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SRIVIDYA (1953-2006)

Srividya was an actor in Tamil and Malayalam films. She specialized in playing the roles of mothers. She was born in 1953 at Chennai. Her father was a film comedian but suffered facial paralysis the year she was born and had to retire. Her mother, the famous Carnatic classical singer M.L. Vasanthakumari (q.v.), had to work long hours to support the family, sometimes not even finding time to breastfeed her children. Hoping to alleviate their financial difficulties, Srividya went into films very young. She was a trained classical singer and danced in Kumarasambhavam, a Malayalam film by P. Subramanyan, and got her first lead role in Chattambikkavala. She sang for film scores and also at musical festivals.

She began to be famous with Chenda, directed by A. Vincent, and also to get roles in Tamil cinema, such as the films Sollathan Ninakkiren. In 1975 in Apoorva Raagangal by K. Balachander she played the wife of Rajnikanth, having an affair with Kamal Haasan. Fact followed fiction and she nearly married Kamal Haasan, but it did not work out. Later she married George Thomas, an assistant director in her Malayalam film Teekkanal in 1978 and became a Christian against her family’s wishes.

Her wish to retire was thwarted as George did not make much money, and she soon found that he was exploiting her. After a long legal battle which went up to the Supreme Court the marriage ended in divorce. She left Chennai and moved to Trivandrum. She now embarked upon the later phase of her career where she became renowned for character acting, usually as a suffering mother. Mani Ratnam’s Thalapathi (1991) ironically shows her playing the mother of Rajnikanth. She also played roles ina number of successful TV serials. In 1990 she lost her mother who had been a huge source of support for her. Depression followed and in 2003 she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Three years of treatment followed to no avail, and she finally succumbed. Her last film was London (2005).
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