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March 29, 2013 | Comments Off on Sukumari, a Great Lady of Indian Cinema | Betsy Woodman
This week brought the sad news of the death of South Indian actress Sukumari, whose career spanned over six decades. An accident resulting in severe burns led to heart failure on Tuesday, March 26, in Chennai.
Sukumari’s year of birth is variously reported as 1938 and 1940. In any case, she was very young when she acted in her first film, Oru Iravu (1951), with her cousin Lalitha of the Travancore Sisters, appearing in scenes depicting Lalitha’s character at a younger age. This film was in Tamil, but Sukumari also appeared in Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Sinhala, and Hindi-language productions. For a long time, the voices in Indian films were dubbed rather than recorded simultaneously, and common practice was to have someone other than the actors do the speaking parts in different languages. Sukumari, like the Travancore sisters, did her own.
In this snake dance from the movie Sarpakadu (1965), Sukumari appears mostly on the left, with her cousin Ambika on the right. In later years, she was greatly in demand for what the newspapers termed “mother roles.” Her productivity was prodigious, as was her popularity among audiences and colleagues in the film industry. In 2003, the Government of India awarded her the prestigious Padma Shri for her contributions to the arts.
These pictures from my parents’ photo album were taken in Chennai around 1954.
Left to right: Ambika, Padmini, Ruth Woodman, Lalitha, Sukumari
Left to right: Ambika, Ragini, Saraswati Amma (the Travancore Sister’s mother), Padmini, Ruth Woodman, Lalitha, Sukumari
My respects and condolences go out to her friends and family.