Online edition of India's National Newspaper Friday, Sep 29, 2006

Beauty, charm, charisma Randoor Guy.

With her versatile talent Padmini lit up the silver screen for over two decades.

A classical dancer, multi-faceted personality, and talented movie star, she brought rare power, charm, charisma, and great beauty to her many movie roles in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi.

A star with a track record of over two hundred movies, Padmini, the most popular of the trio, the `Travancore Sisters' (Lalitha and Ragini being the other two) died a few days ago in Chennai to which she had relocated after 35 years in the U.S., where she lived with her husband Ramachandran, a doctor.

Born in 1932 in Trivandrum, she made her cinema debut as a teenager in the sadly underrated dance-oriented movie `Kalpana' (1948), an Uday Shankar classic produced at Gemini Studios, Madras.

Soon after, the sisters and their mother P.K.Saraswathi Amma, a woman of immense drive, settled down in Madras to pursue dancing careers. The sisters made a mark quickly and appeared in dance sequences in many movies like `Velaikkari,' `Geetha Gandhi,' `Krishna Vijayam' and `Pavalakodi' (all 1949), winning fame and name.

Gemini Studios boss and movie mogul S.S.Vasan, cast Padmini in the lead in `Mr. Sampat' (1952), a reworked version of Tamil social satire `Miss Malini,' which brought her to the attention of the Hindi cinema world where, before long, she began to make an impact.

Leading lady

Meanwhile her career as leading lady began to take off and she appeared in many Tamil and Malayalam movies, quite a few hailed as classics, including `Madurai Veeran,' `Amaradeepam' (1956), and `Vanjikottai Valiban' with Gemini Ganesan (1958) and `Mannadhi Mannan' known for its lilting music.

The highlight of `Vanjikottai Valiban,' was the scintillating and enthralling `dance duel' between Padmini and Vyjayanthimala, which has come to be regarded as one of the best dance sequences in Indian cinema.
 One of her finest Tamil movies, a major box-office success was `Thangapadhumai' (1959), a brilliant adaptation of the Kannagi epic by A.S.A.Sami who directed the movie. Her spirited delivery of jaw-breaking dialogue, recalled Pasupuleti Kannamba's classic `Kannagi,' was a masterpiece in movie acting.

According to Sami, Padmini virtually scored hands down over the hero Sivaji Ganesan. He recalled that while the climax sequence was being shot, Padmini worked on her dialogue not even taking a break for lunch. "I have rarely seen such devotion among the numerous actresses I've directed in my long career," said Sami. ”

Malayalam hits

Many of her Malayalam hits created film history. Mention must be made of `Snehaseema' (1954), a brilliant adaptation of Alfred Tennyson's famous story-poem `Enoch Arden.'Other Malayalam movies include `Adhyapika' (1968) and `Adimagal' (1969). Padmini's reputation as a classic actress of high merit rests on her memorable Tamil movies `Madurai Veeran,' `Amaradeepam' (1956), `Veera Pandiya Kattaboman' (1959), `Chitthi' (1966), `Penn Deivam' (1970), `Vietnam Veedu' (1970) and so on.

Her most fondly remembered Tamil movie is `Thillana Mohanambal' (1968), in which she proved to be a fine match for Sivaji Ganesan. Directed by A.P. Nagarajan, based on a popular magazine serial by Kothamangalam Subbu, it became a cult classic with an excellent portrayal of the rich Thanjavur culture in its many aspects. Few are aware that prints of this film in 16-mm format were acquired by universities in the U.S. for the study of South Indian culture, Thanjavur in particular

Besides her glamorous heroine roles, she excelled in `mother' roles, memorably in `Vietnam Veedu' and `Penn Deivam.' Of a similar genre was `Chitthi' (1966) in which she portrayed a young woman forced to marry an elderly widower with a family and her problems in taking care of them.

Equally successful in Hindi, she excelled in `Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai' (1960, and did a scintillating song-dance sequence to "Kya huaa... ."), and `Mera Naam Joker' (1970) created by master showman Raj Kapoor. Padmini settled in New Jersey where she ran an Indian classical dance institute, the biggest of its kind in the U.S. She began working on her autobiography, deciding `to tell all,' and set about interviewing a chosen few (including this writer). Regretfully, she died without completing the book.

Warm-hearted and vivacious, Padmini was a rare human being. She will live on through her movies.

Natiya Peroli Padmini

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