A star fades away
E.V.Saroja, who passed away recently, combined beauty and histrionics to captivate the audience.
E.V.Saroja, the dancing star of Tamil cinema passed away recently. A dedicated dancer and actor, attractive and shapely she worked hard on her scenes. She was a charming presence in many successful Tamil movies during the Fifties and Sixties. She alsoplayed strong, supporting roles in Tamil and Telugu hits. She made waves with her first acting role (as the kid sister) in `En Thangai' (1952).
It was a mega hit and launched her on the path to stardom.
`En Thangai,' a play written by ' En Thangai' Natarajan, was a hit in the early 1950s in which the lead was played by the then struggling actor Sivaji Ganesan, while the screen role was done by M.G.Ramachandran!
Not many are aware that MGR was not the first choice for playing the hero. The hero was the well-known off-screen playback singer Tiruchi Loganathan. For some reasons Loganathan was replaced by MGR.
Attempts were made to rope in Sivaji Ganesan to repeat the stage role but by that time he was already cast in his debut movie, `Parasakthi' (1952), which became a smash hit.
Both had similar story lines built around a brother's love for his unhappy sister.
As the girl blinded by lightning, young Saroja displayed impressive histrionics in her debut film and MGR who had made a name for his non-action role in `Andamaan Kaithi' proved that he was a good actor.
Saroja's performance paved the way for the film to be re-made in Telugu, Hindi, and Oriya.
WITH LEADING HEROES: Saroja with MGR
Saroja hailed from Enkann, a village in Thanjavur district, well known for its attractive women belonging to the traditional community of temple dancers. With her good looks and figure and the family connections she moved to Madras and underwent rigorous training in dance under the nattuvangam maestro and icon Vazhuvur B. Ramaiah Pillai.
The success of `En Thangai' brought Saroja many meaty roles in Tamil movies. Some of her famed movies of that period include `Gulebagavali' (1955), `Pennarasi' (1955), `Amara Deepam' (1956), `Paasavalai' (1956), `Madurai Veeran' (1956), `Karpukkarasi' (1957), `Rambayin Kaathal' (1956), `Enga Veettu Mahalakshmi' (1957), `Thanga Padhumai' (1959) and `Veera Thirumagan' (1962, the impressive directorial debut of the noted multi-lingual filmmaker A.C.Thirulokchandar). .
In these movies she acted with top stars such as MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesh.
Her success in Tamil films took her to Telugu cinema and she played interesting roles in movies such as `Iddharu Mithrulu' (A. Nageswara Rao was the hero).
Soraja with Gemini Ganesan.
As she did not know Telugu her lines were phonetically written in Tamil and she was actively guided by the celebrated filmmaker K. Viswanath who was then an assistant under famed Telugu director Adurthi Subba Rao. Her role attracted much attention.
Besides acting, she choreographed dances for a couple of Telugu films and danced in several movies.
`Neelamalai Thirudan' (1957), an action movie produced by Chinnappa Thevar in which Ranjan played the lead role was dubbed in Hindi as `Matwala.' She turned producer during the 1960s in association with her brother E.V.Rajan and established EVR Pictures and produced films like `Koduthuvaitha Deivam' (MGR as hero) and `Thanga Surangam' (Sivaji Ganesan played the lead).
In many movies she was ably directed by the noted filmmaker Ramanna whom she married. The couple had two daughters.
A warm and friendly person, she was extremely popular in the fields of films and dance. Her friends and admirers of yesteryear will miss her greatly....
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