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Remembering Bhanumathi

S.R. Ashok Kumar



Actor P. Bhanumathi. — Photo: P.V. Sivakumar

CHENNAI: An actress par excellence, the multi-talented P. Bhanumathi, who died late on Saturday, held a special place in the south Indian film industry.

Some of her best known performances, came in films such as Annai, Rangoon Radha, Pathumada Bandham, Ippadiyum Oru Pen and the first Tamil colour film Alibabavum Narpadhu Thirudargalum.

Though she started her film career in her early teens her best assignments came only after she wed real life hero Ramakrishna.

Other talents

But before that, a word about her writing abilities. She began writing stories from the age of 14. Later her autobiography was made into a teleserial. Her other talent was her linguistic competence: even in Hindi movies she insisted on using her voice to render dialogues.

Colleagues reminisce

Actor Manorama remembers: "I am happy to have sung with Bhanumathi in the film Ippadiyum Oru Pen. I was fortunate to be able to sing with ... she appreciated and blessed me after hearing my song. She was a doyen among the stars."

Manorama notes that after her memorable role in Paatti Sollai Thattadhe in Tamil the movie was remade in Telugu and her (Manorama's) role was played by Bhanumathi.

She was also a great cook.

Perhaps, Bhanumathi's best performance was in Annai. It was a difficult role (of a mother who bestows all her love on her adopted son to the extent that she does not even allow the natural mother near the boy even after he grows up), notes producer M. Saravanan.

"It was like walking on a razor's edge. We felt only she could do it and she did it with great maturity. We would not have done the role with any other person. When Annai was made in Hindi, Nirupa Rai did the role. But, when we wanted to do it in Telugu all the distributors wanted P. Banumathi to do it. But, she had retired by then. As she was not able to do it we did not make the film at all."

Actor Ravichandran who acted with P. Bhanumathi in Pathumatha Bandam remembers her as a commanding woman.

"She had a knowledge of all departments in film-making. She also knew astrology and palmistry. We used to discuss our future with her and spend a lot of time. Her husband Ramakrishna also used to come to the set and when all the three of us were together, we had a great time."

Prashanth, who played the lead role in P. Bhanumathi's last Tamil movie, Chembaruti notes: "For me she was a legend. She acted as my grandmother in the film. After the shooting also I used to visit her often and talk to her. She felt I had a great future. Having seen her as a dynamic woman and I could not bear to see her in failing health."

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