Sivaji Ganesan, 77, an intense actor considered the Marlon Brando of south India’s film industry, died Saturday in the southern Indian city of Madras.
Born in a tiny village in the Thanjavur district of southern India’s Tamil Nadu state, V.C. Ganesan, as he was originally known, began acting in his teens. By the late 1940s he was playing lead roles in the theater.
Ganesan made his screen debut in the 1952 Tamil-language movie “Parasakthi.” He assumed the name Sivaji after he portrayed the 17th century warrior King Shivaji in a film.
The actor excelled at historical and family dramas, and made more than 170 movies in three languages: Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Over the years, he developed an intense style of delivering dialogue, prompting the comparisons to Brando.
In 1996, the Indian government gave him the Dada Phalke award, the country’s highest honor in the entertainment industry, for his lifetime contribution to Indian film.