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The Gemini Ganesan Tribute: Songs From Missiamma, Paavamanippu, Sumaithangi and More

Gemini Ganesan died on this day in 2005, aged 84. In his career spanning five decades, he acted in over 200 films and played several roles from college student, musician, father and the romantic hero which made him popularly known as Kaadhal Mannan.


He began his career as a teacher in the Chemistry department of  Madras Christian College, and later got a job as a casting assistant in Gemini Studios. He made his debut in Miss Malini in 1947, but it was his role as a teacher in Missiamma, a decade later, which was his breakthrough. He acted in Vanjikottai Valiban, Kalam Mari Pochu, Kalathur Kannamma, and years later in the 1996 film Avvai Shanmuki.

Here are some of the best songs from his films:

‘Kaalangalil Aval Vasantham’, Paava Mannippu

Composed by Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy, with lyrics written by Kannadasan, this song speaks of the happiness that a lover brings, “Kaalangalil aval vasantham, kalaigalile aval oviyam, maathangalil aval maargazhi, malargalile aval malligai…”

It was rendered by singer PB Sreenivas, and went on to become one of his best songs. The film starred Gemini Ganesan, Sivaji Ganesan, Savitri, Devika, and MR Radha, and was about how four siblings are separated from their parents at birth and are raised by different people as Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

‘Manithan Enbhavan’, Sumaithaangi 

Gemini Ganesan takes a strolls through the city at night, singing that a person can overcome anything if they have the heart, “Manithan enbhavan, deivam aagala.” The music for the film was by Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy, and lyrics by Kannadasan. This song conveys the message of the film, in which Ganesan faces many challenges in his job, family and love life. Sumaithaangi was directed by CV Sridhar and is best remembered for Gemini Ganesan’s performance.

‘Paattu Paadava’, Then Nilavu

Another all time favourite song, Paatu Paadava, was composed and sung by AM Rajah, with lyrics by Kannadasan. The song was shot in Kashmir, where Ganesan and Vyjayanthimala are riding on two horses as he lovingly convinces her to let him sing about them, “Paatu paadavaa, paarthu pesavaa, paadam sollavaa, parandhu sellavaa.”

The film is about how she mistakes him for someone else, and they fall in love on this trip. This 1961 romantic-comedy was written and directed by CV Sridhar, and was one of Ganesan’s most memorable films.

‘Kaadhodu Thaan Naan Paaduven’, Velli Vizha

This classic song by LR Easwari features Gemini Ganesan and Jayanthi, She sings that she will speak her heart when it comes to expressing her love for him, “Kaadhodu thaan naan paaduven, manadhodu thaan naan pesuven.” They are a married couple in the film, and things take a turn when he meets Sheela (Vanisri) and falls in love. The film was directed by K Balachander, and music was by V Kumar. The lyrics of this song were written by Vaali.

‘Vaarayo Vennilave’, Missiamma

Missiamma (1955) was the film that established Gemini Ganesan’s career. He plays a teacher, Balu, who pretends to be married to another teacher Mary (Savithri) to be able to rent a place to live. They soon fall in love and marry each other. Their parts were sung by AM Raajah and P Leela, to lyrics by Thanjai Ramaiah Dass.

The film had many songs, and its music was composed by Rajeswari Rao. ‘Brindavanamum Nandakumaranum’, ‘Ennai Aalum Mary Maatha’ and ‘Pazhaga Theriyavenum’ are still popular.

‘Iyarkai Ennum Ilayakanna’, Shanti Nilayam

This romantic song from the 1960 film Shanti Nilayam, starring Gemini Ganesan and Kanchana. The song was shot in Ooty amidst gardens and lakes; the lyrics by Kannadasan speak of the lovers’ desire for each other. Singer SP Balasubhramaniyam made his Tamil debut with the song, along with P Susheela. Shanti Nilayam was directed by GS Mani. It was a remake of the Kannada film Bedi Bandavalu (1968), a film adapted from Sound of Music. 

‘Nee Pottu Vacha’, Ponmana Selvan

Ponmana Selvam (1989) featured an older Gemini Ganesan in the lead with Vijaykanth, Shobana, Saroja Devi and others. Vijaykanth sings in praise of his father (Ganesan), and other family members. Malaysia Vasudevan, Mano, and KS Chithra have rendered the song, composed by Ilaiyaraaja. The film was one of the biggest hits of the year, also dubbed in Telugu as Gharana Raja. 

‘Intha Poothendral’, Mettukudi

Another family film with Gemini Ganesan as the grandfather of Nagma, this song speaks of the house he has built with affection. The music is celebratory, and is song by Mano, Israth and the film’s composer Sirpy. They lyrics are by Palani Bharathi. The film stars Karthik and Nagma in the lead, and is about how Gemini Ganesan eventually accepts Karthik as the son-in-law. The story was based on a Malayalm movie called His Highness Abdullah.

‘Maanida Sevai’, Unnal Mudiyum Thambi

Unnal Mudiyum Thambi featured Gemini Ganesan as a father who stood his ground about the decisions made by his son, Kamal Haasan. In this song, Kamal breaks the rules of carnatic music taught by his father, and it makes Ganesan eventually leave the music hall. The song was sung by KJ Yesudas, and music was by Ilaiyaraaja. The film, directed by K Balachander, also featured the popular songs ‘Akkam Pakkam Parada’ and ‘Enna Samayalo’.

Image Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle