B. Saroja Devi

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B. Saroja Devi
Native name ಬಿ. ಸರೋಜಾ ದೇವಿ
Born (1942-01-07) 7 January 1942 (age 73)
Bangalore, Kingdom of Mysore, British India
Nationality Indian
Occupation Actress
Years active 1955–present
Spouse(s) Sri Harsha (1967-1986)
till his death

B. Saroja Devi is an Indian actress, who has acted in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi movies. One of the most successful female leads in the history of Indian cinema, she acted in around 200 films.[1][2] She is known by the epithets "Kannadathu Paingili" (Kannada Nightingale) and "Abinaya Saraswathi" (Saraswati of acting).[3][2]

At the age of 14, Saroja Devi got her big break in the Kannada film Mahakavi Kalidasa (1955). In Telugu cinema, she made her debut with Panduranga Mahatyam (1959), and starred in a number of successful films until the late 1970s. The Tamil film Nadodi Mannan (1958) made her one of the top actresses in Tamil cinema. Her career in Tamil films declined after her marriage in 1967, but she continued to be one of the top actresses in Kannada cinema until the 1980s. She also starred in Hindi films until the mid-1960s, starting with Paigham (1959).

Saroja Devi received the Padma Sri, the fourth-highest civilian honour, in 1969 and Padma Bhushan, third highest civilian award, in 1992 from the Government of India.

Early life[edit]

Saroja Devi was born in Bangalore, Kingdom of Mysore (now Bengaluru, Karnataka) on 7 January 1942.[4] Her father Bhairappa worked for the police department, and her mother Rudramma was a homemaker. Her grandfather, Mayanna Gowda wanted her to be given away for adoption, but her father refused to do so. Bhairappa asked her to learn dancing, and encouraged her to take up acting as a career.[5]


Rise to stardom[edit]

Saroja Devi's first major success was Honnappa Bhagavatar's Kannada film Mahakavi Kalidasa (1955), in which she played a supporting role. The film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada. Next, she acted in the Tamil film Thangamalai Ragasiyam (1957), in which she performed a dance sequence.[6]

Subsequently, she was noted by M. G. Ramachandran (MGR), who cast her as the female lead in Nadodi Mannan (1958), the movie that made her one of the most popular actresses in Tamil Nadu. She was then signed up for the Hindi film Paigham (1959), in which her co-stars included Dilip Kumar. She went on to work in other leading Hindi actors, including Rajendra Kumar in Sasural (1961), Sunil Dutt in Beti Bete (1964), Shammi Kapoor in Preet Na Jane Reet (1966). She also shot a few scenes with Raj Kapoor for Nazrana (1961), but was replaced by Vyjayanthimala after a conflict with the director C. V. Sridhar.[7]

Following the success of Nadodi Mannan, she was also cast opposite the leading Tamil actors of that time: with Gemini Ganesan in Kalyana Parisu (1959), with Sivaji Ganesan in Bhaaga Pirivinai (1959) and again with MGR in Thirudadhe (1961).[3] Her involvement in Tamil films also continued with superhits like Palum Pazhamum (1961), Aadi Perukku (1962), Aalayamani (1962), Periya Idathu Penn (1963), and Puthiya Paravai (1964). She came to be known as a 'lucky mascot' for MGR films.[8]

Her early successes in Kannada cinema included Chintamani (1957), School Master (1958) and Jagajyothi Basveshwara (1959). Her role as a patriotic anti-British queen in the Kannada Kittooru Rani Chennamma (1961) was widely acclaimed. In 1964, she and Kalyan Kumar acted in the first full fledged Kannada colour movie Amarashilpi Jakanachaari.

Saroja Devi also achieved success in Telugu films, starring opposite N. T. Rama Rao in Seetarama Kalyanam (1961) and Jagadeka Veeruni Katha (1961), and Daagudu Moothalu (1964). Amara Shilpi Jakkanna (1964, remake of Kannada film) and Rahasyam, her films with Akkineni Nageswara Rao, were also successful. The first few of her Telugu films featured dubbing; for example, Krishna Kumari dubbed her voice in Panduranga Mahatyam (1957). But in the subsequent years, Saroja Devi learned the Telugu language.

In the 1960s, Saroja Devi became a fashion icon among the South Indian women, who mimicked her saris, blouses, jewellery, hairstyles and mannerisms. In particular, her saris and jewellery from the Tamil movies Enga Veettu Pillai (1965) and Anbe Vaa (1966) were popularized widely in magazines.[9]

Post-marriage career[edit]

Late 1960s onwards, Saroja Devi's career in Tamil cinema gradually declined, and she became more active in Kannada movies.[10] With her marriage in 1967 and the rise of younger heroines like Jayalalithaa, producers stopped pairing her opposite MGR. Her last film with MGR was Arasa Kattalai (1967), which also starred Jayalalithaa. She continued starring in Tamil movies opposite Sivaji Ganesan: En Thambi (1968), Anjal Petti 520 (1969), Thenum Paalum (1971) and Arunodayam (1971). She also did several films with Gemini Ganesan: Pen Endral Pen (1967), Panama Pasama (1968), Thamarai Nenjam (1968), Ainthu Latcham (1969), Thanga Malar (1969), Kula Vilakk (1969), Malathi (1970) and Kann Malar (1970). She was also cast with other popular heroes, such as Ravichandran and R. Muthuraman. With Ravichandran, she acted in Odum Nadhi (1969), Snegithi (1970), and Swargathil Thirumanam. With Muthuraman, she starred in Uyir (1971) and Pathu Matha Bandham (1974), which was her last Tamil film as a lead actor until 1993.

She continued to be among the highest paid actress in Kannada and Telugu films. She was cast opposite the leading actor Dr. Rajkumar in several Kannada films, including Mallammana Pavada (1969), Nyayave Devaru (1971), Sri Srinivasa Kalyana (1974), Babruvahana (1977) and Bhagyavantharu (1977). Her other successful films from this period include Thande Makkalu (1971), Papa Punya (1971), Gunavanthudu (1975), Katha Sangama (1976), Sri Renukadevi Mahathme (1977), Shani Prabhava (1977) and Rudranaga (1984).

In Telugu cinema, she was cast opposite N.T. Rama Rao in films like Bhagyachakram (1968), Uma Chandi Gowri Sankarula Katha (1968), Vijayam Manade (1970), Mayani Mamatha (1970) and Daana Veera Soora Karna (1979).

After husband's death[edit]

Saroja Devi signed up for the film Ladies Hostel in 1985, but stopped shooting after her husband fell ill. He subsequently died in 1986, and she resumed shooting only in 1987. The film was successful, but Saroja Devi refused to sign up for any more films. She completed the 8 films that she had accepted before 1986, and these films were released during 1987-1990. These included Thaimel Aanai (1988) and Dharma Devan (1989).

She returned to acting on insistence by film producers and her fans. She starred opposite Sivaji Ganesan in Parambariyam (1993), and then performed a few roles as a supporting actress. In Kannada films, her notable supporting performances included her roles in Anuraga Sangama (1995) and Agni IPS (1997). She and Sivaji Ganesan acted in the Tamil film Once More (1997), which also includes scenes from their 1963 film Iruvar Ullam. Her last film was the Tamil film Aadhavan (2009), in which she played a judge's mother.[11]

In 2005, Saroja Devi chaired the 53rd National Film Awards jury.[12] She served as the vice-president of Kannada Chalanchitra Sangha, and as a member of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams's local advisory committee. She runs a successful business.[1] She also served as the Chairperson of the Karnataka Film Development Corporation,[13] which had been set up as a privated limited company by her and a few other film personalities in 1972.[14]

Saroja Devi is now settled in Bangalore, where she is involved in social work. She has organized many donation camps in the name of her husband and her mother. She is also involved with charitable trusts, rehabilitation centers and health programs.

Personal life[edit]

Saroja Devi had an arranged marriage with Shriharsha, a Bharat Electronics engineer from her own Gounder caste,[15] on 1 March 1967. At that time, she was facing a financial crisis and income tax troubles. Her husband helped her overcome these problems, and taught her how to manage her finances.[1] Her husband encouraged her to continue acting, and their marriage lasted till his death in 1986.

The couple had three daughters (Bhuvaneshwari and Indira), and a son - (Gautam Ramachandran). Her son was named after M.G. Ramachandran,[1] while Indira was named after Indira Gandhi.[15] Bhuvaneshwari died young,[1] and Saroja Devi sponsors the Bhuvaneshwari Award for literature in her memory.[16]

Awards and honours[edit]

National awards

State awards

Other awards

  • 2009 Natya Kaladhar Award - Tamil cinema, by Bharat Kalachar Chennai
  • 2007 NTR award for remarkable achievement by Karnataka Telugu Academy
  • 2007 Rotary Sivaji Award by the Charitable Trust and Rotary Club of Chennai
  • 2006 Honorary Doctorate from Bangalore University
  • 2003 Dinakaran award for All-round Achievement
  • 1997 Lifetime achievement awards by Cinema Express in Chennai
  • 1994 Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award – South



  1. ^ a b c d e Aruna Chandaraju (30 June 2006). "Journey down a glorious lane". The Hindu. 
  2. ^ a b Taniya Talukdar (5 May 2013). "B Saroja Devi in the list of greatest Indian actresses ever". The Times of India. 
  3. ^ a b Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: Woking with Gemini Ganesan and Sivaji Ganesan". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  4. ^ T.M. Ramachandran, ed. (1964). Film World, Volume 1. p. 145. 
  5. ^ Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: The Beginning". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: Foray into movies". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  7. ^ G. Dhananjayan (2014). Pride of Tamil Cinema. Blue Ocean. p. 128. 
  8. ^ Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: The lucky mascot of MGR movies". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  9. ^ Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: A style icon". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  10. ^ Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: Her last years in the industry". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  11. ^ "Aadhavan is clean fun". rediff.com. 17 October 2009. 
  12. ^ Film awards: Saroja Devi to head jury
  13. ^ Saroja Devi, Ramoji Rao among recipients of A.P. film awards
  14. ^ A.P. Durai (1978). Pursuit of Law and Order. Notion Press. ISBN 9789352062157. 
  15. ^ a b Renuka Narayanan (5 September 2008). "The sweet bird of Southern cinema". Hindustan Times. 
  16. ^ "Saroja ducks romance poser". The Times of India. 30 January 2008. 
  17. ^ Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  18. ^ a b "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 

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