B. Saroja Devi

B. Saroja Devi
Born (1938-01-07) 7 January 1938
Bengaluru, Mysore State, India
Nationality Indian
Occupation Actress
Years active 1955–present
Spouse(s) Shri Harsha (m.1967-1986)
till his death
Children Indira, Bhuvaneshwari, Gautam

B. Saroja Devi "ಬಿ.ಸರೋಜಾದೇವಿ in Kannada" is an Indian actress, who has acted in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi movies. One of the most successful female leads in the history of Indian cinema, she acted in around 200 films over six decades.[1][2][3] She is known by the epithets "Abinaya Saraswathi" (Saraswati of acting) in Kannada and "Kannadathu Paingili" (Kannada Nightingale) in Tamil[4][3]

At the age of 17, Saroja Devi got her big break in the Kannada film Mahakavi Kalidasa (1955). In Telugu cinema, she made her debut with Panduranga Mahatyam (1959), and starred in a number of successful films until the late 1970s. The Tamil film Nadodi Mannan (1958) made her one of the top actresses in Tamil cinema. After her marriage in 1967, she continued to be second in demand actress in Tamil films till 1974, but she continued to be one of the top actresses in Telugu and Kannada cinema from 1958 until the 1980s. She also starred in Hindi films until the mid-1960s, starting with Paigham (1959) Sasural(1961) [Preet na jane reet]] (1963).

She played the lead heroine in 161 consecutive films [5]in 29 years between 1955 and 1984. Saroja Devi received the Padma Sri, the fourth-highest civilian honour, in 1969 and Padma Bhushan, third highest civilian award, in 1992 from the Government of India.

Early life

Saroja Devi was born in Bengaluru, Mysore Presidency (now Karnataka) on 7 January 1938.[6] Her father Bhairappa worked for the police department, and her mother Rudramma was a homemaker.She was their fourth daughter. Her grandfather, Mayanna Gowda wanted her to be given away for adoption, but her father refused to do so. Bhairappa asked her to learn dancing, and encouraged her to take up acting as a career. A young Saroja Devi was accompanied often by her father to studios and he would patiently tie on her salangais and massage her swollen feet after her dancing stints.[7] Her mother gave her a strict dress code: no swimsuits and no sleeveless blouses, which she followed for rest of her career.[8] She was first spotted by BR Krishnamurthy when she was singing at a function at the age of 13 but she declined the film offer.[9]


Rise to stardom

Saroja Devi's first major success was Honnappa Bhagavatar's Kannada film Mahakavi Kalidasa (1955), in which she played a supporting role. The film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada. Next, she acted in B R Panthulu's Tamil film Thangamalai Ragasiyam (1957), in which she performed a dance sequence.[10]

Subsequently, she was noted by M. G. Ramachandran (MGR), who cast her as the female lead in Nadodi Mannan (1958), the movie that made her one of the most popular actresses in Tamil Nadu. She was then signed up for the Hindi film Paigham (1959), in which her co-stars included Dilip Kumar. She went on to work in other leading Hindi actors, including Rajendra Kumar in Sasural (1961), Sunil Dutt in Beti Bete (1964), Shammi Kapoor in Preet Na Jane Reet (1966). She also shot a few scenes with Raj Kapoor for Nazrana (1961), but was replaced by Vyjayanthimala after a conflict with the director C. V. Sridhar.[11]

Following the success of Nadodi Mannan, she was also cast opposite the leading Tamil actors of that time: with Gemini Ganesan in Kalyana Parisu (1959), with Sivaji Ganesan in Bhaaga Pirivinai (1959) and again with MGR in Thirudadhe (1961).[4] Her involvement in Tamil films also continued with superhits like Palum Pazhamum (1961), Aadi Perukku (1962), Aalayamani (1962), Periya Idathu Penn (1963), and Puthiya Paravai (1964),Panakkara Kudumbam (1964), Enga Veetu Pillai (1965) and Anbe Vaa (1966). She came to be known as a 'lucky mascot' for MGR films and acted with him in 26 films.[12]

Her early successes in Kannada cinema included Chintamani (1957), School Master (1958) and Jagajyothi Basveshwara (1959). Her role as a patriotic anti-British queen in the Kannada Kittooru Rani Chennamma (1961) was widely acclaimed. In 1964, she and Kalyan Kumar acted in the first full fledged Kannada colour movie Amarashilpi Jakanachaari.

Saroja Devi also achieved success in Telugu films, starring opposite N. T. Rama Rao in Seetarama Kalyanam (1961) and Jagadeka Veeruni Katha (1961), and Daagudu Moothalu (1964). Amara Shilpi Jakkanna (1964, remake of Kannada film) and Rahasyam, her film Pelli Kaanuka(1960) with Akkineni Nageswara Rao, were also successful. The first Telugu film featured dubbing; wherein, Krishna Kumari dubbed her voice in Panduranga Mahatyam (1957). But in the subsequent years, Saroja Devi learnt Telugu language. Her Hindi films included like Sasural (1960), Opera House (1961), Pareeksha, Hong Kong(1962), Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya(1963) became successful. In 1962 she was crowned "Chaturbhaasha Taare", because of her popularity in these four languages.[13]

The pair of MGR-Saroja Devi gave 26 back to back hit films together[14] which included Thirudathey, Thai Sollai Thattathey, Paasam,Thaayaikaatha Thanayan, Asai Mugam, Periya Idathu Penn, Dharmam Thalaikkakkum, Neethikku Pin Pasam, Pannakkara Kudumbam,Padakoti, Nadodi, Thali Bhagyam, Naan Anayittaal, Petralthaan Pillaiya, Arasa Katalai and Kudumba Thalaivan. Her best performances opposite MGR were the 'rich girl' roles in Anbe Vaa, Enga Veettu Pillai, En Kadamai, Deiva Thai,Kalangarai Vilakkam, Pana Thottam, Parrakkum Pavai and Thayin Madiyil. The women adored her dressing sense and her saris and blouses, ornaments, hairstyles were copied by girls and women.[15]

In the 1960s, Saroja Devi became a fashion icon among the South Indian women, who mimicked her saris, blouses, jewellery, hairstyles and mannerisms. In particular, her saris and jewellery from the Tamil movies Enga Veettu Pillai (1965) and Anbe Vaa (1966) were popularized widely in magazines.[16]

Post-marriage career

After 1968, Saroja Devi's career in Tamil cinema gradually declined, and she became more active in Kannada movies.[17] With her marriage in 1967 and the rise of younger heroines like Jayalalithaa, producers stopped pairing her opposite MGR. Her last film with MGR was Arasa Kattalai (1967), which also starred Jayalalithaa. She continued starring in Tamil movies opposite Sivaji Ganesan: En Thambi (1968), Anjal Petti 520 (1969), Thenum Paalum (1971) and Arunodayam (1971). She also did several films with Gemini Ganesan: Pen Endral Pen (1967), Panama Pasama (1968), Thamarai Nenjam (1968), Ainthu Latcham (1969), Thanga Malar (1969), Kula Vilakk (1969), Malathi (1970) and Kann Malar (1970) which were successful. She was also cast with other popular heroes, such as Ravichandran and R. Muthuraman. With Ravichandran, she acted in successful films Odum Nadhi (1969), Snegithi (1970), and Swargathil Thirumanam. With Muthuraman, she starred in Uyir (1971) and Pathu Matha Bandham (1974), which was her last Tamil film as a lead actor until 1985.

She continued to be among the highest paid actress in Kannada and Telugu films. She was cast opposite the leading actor Dr. Rajkumar in several Kannada films, including Mallammana Pavada (1969), Nyayave Devaru (1971), Sri Srinivasa Kalyana (1974), Babruvahana (1977) and Bhagyavantharu (1977). Her other successful films from this period include Thande Makkalu (1971), Papa Punya (1971), Gunavanthudu (1975), Katha Sangama (1976), Sri Renukadevi Mahathme (1977), Chiranjeevi then with Vishnuvardhan in Shani Prabhava (1977) and Rudranaga (1984).

In Telugu cinema, she was cast opposite N.T. Rama Rao in films like Bhagyachakram (1968), Uma Chandi Gowri Sankarula Katha (1968), Vijayam Manade (1970), Mayani Mamatha (1970), Shakuntala and Daana Veera Soora Karna (1979).

In her long career she chiefly opted for romantic films only in 1960's and later sentimental and socially relevant films right from late 1960's to 1980's.Sri Renukadevi Mahathme , Kannada film released in 1977 was Saroja Devi's 150th film in her career and by 1984, she had completed 161 films as the main lead heroine, without ever playing supporting roles. Yarivanu, in Kannada, was the 161st film, in which she played the main lead heroine.

After husband's death

Saroja Devi signed up for the film Ladies Hostel in 1985, but stopped shooting after her husband fell ill. He subsequently died in 1986, and she resumed shooting only in 1987. The film was successful, but Saroja Devi refused to sign up for any more films. She completed the 8 films that she had accepted before 1986, and these films were released during 1987-1990. These included Thaimel Aanai (1988) and Dharma Devan (1989).

She returned to acting on insistence by film producers and her fans. She starred opposite Sivaji Ganesan in Parambariyam (1993), and then performed a few roles as a supporting actress. In Kannada films, her notable supporting performances included her roles in Anuraga Sangama (1995) and Agni IPS (1997). She and Sivaji Ganesan acted in the Tamil film Once More (1997), which also includes scenes from their 1963 film Iruvar Ullam. Her last film was the Tamil film Aadhavan (2009), in which she played a judge's mother.[18]

In 2005, Saroja Devi chaired the 53rd National Film Awards jury.[19] She served as the vice-president of Kannada Chalanchitra Sangha, and as a member of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams's local advisory committee. She runs a successful business.[2] She also served as the Chairperson of the Karnataka Film Development Corporation,[20] which had been set up as a privated limited company by her and a few other film personalities in 1972.[21]

Saroja Devi is now settled in Bangalore, where she is involved in social work. She has organized many donation camps in the name of her husband and her mother. She is also involved with charitable trusts, rehabilitation centers and health programs.

Personal life

Saroja Devi had an arranged marriage with Shriharsha, a Bharat Electronics engineer from her own Gowda caste,[8] on 1 March 1967. At that time, she was facing a financial crisis and income tax troubles. Her husband helped her overcome these problems, and taught her how to manage her finances.[2] Her husband encouraged her to continue acting, and their marriage lasted till his death in 1986.

Saroja Devi's children included her daughters Bhuvaneshwari and Indira, and a son, Gautam Ramachandran. Her son was named after M.G. Ramachandran,[2] while Indira was named after Indira Gandhi.[8] Bhuvaneshwari was her niece, and had been adopted by her. Bhuvaneshwari died young,[2] and Saroja Devi sponsors the Bhuvaneshwari Award for literature in her memory.[22]


She travelled to Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) with M. G. Ramachandran.

Awards and honours

National awards

State awards

Other awards



  1. Documentary on legendary Saroja Devi - Chitramala.com
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Aruna Chandaraju (30 June 2006). "Journey down a glorious lane". The Hindu.
  3. 1 2 Taniya Talukdar (5 May 2013). "B Saroja Devi in the list of greatest Indian actresses ever". The Times of India.
  4. 1 2 Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: Woking with Gemini Ganesan and Sivaji Ganesan". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  5. Meet the Heroes of Malleswaram
  6. T.M. Ramachandran, ed. (1964). Film World, Volume 1. p. 145.
  7. Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: The Beginning". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  8. 1 2 3 Renuka Narayanan (5 September 2008). "The sweet bird of Southern cinema". Hindustan Times.
  9. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/kannada/movies/news/B-Saroja-Devi-in-the-list-of-greatest-Indianactresses-ever/articleshow/19895895.cms
  10. Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: Foray into movies". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  11. G. Dhananjayan (2014). Pride of Tamil Cinema. Blue Ocean. p. 128.
  12. Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: The lucky mascot of MGR movies". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  13. rediff.com: Abhinaya Saraswathi Saroja Devi
  14. http://www.thesundayindian.com/en/story/starring-mgr--jayalalitha/7148/
  15. rediff.com: Abhinaya Saraswathi Saroja Devi
  16. Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: A style icon". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  17. Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi: Her last years in the industry". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  18. "Aadhavan is clean fun". rediff.com. 17 October 2009.
  19. Film awards: Saroja Devi to head jury
  20. Saroja Devi, Ramoji Rao among recipients of A.P. film awards
  21. A.P. Durai (2015) [1978]. Pursuit of Law and Order. Notion Press. ISBN 9789352062157.
  22. "Saroja ducks romance poser". The Times of India. 30 January 2008.
  23. Pavithra Srinivasan. "Celebrating Saroja Devi". rediff.com. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  24. 1 2 "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2015.

External links

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