Sunday Celebrity: ‘Ceylon’ Chinnaiya—his look-alike Sivaji image, dialogue makes him popular
He was certainly bitten by film bug even as a small boy. And the acting style of Sivaji Ganesan mesmerised him. And so his interest was not in studies. He would beg, borrow or steal, only for seeing a film of Sivaji Ganesan, walking 60 miles to Kandy in Sri Lanka from his estate (Krugamey estate), where his father was a plantation worker.
He later became a film artiste in Sri Lanka and in Tamil Nadu, known in Sri Lanka as S S Chinnaiyan and in Tamil films here, Ceylon Chinnaiya. He did not make it to lead roles, but sure captured important character roles. He is a successful character artiste.
It was writer-director R Selvaraj, in whose number of films he had acted, who had given him the ‘Ceylon’ prefix. Even at the height of conflict in Lanka, and anything Ceylon was not safe to have a link with after the killing of Rajiv Gandhi, Chinnaiya did not drop the prefix given by his mentor director, he said in a chat with the Asian Tribune.
“My origin is here in Tamil Nadu (Pudukottai). I am only a second generation Lankan Tamil, my father having gone there in the ship ‘Ramanujam’ to work in the tea estate. I have confidence here that no harm would come.”
Chinnaiya says when there was a ‘Malaysia’ Vasudevan, a ‘Delhi’ Ganesh, ‘Bombay’ Sisters, why not a ‘Ceylon’ Chennaiya. So he continued his ‘Ceylon’ prefix.
Repeatedly seeing Sivaji films, he almost molded himself as that great actor. He would act like Sivaji, rolling out his famous dialogues which are known to run to greater lengths, the delivery has to be made holding full breadth. Talking with us Chinnaiya poured out the ‘Parasakthi’ dialogue of Sivaji. It resembles the Thespians’ style, reminds him.
Chinnaiyan has been enthralling the audience wherever he goes, with the famous dialogues of Sivaji Ganesan, whom he calls his ‘manaseega’ Guru. The famous dramatic dialogues are from “Parasakthi,” the lines of Kalainger Karunanidhi, “Seran Senguttuvan” and the dialogue of Socretes from “Raja Rani” both penned again by Karunanidhi, the dialogue of “Samrat Asokan” penned by Murasoli Maran, the dialogue of “Veerapandia Kattabomman”, “Satrapati Sivaji” and the dialogue of Kandy Raja Vikramarajasinge in “Pudayal”—all of Sivaji Ganesan delivery.
These sub plots in films being popular, and Chinnaiyan’s delivery being almost the imitation of the Nadigar Thilagam, he finds instant audience wherever he goes, and finds appreciation too. He said last week in Valparai tea estate, where his friends and relatives live, there was repeat request from the audience.
Presently he is settled in London for the past 15 years. Imitating Sivaji dialogue engages him full time here in India and Sri Lanka and there (England). What is more, Chinnaiyan almost looks like Sivaji Ganesan. And so he looks and acts like him.
But has he met Sivaji Ganesan? He says he got that opportunity in 1974, when he was invited from Sri Lankan film industry to participate in his gala birthday party at Salem, which was also a jubilee celebration of his film “Thangapathakam.” He thanks Kavinger Muthlingam for the invitation. On a sudden impulse, coming face to face with his beau ideal, he says he wanted to do something—a garland or bouquet was not enough-- he took out his own gold ring from his finger and slipped it into the finger of his ‘manaseeka’ guru. It gave him at most bliss, the moment, he says.
Acted two films with Sivaji
Has he acted in any film with Sivaji? Chinnaiyan says he got that opportunity when there was an Indo-Sri Lanka joint cooperative venture film titled “Pilot Premnath”. Sivaji was the lead man and Malini Fonseka of Sri Lanka was cast his hereoine and K. Vijaya directed it. Chinnaiyan got a role of ‘kanakkapillai’ (accountant) to Sivaji who acted as pannaiyar of tea estate. What is more, Chinnaiyan says, the film was shot in the same Krugamey estate where he was born and bred. And to be teamed with the actor of his dream in the same estate, was immense pleasure, he says.
He has also acted another film with Sivaji. “Enn Tamil, Enn Makkal” was the title.
Chinnaiyan says his beginning was with two great Tamil film stars in a way—MGR and Sivaji. When he was a small boy, the successful Tamil films will be played as a drama in the estate. In the 50s, Sivaji starrer “Parasakthi” was being enacted as drama. He would beg for a role, the seniors would brush him aside. They relented with his cries and put him in the role of a statue. He has to sit like a stone, no dialogue. That was his maiden venture in acting. As “Parasakthi” film was Sivaji’s. Comparing with himself with MGR, he says like MGR he a Kandy born. Thus he carries something of both in him.
He is thankful for the Subramaniya temple festival in the estate, which fed his acting urge. He says he would wait for the festival to come, so would may dramas. He would find berth in as many as possible.
Chinnaiya started his career after his college studies as a Tamil teacher in Ambitya Tamil Kalavan Patasalai, and he bowed out after 12 years of service as Head Master. Off and an he was acting in dramas and films in Sri Lanka. The films are “Nirmala,” “Manjal Kungumam,” “Meenava Penn,” “Pudiya Katru” and “Naan Ungal Thozhan.” Altogether he had acted 15 films in Sri Lanka.
His acting interest pulled him to Chennai. He found a mentor in R.Selvaraj, one of the trimurthis, the other two being Ilaya Rajah and Bharathyrajah, of later cinema.
All Character roles
His first film was A.C. Thirulokachander’s “Neeindri Nan Illai”. Selvaraj cast him in his film “Ponnu Oorukku Pudusu” when Goundamani was busy and he fitted well. Their association went on with rest of Selvaraj’s films. In “Karai Kadantha Oruthi” he acted the role of a Kuravan. Selvaraj’s next film “Agal Vilakku” he had a through running character role. “Nee Thana Andha Kuyil,” K Vijayan directed “Aani Veer,” Ilayarajah’s blrother R T Bhaskar disrected “Geethanjali”, Karthik starrer “Bhagavathypuram Railway station,” Kamashenu,” Visu-directed “Kavalan Avan Kovalan,” a Prabhu starrer and another Selvaraj directed “Pudiya Adimaigal” which film Thondaman senior was given a special screening at AVM studios for the sake of Chinnaiyan.
Chinnaiyan has also acted in Television serials—all character roles and side roles. He has three films on hand, even after settled in London. Every now and then he comes here for shooting. One is Vivek starrer “Naan Than Baala” directed by R Kannan, R Selvaraj’s own brother; “Aathoor 2 Mile” directed by Gurunath; the third is by London producer T. Kannan titled “Enakkul Oru Sivaji” where Chinnaiyan plays a main role, enliving the various roles of Sivaji. The films is tailor-made to bring out his potential of Sivaji in him.
Chinnaiyan went to London in 1993 for he has not made much money in films. He wanted to earn something for his family, and so he set aside his acting interest for off and on. There he became associated with “Malayaha Makkal Ondrium” whose president is Muthu, Subramaniam, secretary and Kalai joint secretary. His role in it is Cultural wing. He has organized several cultural programmes. Recently he has invited ‘Surangani’ A E Manohar, the singer from Tamil Nadu.
Chinnaiyan also became an activist of the Labour Party there, and has earned a lot of Asian friends. In that his ‘Sivaji” image is useful he says.
- Asian Tribune -