added.

Director Sathya Siva, who cast the late comedian in his directorial debut, Kazhugu (2012), told Silverscreen India, “I had seen him sometime last week when I was on a location hunt for my film. He was shooting for Pandian Stores in a house in Valarasavakkam [in Chennai]. He identified me despite me wearing a mask. He even asked me to give him a chance in my next film. But unfortunately, his demise came too soon.”


Talking about the days he spent with Siva during Kazhugu in Munnar, Kerala, the filmmaker said, “He was a very comfortable actor. It was a cold place and many places were accessible only by foot. But he was very flexible and casual about it. He did not have hesitation that he was doing all this for a debutant.”

Sathya recalled that the late comedian always made fun of people who were married since he was unmarried. “It looked like he is happy from outside, but at times, he has been sad that he never had a family of his own. Many people did not know that he was single. He was a simple man and very down-to-earth. He always carried off his slang and body language with pride no matter what role he did. We had also approached him for Kazhugu 2, but he had other commitments,” added Sathya.

Siva’s last rites will be conducted by his brother’s children and is scheduled to take place in his hometown on Wednesday.