Kommareddy Savitri or Savitri Ganesh (6 December 1934 – 26 December 1981), was an Indian actress, director and producer. She had appeared in Telugu,Tamil and Hindi languages. She was known for her liveliness and captivating performance and is still treated as the benchmark for acting in movies.

Savitri was born to Nissankara Rao Guruviah and Subhadramma in Chirravur (near Tenali) inGuntur, Madras Presidency, now part of Andhra Pradesh. She learned music and Indian classical dance under Sista Purnayya Sasthri. She performed stage shows during her childhood. She acted in 318 films in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi languages, with ten to fifteen movies released per year.

She later directed some films. One day she went to meet the Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and donated all her jewelry she was wearing for the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. She also built a high school in Andhra. Her favorite sports were cricket and chess. She used to play chess at home. She claimed that her favorite sports person was Gary Sobers. She participated in many celebrity cricket matches.

Career:

She gave some public performances as a child in Vijayawada. She worked in a theater company run by Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao. She also started her own company, the Navabharata Natya Mandali. Her best stage role was in Atma Vanchana written by Bucchi Babu.

Her first offer ‘Agni Pariksha’ at age twelve in 1949. However she looked too young after screen tests and was soon dropped. She was selected for main role in the film Samsaram by the banner ‘Sadhana Chitra’ in 1950. However she was replaced by Pushpavalli and she was given small role, as she was nervous to act with popular actor Nageswara Rao. She performed a dance in Pathala Bhairavi in 1951. Her first main roles was as a second heroine Pelli Chesi Choodu by L. V. Prasadin 1952. Her early popular roles are in Ardhangi and Missamma.

She later acted in memorable Telugu films like Chandra Haram (1953), Devadasu (1953), Ardhangi (1955), Missamma (1955), Donga Ramudu (1955), Amara Deepam (1956), Todikodallu (1957),Mayabazaar (1957), Abhimanam (1958), Mangalya Balam (1958), Appu Chesi Pappu Koodu(1959), Muripinche Muvvalu (1960), Sri Venkateswara Mahatyam (1960), Manchi Manasulu (1961), Aradhana (1962), Gundamma Katha (1962), Rakta Tilakam (1963), Mooga Manasulu (1963),Doctor Chakravarthy (1964), Poojaphalam (1964), Devatha (1965), Pandava Vanavasam (1965), Kanya Sulkam, Naadi Aada Janme, Prana Mitrulu (1967), Varakatnam (1968), Maro Prapancham (1970), Manase Mandiram (1966) and Jagan Mohini (1978). These movies are testimony to her versatile action skills. She got national award for the magnum opus movie Chivaraku Migiledi.

Savitri was a legendary actress in Tamil. She has paired opposite leading actors like Sivaji Ganesan and M. G. Ramachandran. She married Gemini Ganesan, while acting in ‘Manam Pola Mangalyam’(1953) with him. Savithri’s 100th film ‘Konjum Salangai’ (‘Muripinche Muvvalu’ in Telugu) also happened to be paired with Gemini Ganesan. She was fondly called ‘Nadigaiyar Thilagam’ in the Tamil film industry.

Kalathur Kannamma (1959), Pasamalar (1961), Pava Mannippu (1961), Paarthal Pasi Theerum (1962), Karpagam (1963), Karnan (1963), Kai Kodutha Deivam, Navarathri (1964), Thiruvilaiyadal (1965), Yaar Paiyyan, and Padithal Mattum Podhuma are some of her memorable classics in Tamil cinema.

She acted in few Hindi films like Bahut Din HuweGhar Basake DekhoBalaram Sri Krishna and Ganga Ki Lahren.

She acted in few Kannada films towards the end of her career. She played the role of mother of Dr.Rajkumar in superhit films Thaayige Thakka Maga and Ravichandra. It was her longtime wish to act with Rajkumar. She also acted in Chandanada Gombe.

She had directed films like Chinnari Papalu (1968), ‘Chiranjeevi’, ‘Maathru Devatha’ and ‘Vintha Samsaram’ in Telugu. ‘Kuzhanthai Ullam’ and ‘Praptham’ in Tamil.

Personal life:

Savitri secretly married Gemini Ganesan in 1955 and she declared it publicly three years after the wedding. Gemini Ganesan and Savitri made a hit pair on-screen. Her wedding was revealed when she signed in a photo for a Lux advertisement as Savithri Ganesh. They had two children Vijaya Chamundeswari and Sathish Kumar. Savitri was a strict, disciplined and compassionate mother. Since there was no availability of televisions at that time, she arranged a 16mm projector to show movies to kids. She would watch Hollywood movies and analyze them thoroughly. She loved Sophia Loren and Shirley MacLaine. She died at an early age of 47.

Awards:

She got National Award for Best Actress in 1960 for her performance in the movie Chivaraku Migiledi.

The movie was the Telugu remake ofDeep Jele Jai (1959), a Bengali classic starring Suchitra Sen. The movie also got remade in Hindi later in 1969 as Khamoshi with Waheeda Rehman enacting the lead role.

She was crowned with title Nadigayar Thilakam (Empress of acting) for her fine performances in Tamil.

She was awarded with the title Kalaimamani by the Tamil Nadu State Government, Nata Siromani by the Andhra Yuvathi Mandali and with an apt title as Maha Nati.

 

 

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