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RIP: Witty Funny Nagesh: 1933 – 2009

Nagesh Kamal Haasan Nammavar Movie Tamil 1994

Kamal Haasan has always had a special and key role for the legendary Nagesh in his movies (the other usual collaborator with Kamal is actor Delhi Ganesh) and Nagesh who had always played a comical role has proved to be a very versatile actor with different roles with Kamal Haasan. Image source: Cinema Express

The Tamil film industry and comedy lovers are mourning the loss of one of the most versatile and talented actors, CK Nagesh, who passed away on January 31, 2009, at the age of 75. Nagesh, who acted in over 1,000 films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada, was known for his impeccable comedy timing, expressive body language and memorable roles as a comedian, lead actor, supporting actor and antagonist.

Nagesh was born Cheyur Krishna Nageshwaran in Dharapuram, Tamil Nadu, to Kannadiga Hindu parents. He moved to Madras (now Chennai) in search of a career and worked as a clerk in the Indian Railways. He was inspired by the Tamil play Kamba Ramayanam and joined various drama troupes. He got his first break in the film Manamulla Marudhaaram (1958), but his performance in Nenjil Or Aalayam (1962) launched his career in the Tamil film industry.

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This particular scene from K Balachander’s 1968 Edhir Neechal where Nagesh plays a poor orphan student who lives under the staircase of a multi-family apartment, doing odd jobs for his living and education is one of the iconic moments of the movie where he is wrongly accused of stealing things from other residents to a point where even his own best friend feels betrayed and slaps hard him.

Hollywood actor Jerry Lewis largely influenced Nagesh’s style of comedy, and he earned the sobriquet of “Jerry Lewis of India”. He also excelled in serious roles, such as the protagonist in Server Sundaram (1964), adapted from a play by K. Balachander. He worked with many leading actors of his time, such as MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan, Rajnikanth, Vijay and Ajith. He also featured in many songs that showcased his dancing skills.

Nagesh was married to Regina and had a son, Anand Babu, who also became an actor. His wife died in 2002 and he suffered from diabetes and heart ailments. He died at a private hospital in Chennai due to cardiac arrest. He was cremated with full state honours.

Nagesh will always be remembered as one of the greatest comedians of Tamil cinema, who made generations of people laugh with his witty dialogues and hilarious expressions. His legacy will live on through his films and his fans.

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