Mahanati is based on gossip, and reality is distorted: Dr Kamala Selvaraj
Gemini Ganesan's daughter shares her outrage over the portrayal of her father in Mahanati / Nadigaiyar Thilagam
Although a brief flash at the very beginning of Nadigaiyar Thilagam (Mahanati in Telugu) states that it’s a fictionalised account of Savitri’s life, the film is highly biased towards Savitri and hasn’t portrayed Gemini Ganesan with honesty, feels Ganesan’s daughter, Dr Kamala Selvaraj.
“If my father had influenced Savitri to become an alcoholic, why should she give in? The makers have shown as if he was the only reason behind her unhappiness. But only our family knows how much he strived to give her dignity and status!”
She’s furious about the characterisation of her father in the film. “He was a top actor, but in the film, he is shown as a jobless person who’s hanging about the sets of Savitri’s films all the time. He wasn’t jealous of her success at all. Fans used to mob my father. There is no mention of his fame in the film.”
Kamala says the story has not been verified with her, her father’s friends, industry colleagues, or any of her family members. “The filmmakers have relied on hearsay and gossip of someone who perhaps pretended to know everything about the star couple, and deliberately distorted reality.”
She alleges that Savitri had multiple relationships, and that only one of them was with Gemini Ganesan. “The director, Nag Ashwin, and the producers didn’t care to listen to our version of the story. They were only in touch with Vijaya Chamundeswari (Savitri’s daughter). I trusted her, but this film defames my father and glorifies Savitri. When she was in coma, my father took care of her. Later, when she passed away, my mother (Alamelu) even permitted the final rites in her own home bestowing Savitri with dignity even in death. Where are those scenes?”
She further adds, “Savitri arranged her daughter Vijaya’s marriage when Gemini Ganesan was away in South Africa. It was again my mother who gave her away in marriage at Savitri’s request. Also, Gemini Ganesan got Savitri’s son (Sathish Kumar) admission in an engineering college in Bengaluru, besides helping him land a job and getting him married to a woman of his choice. This film makes it seem like my father was not concerned about their future.”
Also, she clarifies that all his relationships with women were consensual, and restricted to women from the cinema industry, who were single, and loved him. “He never broke a marriage and never wanted any child he begot from them to be called illegitimate. He was the most caring human being one could ever see.”
Last week, Kamala caught the film along with her family in Madurai. She could not help but be flooded with loads of memories. “Savitri was not this weak-minded angel as they show her to be. She was quite a strong woman,” she says. “The director didn’t even explore how my mother would have felt when she came into my father’s life despite knowing he was married!”
Kamala is all praise for Keerthy Suresh who played Savitri in the film. “She has done a phenomenal job, and that’s the only good thing I can say about Mahanati.”
As a child, she says she was kept away from learning the truth of these happenings. “I didn’t know anything. I was kept away from cinema, actors, magazines, and newspapers. Appa just told me, ‘Say you don’t know anything about this when someone asks you about it at school’. But he was the best father ever, who did his best for everyone,” Kamala says.
In response, Nag Ashwin, the director, says Kamala Selvaraj was aware of the story. “We didn’t discuss the scenes in detail, but Swapna Dutt (producer) and Kamala have had a couple of meetings,” he says, and exclaims surprise that she is upset. “Let me respond to her allegations if she writes any open letter to us.”
Vijaya Chamundeswari, on the other hand, says she prefers to keep mum about Kamala’s statements. “We all belong to the same family, and I respect her views,” she says.