Chennai, Jan 31 (IANS) The Tamil film industry paid rich tributes to veteran movie actor-comedian Cyril K. Nagesh, who passed away here Saturday at the age of 77, with superstar Kamal Haasan calling him an 'acting institution par excellence'.
Nagesh was suffering from diabetes and a heart ailment, a family member said.
'To merely describe him as a funny man would be an injustice to this acting institution par excellence,' thespian Kamal Haasan told IANS.
'All of us in the Tamil film industry have learnt our craft from Nagesh,' added Haasan amidst tears.
'There was only one man who could steal a scene with aplomb and yet look appropriately, apologetically comical to soften the blow on fellow performers. It is truly an end of an era,' superstar Rajnikant said.
'In a way, the immortal song lip synched by Nagesh in 'Neerkumuzhi' (water bubble) - 'After a playful life's dance, a six feet (grave) alone is one's real estate,' would form an apt epitaph for the immortal Nagesh,' actor, political commentator and former co-star Cho S. Ramaswamy told IANS.
'Not many would know today that the topmost stars of his time - MGR and Sivaji Ganeshan - sometimes had to wait for him on the sets as distributors insisted on Nagesh's presence in a film. Due to so many assignments, he could allocate only two hours per film per day,' recalled Ramaswamy.
Born as Gundu Rao in 1933 in Erode district of Tamil Nadu, 400 km south of here in an orthodox Hindu Brahmin Vaishnavite family, Nagesh relocated to Chennai in the fifties in search of a career.
Sharing a single room in West Mambalam, then a remote, southwest suburb here, with lyricist Vaali and actor Srikant, Nagesh stumbled into showbiz after acting in an amateur play.
Thanks to generous praise from M.G. Ramachandran, Nagesh was introduced into films as a comedian with a sad twist in 'Server Sundaram' in 1964.
He went on to star in over 1,000 films mainly in Tamil. He also featured in Kannada (his mother tongue), Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi films.
According to family sources, his wife Regina passed away a few years ago leaving behind three sons. One of them, Anand Babu, is also an actor, suffering from cancer.
'I will not sleep till I finish whatever I have started,' Nagesh said in August 2005 during the release of an autobiographical book 'Siriththu Vaazha Vendum' ('Live Laughing').
The actor will be laid to rest Sunday, family sources said.