Nagesh in 2005
|Born||Nageswaran Ceiyur Krishna Gundu Rao
Dharapuram, Madras Presidency, India
|Died||31 January 2009
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
|Years active||1958– 2009|
1994 Nammavar Tamil Nadu State Government Award
Nagesh (born Nageswaran C. Krishna Gundu Rao; 1933 – 31 January 2009), was a National Award-winning Tamil film actor, mostly remembered for his roles as a comedian during the 1960s. He is regarded as one of the most prolific comedians in Tamil cinema. He acted in over 1,000 films from 1958 to 2008, performing in variety of roles as comedian, lead roles, supporting actor and antagonist. Nagesh's style of comedy was largely inspired by Hollywood actor Jerry Lewis. Similarities between Nagesh and Lewis earned Nagesh the sobriquet "Jerry Lewis of India".
He left Dharapuram at an early age and moved to Madras city in search of a career. His room mates, writer Vaali and director Sridhar, later became established themselves as prominent personalities in the Tamil cine field. He worked as a clerk in the Indian Railways.
Early in his life, he saw a Tamil play Kamba Ramayanam enacted by his colleagues, and felt that he could do a good job. He persuaded the secretary of the Railways cultural association to give him the role of a man suffering from stomach pain. MGR, then chief guest, seeing this play, in his speech praised Nagesh for his performance. From then onwards, Nagesh played small roles in various drama troupes.
In 1958, producer Balaji spotted Nagesh and gave him his first break in a film called Manamulla Marudhaaram. The film did not do well at the box office. Moreover, Nagesh had only a small role to play in the movie. In 1960, Nagesh made his debut in Kannada with Makkala Rajya.
Nagesh won critical acclaim for his performance in the 1961 movie Thayilla Pillai. But it was his 1962 hit Nenjil Or Aalayam which launched his career in the Tamil film industry. Nagesh was seen playing the lead role in Server Sundaram (1964) directed by the legendary K.Balachander. The movie was a remarkable hit and proved to be a great turning point in his career. The song from this film Avalukenna.. Azhagiya Mugam.... written by Vaali was a big hit.
Rise to stardom
Server Sundaram marked Nagesh's rise to prominence. The film was about a restaurant waiter "server" Sundaram who struggles to make his ends meet. He is in love with Radha (K. R. Vijaya), the daughter of the owner of the hotel in which he is working. The film is about how with the aid of his rich friend Raghavan (R. Muthuraman), "server" Sundaram gets a chance to act in movies and eventually, emerges as a rich and prominent actor. However, he is heartbroken when he learns that Radha is actually in love with Raghavan. While Nagesh drives viewers into laughter with his comical antics in the early scenes, his sensitive portrayal of a failed lover in the second half of the movie too earned widespread appreciation. The rags-to-riches story in the movie was actually based on Nagesh's own life. With Server Sundaram, Nagesh earned critical acclaim for versatility.
The success of Server Sundaram ensured that Nagesh was one of the most sought-after actors in the 1960s. At the height of his career, he acted in as much as 35 movies in a single calendar year, at one time, shooting for six movies simultaneously. He appeared in a cameo in the 1965 mythological Thiruvilayadal in which he portrayed the poor, simpleton temple priest Dharumi. The soliloquy which Dharmi indulges in, within the temple precincts, is regarded as one of the unforgettable scenes of Tamil cinema. He followed the success with supporting roles in films as Kaadhalikka Neramillai where he wants to direct a film under his own production house named OHO PRODUCTIONS(but until climax he does not make a film), Anbe Vaa, Shanthi Nilayam, Pattanathil Bhootham and Vietnam Veedu. He played the role of Mohan in Major Chandrakanth which was a popular hit and won for its lead actor Sundararajan, the nickname "Major" Sundararajan. His portrayal of the detestable pimp Vaidhy in Thillana Mohanambal was noted for the way in which Nagesh blended humour with villany. In most of his films as comedian, Nagesh paired with the actress Manorama. In 1967, Nagesh acted in his first Hindi movie Farz
Apart from performing in supporting roles, Nagesh also acted as the main protagonist in a number of movies. Server Sundaram is one of them. Another performance which is well-remembered is his role as the poor struggling orphan Maadhu in Ethir Neechal. His sensitive and sympathetic portrayal of Maadhu evoked comparisons with top character actors of the day. Jayakanthan chose Nagesh to play the lead in the 1966 film Yaarukkaha Azhudhan overlooking Sivaji Ganesan.
In the 1970 movie Navakiragam K Balachandar wanted to have Nagesh along with Manorama as his sidekick but Nagesh refused for the reason that he preferred to act without Manorama. Manorama was offended by this decision and refused to act with Nagesh ever since. And in the movie "theepam" in the late 70's, there was a scene where they both were together, but there was no dialogue exchange between the two.
After ruining a great chance of Manorama's to be in K. Balachandar's movie, Navagragam in 1970, and later some unintelligent annotations about MGR's womanising lifestyle Nagesh became a charity case from 1972. Nagesh's financial problems evolved and his acting chances declined as producers feared to offer him parts in their movies he turned to drinking. So MGR offered him some comedy parts in his movies with the condition that he would have no contact with him: Ulaikum Karangal, Meenava Nanban and Urimai Kural. But after MGR became Chief Minister the producers again circumvented Nagesh circumspectly, of course. But in 1977 after a convincement of MGR to Manorama [rumours have it] she agreed to have Nagesh in her movie with the same condition MGR once made: Deepam; but the producers took advantage of the situation and the director tried to put both in one scene but Manorama dodged Nagesh for entirety.
Financial stress and decline
Nagesh's career witnessed a decline from the mid-1970s onwards. He was plagued by personal problems. His marriage to a Christian woman named Regina had fractured his relationship with his mother and other relatives. From the relationship, he had three sons, Anand Babu,Ramesh Babu and Rajesh Babu, the latter going on to be actor plagued by personal problems in his career. In 1973, his mother died causing him irreparable grief. At about the same time, he had a fallout with Tamil actor and politician M. G. R. whose fellow producers omitted Nagesh from most of his films. Nagesh theatre owned by him in Chennai was on the verge of getting seized for non-payment of dues forcing Nagesh to patch up differences with M. G. R. who subsequently bailed him out.But later in the 1970s and 1980s, when MGR was the chief minister, Nagesh and MGR resumed the age old friendship on stages and screens. To cope up with the changing trends, Nagesh had to switch over to playing character roles full-time.
Nagesh acted in a few movies during this period some of which were hits. One of his notable roles was that of a drunkard in the 1974 Kamal Hassan-starrer Apoorva Raagangal where he talks to his own shadow and hurls the empty glass upon it while saying "Cheers". In the theatres where the film was shown the audience imitated him and threw cups on the wall of the lobby during interval. He played the role of writer Jayakanthan in the 1977 movie Sila Nerangalil Sila Manitharkal . Nagesh appeared as himself in Thillu Mullu, which was a remake of Gol Maal (1979), a Hindi film.
Nagesh's career enjoyed a partial resurgence from the 1980s onwards when he acted in a number of movies, mostly in elderly roles, some of them as the villain. His most remembered role as a villain was in the 1989-hit Apoorva Sagodharargal. The movie was later dubbed into Hindi as Appu Raja. He also played the villain in Rajinikanth films Athisaya Piravi and Mounam Sammadham. His negative roles included sadistic schemers then muscular giants.
In the comedy flick, Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Nagesh played the role of a dishonest secretary Avinashi who commissions a look-alike Kameswaran to impersonate his boss, Madan, and lend him money from Madan's account. He even played a cadaver in the 1994 film Magalir Mattum. He won a National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1994 film Nammavar
Nagesh did a series of supporting roles in the 1990s and 2000s. Notable among them were those of make-up artist Joseph in Avvai Shanmugi in which he featured alongside another veteran Gemini Ganesan, Arjun's father in Rhythm, Madhavan's grandfather Subbuni in Minnale, Ajit's Grandfather in Poovellam Un Vasam, Father Rozario in Kadhal Kondain and Kamal Hassan's father in Vasool Raja MBBS. His handling of these roles gained him considerable appreciation from the public.
Nagesh had a good relationship with Kamal Hassan, with whom he had co-starred in a variety of movies from the 1970s to the 2000s. Kamal Hassan cast Nagesh in most of his self-productions. He also won the National Award for his supporting role as the Principal of a college troubled by rowdies, in the movie "Nammavar". Kamal Hassan plays the role of a professor in this movie.
Nagesh acted in Tamil films till a few months before his death in 2009. Notable among some of his later movies were Panchathanthiram, Vasool Raja MBBS, Imsai Arasan 23m Pulikesi, and his last appearance, Dasavathaaram. However, an animated version of him was seen in the 2014 performance capture film Kochadaiiyaan.
Nagesh was a chain smoker and a heavy drinker in his early days. However, he gradually gave up his smoking and drinking habit when he was dangerously ill during the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, his health began to decline in late 2008 due to progressive heart ailments. He died on 31 January 2009 at the age of 75 due to diabetes and a heart ailment.
|Raman Thediya Seethai|
|1973||Ulagam Sutrum Valiban|
|Vaanga Sambandhi Vaanga|
|Sri Krishna leela||kuselan|
|1978||Oru Nadigai Naadagam Paarkiraal|
|Sila nerangalil sila manithargal|
|Annai Oru Aalayam|
|Thillu Mullu||As himself||Cameo|
|Gadasari Attaha Sosagara Kodalu|
|Vaa Kanna Vaa|
|1986||Karu Diddina Kapuram|
|Engal Swamy Ayyappan|
|Pudhu Pudhu Raagangal|
|1991||Michael Madana Kama Rajan||Avinashi|
|Raja Kaiya Vechaa|
|Putham Pudhu Payanam|
|Purushan Enakku Arasan|
|1994||Magalir Mattum||A dead body|
|Maa Pelliki Randi|
|Poovellam Un Vasam||Ajith's Grandfather|
|2003||Kadhal Kondain||Church Father|
|2004||Vasool Raja MBBS||Sriman Venkatraman|
|Imsai Arasan 23am Pulikesi||Raja Mokkaiyappar||Special Appearance|
- S.Theodore Bhaskaran (14–27 February 2009). "Tragic comedian". FrontLine 26 (04). Retrieved 20 October 2012.
- "Nagesh is no more". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 1 February 2009. Archived from the original on 2011-03-07.
- "Actor Nagesh is no more". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 1 February 2009.
- "Nagesh – actor nonpareil". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 1 February 2009.
- V Lakshmi (5 March 2012). "Nagesh in Kochadaiyaan". The Times of India. Retrieved 7 March 2012.