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Saluting Sukumari : 19402013

IndiaGlitz [Saturday, March 30, 2013]

On March 26, Sukumari died in a Chennai hospital, where she was being treated for burns sustained in the puja room at her residence. A veteran of the  Tamil theatre and the Tamil and Malayalam film industries, as well as other Indian language films, Sukumari was a recipient of the National award (Supporting Actor) as well the Padma Sri. A close relative of the Travancore sisters Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini, Sukumari has acted with all the big guns of the south Indian film industry such as Prem Nazir, Nageswara Rao, MGR, 'Sivaji' Ganesan, Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan,  Mammooty, Mohan Lal among others.  In the days following  her death,  the theatre and film fraternity continues to pay homage to  Sukumari. 

Popular actor and theatre artiste Y Gee Mahendra whose father YGP case her in his UAA troupe:

"The photo you  see above is from our drama "PEN PADUTHUM PAADU"  staged in the 60's by my father YGP in this same troupe our UAA.  Ragini and Sukumari both acted as sisters in that drama. It was the first stage appearance in a play for both of them.  I must have been about 10 years old when I first met Sukumari in my house, where she came for rehearsals. At that time I used to call her the "Vaarayo En Thozhi" maami. Even then she used to be very fond of me and specially appreciate my talent for playing Tabla. But more than that she used to be so caring during rehearsals like a mother or an elder sister. That is why here she is always Sukumari Amma and in Malayalam field she is Sukumari Chechi. After her debut with us she acted in two more UAA plays  "Petral Than Pillaya"  and "The Hidden Truth" after which she became a busy film artiste and a regular in Cho's drama troupe.
What a variety of roles she has done in films-both Tamil and Malayalam and in Kerala she is a legend !  Anyone who acted with her immediately grew fond of her - Such was her personality and care for others.

She reached great heights as a character artiste but as a human being she was the same caring affectionate soul. I  acted in several movies with her right upto her  recent film GRAMAM for which she won a national award. During that shoot in Palghat she would daily enquire about me-whether i had breakfast on time or lunch and dinner on time. I told her jokingly "Sukumari Amma,  I am now 60 plus", but she just waved it away with a smile and said  "So what ? to me you  are still the ten year old Mahen I saw when I came to your house for rehearsals".  After that she came to my play NADAGAM and was so appreciative of UAA's continued success in theatre and heartily blessed my daughter Madhuvanthi. Maybe over the years I didnt meet her as much because of our varied schedules  but whenever we did it was always laughter and nostalgia. And her laughter - My God that was so infectious ! We will always miss her."
'Cho' Ramaswamy, political analyst, actor and editor, Thuglak magazine. 

"My abiding memory of her is that of a large hearted woman. It is very rare to come across such a person in both the real and reel world. When I first introduced her to the other members of our drama troupe, Viveka Fine Arts, there was a lot of resistance, and  a huge debate on whether we should allow a female into the troupe. I allowed to handle the situation, and within an hour she had won over the entire troupe. She taught them some games and everyone got into the spirit of it all, and she soon became indispensible to out troupe.

In those days not many roles were written for women, but I took extra care that everyone had a fair chance to showcase their talent."

Mohan Raman, actor and corporate speaker  using  film content:

Sukumari was blessed with extraordinary talent, a great temperament and a caring family that supported her artistic temperament. Her foray into theatre brought out the genius for comedy that she possessed. She had a long association with "Cho's" troupe, and many of us theatre buffs remember her role as a flower girl, speaking in Madras Tamil in "Manam oru Kurangu". None can forget the madisar mami  role that she played in Mohammed bin Thuglak.

Her best performances sadly came in Malayalam, and I  say 'sad' because the Tamil audience lost an opportunity to witness her full potential. One reason for that is the entry of another phenomenal female actor called Manorama. But the Malayalam film industry grabbed her, I never got to work with her, but as a child, I used to hang around at the Children's Club in Mylapore in the 1960s'.  She used to come for rehearsals and I watched her with amazement in Quo Vadis, Why Not, Thuglak and Manam Oru Kurangu. It was ajaw dropping performance by Sukumari, every time, and with her cinema exposure, she was the star of the troupe.

Theatre personality and actor 'Kavithalaya' Krishnan:

Although she never acted in director K Balachander's 'Kavithalaya' troupe, she was a great friend of all of us. There was an aura of spirituality and warmth about her that was infectious and endearing. She had the gift of making everyone feel important . She was a great actor, but she was a greater human being. There will be a sad void, both in the artistic field and in our hearts as well. She was truly a part of the grand old days of entertainment.

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