Chennai is my pugundha veedu: Saroja Devi

DECCAN CHRONICLE | ANUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN
Published Jan 8, 2016, 7:35 am IST
Updated Jan 10, 2016, 8:38 am IST
Veteran actor contributes Rs 5 lakh towards flood relief on her birthday.
CHENNAIOn her birthday on Thursday, legendary actor Saroja Devi, more often referred as Kannadathu Paingili, contributed Rs 5 lakh to the Chief Minister’s Flood  Relief Fund, through the Nadigar Sangam. DC caught up with the Bengaluru-based actor, who was in the city. She shared a few of her nostalgic moments about the iconic actor/politician MGR (M.G. Ramachandran) and how she considered Chennai her ‘Pugundha Veedu’ (in-law’s house).
 
“I called my friend Sivakumar and told him that I want to handover my little contribution towards relief for the flood-hit, through the newly elected Nadigar Sangam office bearers who are doing a good job. I preferred to be in city on my birthday, because this is the place my ‘Anbu Deivam’ MGR lived and I feel positive vibes here”.  Saroja Devi strongly opines that the name of Nadigar Sangam should not be changed. “I heard that director Cheran and a few others wanted to change the name of South Indian Artistes’ Association. Perhaps, they are not aware of how in those days all the artistes from film industries in southern states were sharing camaraderie here. Even now, many artistes who are members of the sangam are acting in multiple languages. I have acted with most of legends including MGR, NTR, Dilip Kumar and Rajkumar. They used to organise festivals for us where several shops with latest fashion items will be put up. This annual affair will be a big bonanza for all of us to meet and have fun. When I was in peak, I donated Rs 50,000 to the sangam which was a very big sum then”.
 
After my husband’s demise at a young age, a lot of people told me to remarry. I said ‘no’ and I couldn’t think of anyone else in his place.  I was confident that I could manage my life without a male companion. And, today, by Almighty’s grace, I am at the giving end. I have been helping many old actresses who are in distress today”. Recalling her memorable period with MGR, she said, “When he 
 
introduced me in Nadodi Mannan, I was so naïve. He took care of me so well and used to give advice and tips while acting. After that we have acted together in several films. Without MGR, there’s no Saroja Devi!”. The actress said she was very upset when she came to know that MGR’s famous house ‘Ramavaram Thottam’ was devastated during the recent floods. “I have gone to his house several times and had food there. The house used to be always cool with its red oxide flooring. There won’t be separate dining table and there will be a long bench instead. I consider it as a ‘temple’ and believe that MGR still lives there”. She adds,  “Lot of people even called me and said that they would send money to repair and restore everything at MGR’s house. I declined saying government would do the needful”. 
 
She said she was happy that the Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa has come forward to repair and renovate the house through her party. Having acted with Sivaji Ganesan and others including Sivakumar for many years, the veteran says she has been getting lot of offers from Tamil film industry. “I acted in Suriya’s Aadhavan a few years ago. Like father, like son! He treated me with lot of respect. My family wants me to accept films where they cast me, as it is how I look”.
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