Born Gundu Rao in a Kannadiga family during a period when people were too modest and conservative even in their dreams, Nagesh was a misfit. Why? Because he dared to dream wild and also pursued these dreams. He aimed to achieve the unimaginable and he did!.
When his parents found it hard to understand his ambitions, Nagesh left his home and started living on his own in the big bad city of Madras. After some struggles, he found a secure job at Railways. Realizing this was not even close to his dreams, his mind was restless again – until he saw the play Kamba Ramayanam created by his colleagues. Finding it amazing, Nagesh ensured he acted in the Railway Cultural Association’s next play. At the end of the show, when Nagesh heard the audience applaud and chief guest MGR shower praise on his brilliant performance, he instantly knew that theatre and cinema was where he belonged. Thus began the journey of this showman, a journey which saw him act with three generations of actors until Dasavathaaram.
With his incredibly sharp wit and sense of humour, he soon found his own brand of comedy – a proper mixture of slapstick and wit. Think of cinema of the black-and-white era; Nagesh will be definitely one name no one can forget.
In his formative years, Nagesh suffered from an extreme inferiority complex because small pox had left permanent pockmarks on his face. His thin frame stopped many filmmakers from offering him a role. (Remember, this was the time when all major actors were at least well-fed, if not actually obese!) A stoic man, the actor never spoke about his pain and indignation, but it was vented out in Server Sundaram, where he played a plain-looking but highly ambitious and confident waiter who turns into a film star with his hard work and talent. It was as if K. Balachander wrote this story especially for Nagesh. With Nagesh’s outstanding performance, Server Sundaram is a gem that enriches world cinema.
Soon the actor got a chance to act in Thiruvilayadal, a film based on mythology and starring the legendary Sivaji Ganesan. Talk about Thiruvilayadal to a 60+ citizen, you will see him or her grin ear to ear and recollect the lines “Chokkaa!! Aayiram porkaasugual. Ayyo! Enakilla!” With his funny reactions in this soliloquy, some never-seen-before and others outlandish, Nagesh ensconced himself in everyone’s heart. And it is definitely not easy to hog the limelight from the legendary actor Sivaji.
The actor even played the protagonist in Neer Kumuzhi, Ethir Neechal and Naanal, which were well-received. That Nagesh managed to stand out in a period dominated by stalwarts MGR and Sivaji Ganesan shows his immense talent. Even to say Nagesh achieved the unimaginable would be an understatement!
With changing times, Nagesh modified his acting style to suit the new tastes and enthralled the new generations. His roles in Michael Madhana Kamaraj, Auvvai Shanmugi and Dasavathaaram will be remembered forever.
Nagesh did not attend any film school, but learnt everything on his own. The whole world was his school of acting; he learnt by observing the myriad characters he met everyday. Unfazed by criticism and strong-willed, Nagesh developed his own system of acting and comedy. From a smalltime actor, he rose to the rank of an actor, whose suggestions a director would invite and honour before filming a scene!
Nagesh is a legend who helped Cinema evolve and his life shall inspire millions in the years to come. TamilWire.net mourns the demise of this great man and actor. May his soul rest in peace!