Begin typing your search...

Honouring legends with Padma awards

Some of TN’s finest are conferred with the nation’s second-highest civilian honour by the Union government for their outstanding contributions in their fields

Honouring legends with Padma awards


Padma Bhushan

The late actor and politician Vijayakanth, founder of Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) has been conferred with the Padma Bhushan posthumously by the Union Government on January 25.

Fondly known as ‘Captain’, a moniker he received after his blockbuster Captain Prabhakaran (1991), Vijayakant passed away on December 28 last year. He was 71.

Minutes after the announcement, BJP State president K Annamalai thanked Prime Minister Modi for conferring the Padma Bhushan award posthumously to Captain Vijayakant. “Captain had a distinguished film career and was a true leader who made his indelible mark in the history of TN politics with his people-centric approach. As precisely said by PM Modi in his special tribute to Captain Vijayakant, he is an embodiment of the social ethos of his time and was truly a Captain for everyone,” he said.

However, Vijayakant’s wife and DMDK general secretary Premalatha on Friday said that the honour had arrived too late. “We would have been happy if he had been given the Padma Bhushan when he was alive. Anyway, we thank the Union government for honouring Captain Vijayakant with such a distinguished award 30 days after his demise,” she told reporters in the city.

Born as Vijayaraj Alagarswami in 1952 in Madurai, Vijayakant was among the most popular Tamil actors since the 1980s. He began his career as an actor in 1979 with Inikkum Ilamai, directed by MA Kaja, in which he played a villain. He followed it up with Agal Vilakku, directed by R Selvaraj, the same year, where he played the lead for the first time.

Some of his superhit films that eventually became cult classics were in the 1980s including Sattam Oru Iruttarai (1981), later remade in Hindi as Andhaa Kaanoon in 1983 starring Amitabh Bachchan, Vaidegi Kaathirundaal (1984), Nooravathu Naal (1984), Oomai Vizhigal (1986), Amman Koil Kizhakkaalae (1986) and Poonthotta Kaavalkkaaran (1988), among many others.

In 1988, Vijayakant won the Best Actor award at the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards for his performance in Senthoora Poove. He bagged the Tamil Nadu State Film Award Special Prize in 1996 for Thayagam.

Identified as an actor playing lead roles propagating revolutionary and radical ideas in movies like Sivappu Malli and Jaadhikkoru Needhi even in the early years of his career, Vijayakant later earned the name ‘Puratchi Kalaignar’ (revolutionary actor) for echoing the pains and rights of the marginalised and underprivileged.

His Poradada, Vaalenthada song composed by Ilaiyaraaja for the 1985 movie Alai Osai is an anthem of the 21st Dalit activists too. He did not mind bearing the ‘Hammer and Sickle’ insignia of Marxists in many a movie and that too during ‘conservative’ rule of the then Congress party.

During an illustrious career spanning over 30 years and acting in over 150 movies, he took on the mantle of the South Indian Film Artists’ Association. Under his aegis, the association cleared of its deep debt, thanks to the many overseas cultural shows he had organised in Malaysia.

Vijayakant made it a rule to provide food to everyone who worked in a film that he stars in – on par with the heroes on the sets of his film production.


Padma Vibhushan

After being awarded the Padma Shri (1981), Padma Bhushan (2003), veteran Bharatanatyam dancer Padma Subrahmanyam has now been conferred with the Padma Vibhushan, one of the highest civilian honours in the country. The scholar and choreographer is also famous for incorporating both the Pandanallur and Vazhuvoor styles of the art form in her performances. She designed many sculptures of Lord Nataraja and Goddess Parvathi in black granite for the Nataraja Temple at Satara (Maharashtra), at the request of Kanchi Paramacharya. During her career spanning over 60 years, she has received more than 100 awards, including the State government’s Kalaimamani and the Akademi Puraskar given by the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1983). She holds a PhD in dance and has authored many research papers and publications on Bharatanatyam. In addition to being a professor and HoD of Indian Music, University of Madras, Padma Subrahmanyam has lectured and conducted workshops on dance and its related subjects worldwide. She also developed a unique system of dance notation called the ‘Sapta Talas’, which facilitates the preservation and transmission of dance compositions.


Padma Vibhushan

Regarded as the first female superstar on Indian celluloid, dancer, actor and parliamentarian Vyjayanthimala has now been honoured with the Padma Vibhushan. Though her cinematic journey began in Tamil cinema, Vyjayanthimala was the only actor of Tamil origin (during her time) to have had a prolific career in 2 film industries — Tamil and Hindi. She made her screen debut at 16 with the Tamil film Vaazhkai (1949), and followed it up with a Telugu film, Jeevitham (1950). Her first work in Hindi cinema was the social guidance film Bahar (1951), which she headlined, and achieved her breakthrough with Nagin (1954). Vyjayanthimala is the recipient of five Filmfare Awards and two BFJA Awards. She played a village belle in Ganga Jamuna (1961) with as much finesse as she played a courtesan in Amrapali (1966) or an urban sophisticate in Sangam (1964). In 1968, she was awarded the Padma Shri. After a starring role in the film Ganwaar (1970), Vyjayanthimala retired from acting. She was also awarded the Akademi Puraskar by the Sangeet Natak Akademi. Vyjayanthimala’s political career began in 1984 when she won the general election for the south Chennai constituency for the Indian National Congress, opposite Era Sezhiyan, a seasoned parliamentarian. She also debuted in the Lok Sabha a year later. In 1989, she again won the general election, defeating DMK’s Aladi Aruna. In 1993, she was nominated to the Rajya Sabha for a six-year term. In 1999, she resigned from the Congress party and joined the BJP.


Padma Bhushan

The former Governor of Tamil Nadu, M Fathima Beevi, who passed away a few months ago, broke several barriers to become the first woman judge in the Supreme Court. She had also served the State of Tamil Nadu (1997-2001) at a time when Dravidian leaders M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa crossed swords in the political arena of TN. Fathima Beevi, a native of Kerala, was a popular face in the judiciary. She made political headlines in the Dravidian heartland during her tenure as TN governor and was (posthumously) conferred the award on Friday. Her decision to administer the oath of office and secrecy to former CM Jayalalithaa created controversy as the AIADMK supremo was facing disqualification in Tansi land deal cases. Fathima Beevi’s tenure ended abruptly in a couple of months after the swearing in of Jayalalithaa. Another incident Fathima Beevi made headlines was during the midnight arrest of DMK president M Karunanidhi in a corruption case, the Centre was displeased with the report she had submitted.


Padma Shri

Sahitya Akademi award-winning writer Joe D’ Cruz termed the Padma Shri as a recognition for the people of the coast. “I see this as recognition for the people of the coast. I take pride and joy in doing work for the people of my land,” said Joe, whose novels portray the lives of fishermen. “I’m happy that the Union has proved their respect for the coastal people with this award.” His novel Korkai won a Sahitya Akademi award in 2013 and Azhi Soozh Ulagu won the Tamil Nadu State award. Joe, who has 30 years of experience in the shipping industry, is from a fisherman’s family in Thoothukudi. He has written many research articles about ships, ports and fishermen, and also dialogues for actor Dhanush in Maryan (a 2013-film directed by Bharat Bala).


Padma Shri

It was an emotional evening for a section of ophthalmologists across the State when they heard that Dr G Natchiar, founding member of Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, was one of the Padma Awardees 2024. The centre conferred the prestigious award for Dr Natchiar for her distinguished contribution and service in the field of medicine.

Dr Natchiar had played a significant role as a visionary ophthalmologist for more than 50 years and gave transformational leadership at Aravind Eye Hospital. She introduced the paramedical programme at the hospital, which is one of her greatest contributions as a founder. The programme has been empowering young women from rural backgrounds for more than 40 years.

She also headed the community outreach programme, and played an instrumental role in initiating and scaling an innovative service delivery model for rural populations through outreach activities. It is noteworthy that the doctor took initiative and implemented a rigorous process to audit the quality, service, performance, and academic development in each area of the hospital across the Aravind eye care system.

Post-retirement, Dr Natchiar spends most of her time in farming. Aurofarm, which she completely manages. It was recently certified organic by the State government. The farm, amid 80 acres of greenery, bears testimony to her untiring passion for farming.

Beginning her career as assistant surgeon in the Eye Department of Government Erskine Hospital in Madurai, in 1965, Dr Natchiar became an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Madurai Medical College in 4 years. Natchiar worked as a professor in Ophthalmology at Aravind Eye Hospital in 1989 and was promoted as joint director in 1997.


Padma Shri

M Bhathirappan, who has been awarded Padma Shri for keeping TN’s traditional dance ‘Valli Oyil Kummi’ alive, has expressed his desire for introducing this art form in schools. “This ancient folk art should be introduced in schools for wider reach. It’s a medium through which our culture, tradition and history would be imbibed by the younger generation to lead a disciplined life,” said the 87-year-old from Mettupalayam near Coimbatore, who has been practicing the art form for over 60 years. It’s a mix of dance and song depicting the stories of Lord Murugan and Goddess Valli. Bhathirappan has trained more than 200 persons, who in-turn are training others. Even though this art form was male-dominated, Bhathirappan took it upon himself to break the barriers and trained women. He is already a recipient of Kalaimamani from the Tamil Nadu government.


Padma Shri

Commonwealth Games gold medallist and one of the long-standing names in Squash in Tamil Nadu, Joshna Chinappa, was conferred with the Padma Shri on Thursday. Taking a stroll inside the Indian Squash Academy at Nehru Park in Chennai, one would easily come across the achievers’ board on the walls near the main court, detailing the list of players who have won the National Championship the highest number of times.

Joshna’s name stands out in gold at the very top, boasting an impressive 19 titles. She holds the record for the most National championships. The 37-year-old reached a career-high ranking of world number 10 in 2016 and was the first Indian to win the British Junior Squash Championship in 2005 in the U-19 category.

Joshna comes from a family of sportsmen. Her father and grandfather were squash players, and her great-granduncle, KM Cariappa, was the first commander-in-chief of the Indian Army in Independent India. While initially inclined towards badminton and tennis, she eventually chose squash.

In her early days, she would practice at the Madras Cricket Club, where her father, Anjan Chinappa, who used to play for the Tamil Nadu Squash team, also happened to be her first coach. Joshna made headlines when she won gold in women’s doubles at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Partnering with Dipika Pallikal as the fifth seed, they had a tremendous start to the tournament, winning all their group matches.

They made history by defeating top seeds like Jenny Duncalf and Laura Massaro in just about 28 minutes to secure the gold medal in the final.

Joshna and Dipika are considered to be some of the best squash players the country has produced. While both have teamed up and won many multiple doubles events, they are competitors in the singles category.

In 2017, Joshna defeated Pallikal in the final of the Asian Individual Squash Championship in Chennai. After the match, Joshna was seen telling media channels that winning the tournament was one of her biggest achievements.

In 2018, she participated at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast where she reached the quarter-final of the singles event. In a career spanning over a decade, she has won multiple Asian Games medals and also clinched gold at the South Asian Games in 2016 in the singles event.

Joshna led the Indian women’s contingent at the Asian Games in Hangzhou last year and secured a bronze medal in the women’s team.


Padma Shri

One of the top nadaswara vidwans in the field of Carnatic music, Seshampatti T Sivalingam was awarded the Padma Shri. His illustrious career spans more than 50 years. He had been awarded the Akademi Puraskar by the Sangeet Natak Akademi and also the Kalaimamani by the State government, and many more from all the leading Carnatic Music sabhas. Sivalingam also served as the asthana vidwan of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, and was an emapanelled artiste of the Indian Council for Cultural Relationships (ICCR). He was trained by his father, a renowned nadaswaram artiste of his time, P Theerthagiri. After that, he also trained under Keevalur NG Ganesan in Thanjavur and later, with Keeranur Ramaswami Pillai and Tiruvarur Latchappa Pillai. He graduated with a Vadhya Vishradh degree from the College of Carnatic Music, Chennai, in 1971. Sivalingam has both represented India at many global events. He has been in the panel of judges for All India Radio (AIR) auditions and competitions, and has been performing for AIR for over 40 years.

Next Story