The Secret Life of Gemini Ganesan, As Revealed By His Grandson
Abhinay Vaddi reveals a lesser known side to his grandfather, the legendary actor Gemini Ganesan.
Gemini Ganesan was fondly referred to as Kadhal Mannan or the ‘King of Romance’. He has gifted us with many memorable Tamil films, his most popular ones being Maya Bazaar, Vanjikottai Valiban, Then Nilavu, Naan Avan Illai and Avvai Shanmughi. It was in his film, Kalathur Kannamma, that Kamal Haasan made his debut as a child actor. The duo went on to share screen space several times, including in Avvai Shanmughi.
Actor Abhinay Vaddi, who made his acting debut in the 2014 biopic Ramanujan, takes a walk down memory lane and shares some lesser known facts about his grandparents— Gemini Ganesan and Savithri. Abhinay is also a national level table tennis player, an achievement which he attributes to his grandfather’s encouragement.
My grandfather passed away 16 years ago. So I wasn’t fortunate enough to interact with him, after I entered the film industry. My parents wanted to name their child Savithri after my grandmother. So when I was born, they named me Abhinay, meaning ‘acting.’Abhinay Vaddi, Actor
I remember that my grandfather was into sports. He used to be a professional cricketer and also played tennis and snooker very well. He took me to watch my first cricket match. He was the one who encouraged me to get into sports. ‘Follow your instinct, follow your heart’, he would say. ‘Don’t get pushed into anything. If you love it, you do it.’ He used to call me Champion and used to take me for bowling practice and for out-of-station matches. He supported me a lot.Abhinay Vaddi, Actor
He was very, very witty. Nagesh (known for his comic roles) used to say that my grandfather was even wittier than him. It was a side of him that only his family or people close to him like Sivaji Ganesan used to know.Abhinay Vaddi, Actor
He would never open up to me, my mom, my dad or my brother, about his movies or professional life at all. So I was always kind of blank about whatever was happening there. I have not seen him bring home even one actor. Of course Sivaji sir used to be there, he was one of his very close friends and also Balaji. Sivakumar used to be an avid fan of his, so he used to be in regular touch. He used to call him ‘Appa’ meaning father.Abhinay Vaddi, Actor
I don’t think there would be a single fan of his who would complain that he did not respond to their letters. I remember he used to get home by 7:30 in the evening after his shoot. He would sleep by 8:30 and wake up by 3:30 in the morning. Between 3:30 to 5:30 in the morning, he would do yoga. That used to be his schedule. The first thing he used to do once he got back home was to pick up his fan mail. He would write back to each of them in his own hand. If you ask my mom or my aunts, all of them would have letters written by him in his own handwriting.Abhinay Vaddi, Actor
I remember him as a very independent person. He never even had a driver. He would drive his car himself wherever he wanted to go. He was also physically very agile. There is this scene in the movie Maya bazaar where he jumps off a two-storey high balcony. My granddad didn’t want to use a dupe for the shot. Nageswara Rao in the Telugu version wanted to use a dupe, but my granddad offered to do the part and he jumped off the balcony again in the Telugu version. There are many instances like that.Abhinay Vaddi, Actor
I have watched almost all his films. He has been a great inspiration for me to get into films. I want my grandparents’ name to be recognized and remembered always. They were stalwarts and I want the next generation to remember them through me. Now that I’m an actor and I know how tough it is as a profession. My very first shot for Ramanujan was with Suhasini and Nizhagal Ravi and I was very nervous. But when I went in front of the camera, I didn’t feel anything—so I think it’s there in the blood somewhere. One of the first persons I met before getting into acting was Rajinikanth sir. I was contemplating if I should learn professional acting, and he told me, ‘Don’t go to any acting school or anything. It’s in your blood, just go ahead and do it.’Abhinay Vaddi, Actor
(This story was first published on 17 November 2015 and is being republished from The Quint’s archives to mark the death anniversary of Ramasamy aka Gemini Ganesan.)
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