'Nadigaiyar Thilagam' is based on gossip, reality is distorted: Gemini Ganesan's daughter Kamala Selvaraj on the Savitri biopic
When Express contacted Nag Ashwin, the director, he said Kamala Selvaraj was aware of the story while Vijaya Chamundeswari, on the other hand, said she doesn't want to comment anything.
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 hasn't been honestly presented, feels Gemini 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 unhappy life. But, only our family knows how much he strived to give her a dignified status!"
In particular, she's angry over the characterisation of her father. "Gemini Ganesan was a top actor. In the film, he is shown as a jobless person hanging around the sets of Savitri's films all the time. He wasn't jealous of her success at all. And, fans used to mob my father. There was not a mention of it in the film."
Kamala says if the facts had been verified with her father's friends, industry colleagues and family members, a more balanced version would have resulted. "It's unfortunate that the filmmakers have relied on the hearsay and gossip of someone who perhaps pretended to know everything about the star couple, distorting the reality."
She alleges that Savitri had multiple relationships, and one of them was Gemini. "Neither Nag Ashwin nor the producers approached me to listen to our version of the story. They were in touch with Vijaya Chamundeswari (Savitri's daughter). I trusted her, but the 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. Why were those scenes not there?"
She also tells us, "Savitri arranged her daughter Vijaya's marriage when Gemini was away in South Africa. It was again my mother who gave her away in marriage at Savitri's request. Also, Gemini got Savitri's son (Sathish Kumar) an admission in an engineering college in Bengaluru, besides helping him land a job and got him married to a woman of his choice. It was portrayed as if my father was never concerned about their future."
Also, she insists that all his relationships with other women were consensual and restricted to women from filmdom 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 had 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. She was quite a strong woman, who was only human. The director didn't explore how my mother would have felt when she came into my father's life despite knowing he was married!"
But 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 about Mahanati," she says.
What was her initial reaction when she knew her father was married to Savitri? "I was a child and 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 smiles.
When Express contacted Nag Ashwin, the director, he said Kamala Selvaraj was aware of the story. "We didn't discuss scenes in detail, but Swapna Dutt (producer) and Kamala have had a couple of meetings. Oh, is she upset with our film? Let me respond to those allegations if I get to see any open letter written to us."
Vijaya Chamundeswari, on the other hand, says she doesn't want to comment anything about Kamala's statements. "We all belong to the same family, and I respect her views," she adds.