Savitri (actress)

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Savitri Nissankara
Savitri Actress.jpg
Savitri in 1951
Born(1936-12-06)6 December 1936
Died26 December 1981(1981-12-26) (aged 45)
Other namesMahanati Savithri
Nadigaiyar Thilagam
Spouse(s)Gemini Ganesan
AwardsRashtrapati Award
Nandi Award

Savitri Ganesan (born: 6 December 1936[citation needed] – 26 December 1981) was an Indian film actress, playback singer, dancer, director and producer known for her works primarily in Telugu cinema and Tamil cinema. She is also known for her works in Kannada films, Malayalam films and Bollywood. 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 is often referred as "Mahanati" and "Nadigaiyar Thilagam".

Savitri was honored with "women in cinema" at the 30th International Film Festival of India. Her Tamil works include Kalathur Kannamma (1959), Pasamalar (1961), Pava Mannippu (1961), Paarthal Pasi Theerum (1962), Karpagam (1963), Karnan (1963), Kai Koduttha Dheivam, Navarathri (1964), and Thiruvilaiyadal (1965). In 2018, Nag Ashwin directed the biographical film Mahanati (Nadigaiyar Thilagam in Tamil) which chronicles the life of Savitri, essayed by Keerthy Suresh.

Early life[edit]

Savitri was born on 6 December 1936 into a Telugu speaking Kapu family in Chirravuru, Guntur district, Madras Presidency, now a part of Andhra Pradesh. Her father was Nissankara Guruvaiya and mother was Nissankara Subhadhramma.[1][2] 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, enrolled her in classes when she began to show a talent for dance.[3]

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 two daughters and was involved in an affair with Pushpavalli.[3] Her marriage became public when she signed a photograph as Savitri Ganesh.[4] Ganesan later acknowledged that he had two daughters with Pushpavalli while married to Savitri, with whom he had a daughter and a son.[3]


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. 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.[3]

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 cast her in most of his films, such as Gorintaku (1979), and specifically made Devadasu Malli Puttadu (1978) as a movie for her.[3]

Her only Malayalam film was the unsuccessful Chuzhi (1973).[5]


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.[3][6]

The Government of India issued a postage stamp in commemoration of Savitri.[7]In January 2019, a biographical movie titled NTR Kathanayakudu, under production of NBK films was released. Actress Nitya Menon portrayed the role of Actress Savitri.

In May 2018, a biographical film, titled Mahanati in Telugu (released as Nadigaiyar Thilagam in Tamil), was released. Directed by Nag Ashwin, it featured Keerthy Suresh as Savitri for which she(Keerthy) has been awarded with the Silver Lotus Award for Best Actress at 66th National Film awards for the year 2018.


  1. ^ "Savitri family background". 20 May 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Discussions on Savitri community". 15 May 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kalyanam, Rajesshwari (22 December 2013). "Drama In Real Life". The Hans India. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  4. ^ "Star and a versatile actor". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 15 August 2003. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  5. ^ Vijayakumar, B. (12 October 2014). "Chuzhi: 1973". The Hindu. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  6. ^ Adivi, Sashidhar (26 April 2017). "I never watched amma's films: Vijaya Chamundeswari". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Stamp depicting Savtri issued by the Government". Govt postage stamps.

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