Forgotten Tamil actresses
There were very few female Tamil film actors at the early stages of
the development of Tamil cinema. Those who came forward to act were from
different regions where the Dravidians lived: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka
and Kerala states. But since their languages namely Telugu, Kannada and
Malayalam had strong affinity with Tamil, it was not difficult for them
to speak in Tamil and act. However the prominent actresses were
S D Subbulakshmi was one of them. She married the enterprising
pioneer director K Subramaniyam. They had two outstanding children: S.
Krishnawamy, a critic and Pathma Subramaniam, one of the finest
exponents of Bharatha Natyam. Subbulakshmi was the most popular stares
in the 1930s.
T P Rajalakshmi was one of the pioneer Tamil female actors in Tamil
films. P. Banumathi from Aandhra was yet another shining star in Tamil
and Telugu films.
There was yet another singing star Subbulakshmi. Her initials were M
S. She was one of the outstanding Carnatic musicians that India could
boast of. She too came into the field in 1930s and she too had acted in
director K Subramaniam’s films. Some of her outstanding films were
Sakunthalai and Meera.
Another singing actress was T R Rajakumari. She figures during the
1930-1940 period. Chandraleka and Apoorva Sakothararkal were two of her
P Kannamba from Karnataka was a superb actress in delivering the
K L V Vasantha, U R Jeevaratnam, T A Mathuram, C T Rajakantham, G
Subbulakshmi, B S Saroja, and K S Angamuthu were well known stars in
Lanka born actor to become later to be the Chief Minister of
Tamilnadu, M G Ramachandran was married to V N Janaki. She was earlier
married to a film director. She acted in a pace-setting progressive film
in Tamil in the 1940s- Velaikkari penned by former Chief Minister C N
Annadurai. One of the Kannadiga actresses to play in Tamil films was M V
Rajamma. R Bala Saraswathi Devi was another singing star. Her song ‘Roja
MalarVendumaa?’ a song sung to the Latin American Rhythm ‘La Paloma’ was
a hit tune in the 1950s. Another actress was T A Jeyalakshmi. She acted
in another pace setter ‘Naam Iruvar’ (We Two)
Kumari Rukmani was figured in ‘Sri Valli’
Then of course we had the present Chief Minister of Tamilnadu,
Jeyaram Jeyalalitha acting with M G Ramachandran in many popular films.
She has acted not only in Thamil but also in Telugu, Kannada and Hindi.
M S Sundari Bai, Thiruchur Premawathi, Yoga Mangalam, T A
Periyanayaki who could sing well, M S S Bhayam, M R Santhanalakhmi, S
Varalakshmi- a singing star, T Suriyakumari and K Malathi were some of
the early female actors in Tamil cinema.
the Kerala border Lalitha, Padmini and Rahini came to act in Tamil
films. Padmini among them became a fine dancer and character actress in
Vyjayanthimala who later shone in Hindi films later became a Rajya
Sabha member in Indian Parliament. Her mother Vasunthara Devi was a
dancing actress who danced waltzes in the film Mangamma Sabatham.
M N Rajam was yet another important actress in Tamil films. K T
Rukmani, S L Dhanalakshmi, T P Muthulakshmi, Maadhuri Devi, Pushpavalli
from Andhra, K Aswathaama from Karnataka were among the notable female
stars in Tamil films during the 1930- 1950 period.
After the1950s many talented female actors came to the scene. K R
Vijya, Vijaya Kumari, Devika, Saroja Devi, Lakshmi, Raadika, Savitri,
Poornima, Ambika, Raadha, Suhashini, Amala, Seetha. Shoba, SriVidhya,
Sri Priya, Sri Devi, Archana, Vaani Sri and a host of both male and
female actors contributed their mite to the development Tamil cinema.
Since the 1970s Tamil Cinema has undergone several changes gradually
shedding off the dramatic garb and adoring new attires to suit the
contemporary needs. That is another subject to be dealt with caution,
because the analysis would necessitate a deeper multi-disciplinary
The purpose in us writing about the Tamil Cinema as well is to put on
record some forgotten details which could help a serious student of
cinema in any part of the world to understand the world cinema as an
However a study of Lankan Tamil Cinema is an urgent need, but
unfortunately the 30 odd films made locally were poor substitutes to the
Kodambakkam cinema that one could not consider any of them for serious
study. Well, this is only an opinion of an individual. Perhaps future
critics could undertake this task in a solemn manner.
As for the Sinhala cinema, a substantial body of studies has already
been made in both Sinhala and English.
In this connection I should mention the name of Thambi Aiyah
Thevathas in bringing out books in Tamil both on the Lankan Tamil and