Thursday, September 23, 2021

Gandhimathi,an actor of the rural Tamil soil


   Tamil cinema is gifted in several ways.Its proud film makers,its heroes,villains, comedians  character artists,music composers,singers and many others have all made the Tamil film industry hold its unique position in Indian cinema.Of these,the character artists are usually less glorified,may be due to the fact that they get dissipated in the character roles they play.Among women character artists,many have donned the role of mothers or as women of positive and negative vibes.This blog has already given considerable space for distinguished character artists of both genders.In this list, there is one less remembered,but more deserving woman who played quite a lot of character roles,especially the ones clinging her soul to the rural soil.She is late Gandhimathi,who is stated to have acted in about five hundred films.

  Gandhimadhi's first screen appearance was as a little girl of three years in the most famous AVM film Vehdhaala Ulagam released in 1948.Then after seventeen years,she appeared as Chandra,in Jaishankar's debut film Iravum Pagalum in 1965.In the Nineteen Sixties,she did roles in three other films like Kumari Penn,Adimai Penn and Thein Mazhai.She had acted in many Sivaji Ganesan films like Thangaikkaga,Raja,Pattikaadaa Pattanama,En Magan,Vaani Raani, Needhi, Engal Thangaraja,Savaale Samaali, Ponnoonjal, Anbe Aruyire,Thava Pudhalvan,and Dr.Siva.Besides Adimaipenn,the two other MGR films in which she had acted were,Netru Inru Naalai as a doctor and Ninaithathai Mudippavan as MGR's mother.{MGR played dual roles in the film and Gandhimadhi appeared as the mother of the smuggler that MGR potrayed with a negative tinge}.

  In most of the films mentioned above, Gandhimathi would have got only minor or moderate space for roleplay.It is the robust film maker Bharathiraja who in his very first film 'Padhinaaru Vayadhinile',gave her the solid role of a mother character.While Sridevi the daughter was gracefully named Mayilu,Gandhimadhi came as the most rustic Kuruvamma with her soul stuffed within the rural soil.Her role was that of a deserted wife and mother of a beautiful daughter of sixteen,with teenage vagaries. 

  'Padhinaaru vayadhinile' was a cult like village drama,that established the passionate film making credentials of Bharathiraja and enabled him to carry on his endearing journey with Tamil Cinema, by unfolding the umpteen dimesions of the rural grandeur of Tamil Nadu. Kuruvamma became a household rural name and Gandhimathi the unflinching actress,turned visible to all,with her spontaneous acting skill.

  After this Gandhimathi became Karuthamma in Bharathiraja's next film Kizhakke Pogum Rayil playing the role of the elder sister of Radhika,the debut heroine of the film.One of the deeper layers of the storyline was the plight of Gandhimathi in struggling to save her younger sister from the voluptuous waywardness of her husband {unforgettably played by Goundamani}. Gandhimadhi was again seen in Bharathiraja's film Manvaasanai as Ochaayee.She was called Ponnazhagi in Visu's Chidhambara Ragasiyam and Poongavanam in Rajini's Muthu{which was another memorable role for her,as a drama artist}.

  Gandhimathi like Vadivukkarasi was convincingly made a character artist donning elderly roles representing sister and mother characters.She began to don mother roles for many heroes like Prabu,Sathyaraj, Vijayajanth,Karthik Muthuraman,Sarath Kumar and Ramarajan.For a rural hero like Ramarajan she became an exemplary elder of the families bound to traditional values of the village routine,in Tamil Nadu.

  Her most notable films with these heroes were,Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi, Kumbakarai Thangaiah,Malluvetti Minor,Walter Vetrivel,Thirumathi Pazhani Chaami,Manickam Namma Ooru PaatuKaaran,Ninaive Oer Sangeedham, Therkathi Kallan, Thavasi, Namma Annachi, Thangamaana Rasa, Karagaattakaaran,and Vivasaayee Magan.She had also acted in Sridhar's Thendrale Ennai Thodu,Balu Mahendra's Moodu Pani and T.Rajendar's Uyirullavarai Usah&Uravai Kaatha Kili.

   What is distinct about Gandhimadhi's manner of acting was her expertise in delivering Tamil rural slang with extreme sense of compatibility and emotional proximity to the soil.There was an inherent element of love and affection,beautifully blended to her utterance of dialogues so as to make everyone feel that she is an elder woman closest to their heart. She was always true to her acting mode.It was the essence of truth embedded in her genuine absorption of character intricacies,that made her a very homely person on the big screen.

   Gandhimadhi could be added to the list of the  most favoured actresses to play the leading lady of a joint family in any village,with poise and perfection. At times she was loud mouthed and at times in absolute peace with her tone,by which she made herself an estimable elder of the home, that was shown as the scene of action,in any film.If all film makers had utilised her talent as Bharathuraja did, this woman from Manamadhurai in Tamil Nadu,would have seen the limelight like Achi Manorana.Lack of vital opportunities quiten makes very talented persons,to become under privileged and pass away less utilized.Gandhimathi was once such artist,who could have been given greater space in Tamil cinema.This post is a sincere dedication to that great actress, who passed away pathetically as a cancer victim,in the month of September,ten years ago.



  1. Thank you very much sir for these beautiful update. Gandhimathi is an amazing actress and tamil cinema did not give her the due respect she greatly deserve.

  2. I should thank you for motivating me in this regard.