Savitri in 1951
4 January 1936|
Chirravuru, Guntur district, Madras Presidency, (present-day Andhra Pradesh, India
26 December 1981 (aged 45)|
Madras, Tamil Nadu, India
Savitri (4 January 1936 – 26 December 1981) was an Indian film actress, playback singer, dancer, director and producer. She appeared mainly in Telugu and Tamil language films but also in Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi language films.
Savitri's first significant role was in the 1952 Telugu film Pelli Chesi Choodu. In 1960, she received the Rashtrapati Award for her performance in the Telugu film Chivaraku Migiledi. In 1968, she produced and directed the Telugu film Chinnari Papalu, for which she received the state Nandi Award for Best Feature Film (Silver). She was honoured among "women in cinema" at the 30th International Film Festival of India.
She is best known for her work in films such as Devadasu (1953), Ardhangi (1955), Thodi Kodallu (1957), Mayabazaar (1957), Mangalya Balam (1958), Chivaraku Migiledi (1960), Mooga Manasulu (1963), Doctor Chakravarthy (1964), and Varakatnam (1968).
Her Tamil work includes Kalathur Kannamma (1959), Pasamalar (1961), Pava Mannippu (1961), Paarthal Pasi Theerum (1962), Karpagam (1963), Karnan (1963), Kai Koduttha Dheivam, Navarathri (1964), and Thiruvilaiyadal (1965).
Savitri's later career, from the late 1960s, tumbled into a spiral of financial problems and alcoholism that necessitated her taking on film roles of little merit.
Savitri was born on 4 January 1936 in Chirravuru, Guntur district, Madras Presidency, now part of Andhra Pradesh. Her father died when she was six months old, after which her mother took Savitri and an older sibling, Maruti, to live with an aunt and uncle. Her uncle, Kommareddy Venkataramaiah Chowdhury, enrolled her in classes when she began to show a talent for dance.
Savitri married Tamil actor Gemini Ganesan in 1952, having first met him in 1948. The marriage led to a permanent rift with her uncle because Ganesan was already married, had four daughters and was involved in an affair with Pushpavalli. Her marriage became public when she signed a photograph as Savithri Ganesh. Ganesan later acknowledged that he had two daughters with Pushpavalli while married to Savitri, with whom he had a daughter and a son.
Savitri acted in dance dramas as a child, including some work with a theatre company run by Kongara Jaggaiah. She made an unsuccessful speculative trip to find film work in Madras at the age of 12, when she was deemed to be too young to play heroine roles, but in 1950 was cast as the female lead in Samsaram. That role did not become actuality because she became too excited, necessitating numerous retakes and eventually her replacement in the part by Lakshmi Kantham. She was given a minor speaking role in the film and in the next year had two more minor roles, in Roopavati and Patala Bhairavi, before getting her big break as second heroine in Pelli Chesi Choodu.
Savriti was known for her hospitality, philanthropic gestures, and her love of buying property and jewellery, but she kept little control of her spending. Ganesan continued to philander and she was susceptible to favouring hangers-on with her largesse. Her career took a downturn in the late 1960s. Her properties were seized by tax officials and she turned to acting in any film that would have her, while sycophants encouraged her to direct and produce films that were unsuccessful and financially draining. Among her few supporters during her financial difficulties was Dasari Narayana Rao, who used her in most of his films, such as Gorintaku (1979), and specifically made Devadasu Malli Puttadu (1978) as a movie for her.
Savitri died on 26 December 1981, at the age of 45 and after being in a coma for 19 months. She had been an alcoholic for many years, having begun drinking heavily in 1969, and developed diabetes and high blood pressure.
Awards and recognition
The Government of India issued a postage stamp in commemoration of Savitri. In May 2018, a bilingual biographical film, titled Mahanati in Telugu and Nadigaiyar Thilagam in Tamil, was released. Directed by Nag Ashwin, it featured Keerthy Suresh as Savitri.
- Kalyanam, Rajesshwari (22 December 2013). "Drama In Real Life". The Hans India. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "Star and a versatile actor". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 15 August 2003. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
- Vijayakumar, B. (12 October 2014). "Chuzhi: 1973". The Hindu. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
- Adivi, Sashidhar (26 April 2017). "I never watched amma's films: Vijaya Chamundeswari". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
- "Drama in real life". The Hans India. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
- Devipriya (January 1999). "Savitri: A Moon Among Stars" (PDF). 30th International Film Festival of India '99. Directorate of Film Festivals. p. 150. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 January 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "Stamp depicting Savtri issued by the Government". Govt postage stamps.
- Vendithera Vishaada Raagaalu by Pasupuleti Rama Rao
- Mahanati Savitri Vendithera Samaragni by Pallavi
- A Legendary Actress Mahanati Savitri by V. R. Murthy