When talks of the film came out last year, a lot had been expected considering Savitri’s life was no easy story. She led a tumultuous life ever since her childhood, her cinema debut, her marital relationship, and struggled financially as well as health wise. Her story was marred with a lot of heartbreaks and difficulties even though she’d play her on-screen character with such elan.
Owing to personal problems, Savitri took to alcohol. She had been an alcoholic for many years, drinking heavily in 1969 which lead to her developing diabetes and high blood pressure. She finally succumbed to her disease at 46, after being in a coma for nearly 19 months.
Right before the release of the film helmed by Nag Ashwin, Savitri’s daughter Vijaya Chamundeswari said that her mother was a very innocent woman and she didn’t realise the way people would take advantage of that.
“Amma, however, did not know how to handle her troubles. She wasn’t clever to deal with the situation. She was innocent and it affected her very badly. Also, she never had any proper guidance, that’s why she became an alcoholic. Once she slipped into coma, that lasted 19 months, there was no talking to her. We were certain she will come back, but it was a long wait and it ended only with her death. It was so terrible to watch her on the hospital bed,” she said in an interview last month. She also added that Gemini Ganesan was there for her but couldn’t watch her in that condition.
A few days back, Ganesan’s daughter Dr Kamala Selvaraj with his first wife, Alamelu, said that the film portrayed him in a bad light. “Savitri had multiple relationships, and one of them was with Gemini. My father didn’t influence Savitri to become an alcoholic. He did the best to give her dignity and protection because he loved her truly. Also, Gemini Ganesan was a top actor, who was on par with MG Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan. But in the film, he is shown to be jobless and hanging around the sets of Savitri’s films all the time. There’s no mention of his fan-following in the film,” she told The New Indian Express. She has since said that she will make a documentary on his life some day.
Now, it has been reported that Vijaya Chamundeswari has responded to her half-sister’s comments, saying that the film is from Savitri’s point of view. Stating that it’s just a difference in perception, she added that Dr Kamala Selvaraj saw it from her father’s point of view. Vijay Chamundeswari also clarified on how Savitri turned into an alcoholic.
“Yes, I agree. Our father Gemini Ganesan didn’t influence Savitri to become an alcoholic. The scene in Mahanati showcases that my mother Savitri had a drink with Gemini Ganesan, but it doesn’t mean she drank first time with him only,” she said.
The biopic on the late actress Savitri has Keerthy Suresh playing the titular role while Dulquer Salmaan plays Gemini Ganesan, her co-star and husband. She was only 16 when she met Ganesan, a casting assistant at Gemini Studios, who was 16 years older than her. Ganesan was already married when he met Savitri, and they got married in secret. The couple had two children — a daughter and a son. But, it is said that Gemini Ganesan continued to have affairs, leaving her heartbroken.
The film has made around $2.5 million at the US box-office.