CHENNAI: Sedapatti Suriyanarayana Thevar Rajendran, popularly known as SS Rajendran (86), first actor-turned legislator of Indian politics, died at a private hospital in the city on Friday, a day after being admitted for treatment of severe lung infection.
He is survived by two wives, including popular actress CR Vijayakumari, and eight children.
Affectionately called SSR, he was a contemporary of doyens of Tamil cinema - MG Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan. Also, he was among those theatre personalities who had made great strides in Tamil industry.
Born in the small town of Sedapatti in Theni district in January, 1928, SSR started acting in the plays of Boys Drama Company and T K Shanmugam Brothers Drama Company when he was studying sixth class. Though he appeared in a minor role in Paithiyakaran in 1947 in which MGR had a meaty role, it was the 1952 blockbuster ‘Parasakthi’, that gave him the breakthrough into the tinsel world. Interestingly, this was the debut of thespian Sivaji Ganesan and SSR acted as one of his brothers. Shortly, he donned the role of a hero in Mudhalali, pairing with late actress Devika. The name SSR is synonymous with dialogue delivery. Apart from being a good singer, he had delivered with ease breath-taking long dialogues in several films with the appropriate voice modulation.
Rajendran, who was drawn to the Dravidian ideology, through the speeches of Periyar EV Ramasamy and DMK founder CN Annadurai, has earned the sobriquet Latchiya Nadigar as he had shunned mythological characters, true to his rationalist moorings. When he was offered the role of Bharatha in Sampoorna Ramayanam, he declined it. However, Sivaji Ganesan latched it up and it proved his versatility.
He joined the DMK and was elected to the Assembly from Theni in 1962 and subsequently to the Rajya Sabha. Despite his close association with Karunanidhi, he chose to join hands with MGR when the later launched the AIADMK and was elected from Andipatti constituency in 1980 with a with the highest margin.
An interesting incident in his political career deserves special mention. In 1970, when the Constitution Amendment Bill to abolish Privy Purses came up for voting in the Rajya Sabha, Rajendran abstained – by taking a loo break. The Bill was defeated by a narrow margin because Rajendran locked himself up in the toilet and refused to come out stating that ‘he was purging’ due to stomach trouble. This sparked a fierce controversy, which eventually resulted in the dissolution of the Lok Sabha and the nation had to face a snap general election. The incident was recorded in the book, ‘Walking with Giants’, by former Finance Secretary G Ramachandran.
Some of his outstanding films include Manohara, Sorgavaasal, Ammaiyappan, Rathakanneer, Kuladeivam, Rangon Radha, Thai Piranthaal Vazhi Pirakkum, Kalyanikku Kalyaanam, Sivagangai Seemai, Kanchi Thalaivan, Kaakkum Karangal, Raja Desingh, Deivapiravi, Aalayamani, Pachai Vilakku, Pumpuhar, Pazhani, Shanthi and Ethiroli.