M. N. Nambiar

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M. N. Nambiar
Manjeri Narayanan Nambiar

7 March 1919
Died19 November 2008(2008-11-19) (aged 89)
ChildrenSukumar, Mohan, Sneha

Manjeri Narayanan Nambiar (7 March 1919 – 19 November 2008), was an Indian actor in Tamil cinema who dominated the industry in the role of villain for around 50 years. Also known as Nambiar swami or Maha Guruswami, he was also a spiritual leader who pioneered the movement of taking pilgrims to Sabarimala.

Tamil cinema film industry

Tamil cinema refers to Tamil-language motion pictures, which are primarily made in India. Based in the city of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, the hub of the Tamil film industry is in the Kodambakkam neighbourhood of Chennai. Kollywood is a colloquial term used to describe this industry, the word being a portmanteau of Kodambakkam and Hollywood.

Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta District, Kerala, India

The Sabarimala temple is a temple complex located at Sabarimala inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Pathanamthitta district, Kerala, India. It is the site of the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with an estimate of between 17 million and 50 million devotees visiting every year. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu celibate deity Ayyappan also known as Dharma Sastha, who according to belief is the son of Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Vishnu. The traditions of Sabarimala are a confluence of Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, and other Śramaṇa traditions.


Early life

M. N. Nambiar was born on 7 March 1919 at Kandakkai Mayyil Kannur, Kerala. He was a child in a marriage between a Nambodiri father and Nayar (Nambiar) mother. While he was still a child, his father died. He moved to live and study in Ooty with his elder sister and brother-in-law. [1] He became interested in acting when he was 13 and he joined Nawab Rajamanikkam's troupe. From then on acting became the only thing that occupied him. His first film was Bhaktha Ramadoss, shot in 1935 in Hindi and Tamil, where he played as a comedian along with T.K.Sampangi.

Kannur Corporation City in Kerala, India

Kannur, also known by its anglicised name Cannanore, is a city and a Municipal Corporation in Kannur district, state of Kerala, India. It is the administrative headquarters of the Kannur District and situated 518 km north of the state capital Thiruvananthapuram. During British rule in India, Kannur was known as Cannanore, a name that is still in use by the Indian Railways. Kannur is the largest city of North Malabar region. As of 2011 census population of Kannur was 2,32,486. Kannur is one of the million-plus urban agglomerations in India with a population of 1,642,892 in 2011.

Kerala State in southern India

Kerala is a state on the southwestern, Malabar Coast of India. It was formed on 1 November 1956, following passage of the States Reorganisation Act, by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), Kerala is the twenty second largest Indian state by area. It is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea and Arabian Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest Indian state by population. It is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.

Ooty Hill station in Tamil Nadu, India

Udagamandalam, and abbreviated as Udhagai or Ooty, (listen  is a town and a municipality in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. It is located 86 km north of Coimbatore and 128 km south of Mysore and is the capital of the Nilgiris district. It is a popular hill station located in the Nilgiri Hills.

Film career

Though he started as a hero, Nambiar Guruswami soon started donning the role of a villain — so much so that today his name is synonymous with villainy in Kollywood. Nambiar swami has worked with seven generations of actors. His first pay was Rs.3 with Boys Company. He would retain Rs.1 and send Rs.2 to his mother. A man of very limited needs, he has never eaten food not cooked by his wife, Rugmini Nambiar.

He made quite a statement in the early 50s with his portrayal of 11 roles in Digambara Samiyar, one of his films as the Lead. His arresting performance in films such as Manthiri Kumari , Velaikaari , Ayirathil Oruvan , Thillana Mohanambal , Missiyamma and Nenjam Marappadillai paved way for a very successful career that spanned over five decades. [2]

<i>Digambara Samiyar</i> 1950 Indian Tamil film directed by T. R. Sundaram

Digambara Samiyar is 1950 Indian Tamil Thriller film directed by T. R. Sundaram and produced under his own production company Modern Theatres. The film was inspired by Vaduvoor K. Duraisamy Ayyangar's novel Digambara Samiyar. The film script was written by Vaduvoor K. Duraisamy Ayyangar, Ko. Tha. Shanmuga Sundaram and Sinorino. Music was by G. Ramanathan and S. M. Subbaiah Naidu. The film starred M. N. Nambiar and D. Balasubramaniam playing lead roles, with M. S. Draupadi, P. V. Narasimha Bharathi V. K. Ramasamy T. K. Ramachandran and M. G. Chakrapani playing supporting roles. Digambara Samiyar was a hit at the box office. One of Vadoovur K. Duraisamy Ayyangar's most successful novels was Digambara Samiyar.

<i>Manthiri Kumari</i> 1950 film by Ellis R. Dungan

Manthiri Kumari is a 1950 Indian Tamil-language historical fiction film directed by Ellis R. Dungan and starring M. G. Ramachandran, M. N. Nambiar. The title of the film is on the character of Amudhvalli, which was played by Madhuri Devi.This film had limited scope for the heroine of M.G.R and hence G. Shakuntala was paired opposite M.G.R. The screen play was written by M. Karunanidhi based on an incident from the Tamil epic Kundalakesi. This was the last Tamil film directed by Dungan and is considered to be among the most successful films of that decade. Shortly after directing this film, Dungan left the Tamil film industry and did not direct Tamil films again. Singer T. M. Soundararajan sang for very first time for Ramachandran in this film.

<i>Aayirathil Oruvan</i> (1965 film) 1965 film by B. R. Panthulu

Aayirathil Oruvan is a 1965 Indian Tamil-language action-adventure film produced and directed by B. R. Panthulu. Starring M. G. Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa in the lead roles, the film also stars M. N. Nambiar, R. S. Manohar, Nagesh and Madhavi Krishnan. It was a critical and a commercial success, and ran for more than 100 days in Chennai theatres and other cities. A digitised version of the film was released in 2014 and ran for 190 days.

A majority of the more than 1000 films that he has done is in Tamil, though he has acted in Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi, besides an English film `Jungle' (with Rod Cameron, the film's hero, directed by William Burke) in which he appears in a few brief scenes. The film was released in 1952. The Hindi film he acted in was a remake of the Tamil Kanavane Kankanda Deivam. After becoming popular in Tamil films he started his own drama troupe called Nambiar Nataka Mandram. They staged two plays — `Kaviyin Kanavu' and a comedy play `Kalyana Supermarket.'

Nambiar swami was that rare contradictory personality - a cruel, charming villain on the silver screen while being a very pious man in real life. He was also a pure vegetarian and teetotaler. He was also an ardent devotee of Sabarimala Sri Ayyappan. He has had a long association with the temple, and visited the shrine more than 65 times over the last half a century; this has led to him being called Maha Guruswamy. His colleagues noted that he died during the famous Sabarimala season and it may be due to the blessing of his Lord. [3]

Ayyappan Hindu god of growth

Ayyappan is the Hindu god of growth, particularly popular in Kerala. He is a syncretic deity, the son of Shiva and Mohini – the female avatar of Vishnu. Ayyappan is also referred to as Ayyappa, Sastavu, Hariharaputra, Manikanta, Shasta or Dharma Shasta.

His favourite films remain `Aayirathil Oruvan' with MGR, `Ambikapathi' with Sivaji Ganesan, `Missiyamma' with Gemini Ganesan, `Nenjam Marappathillai' directed by Sridhar and `Thooral Ninu Pochu' with Bhagyaraj. This was the film that made him do character roles, something that he continued to do till his death. He also acted as hero in two films `Kalyani' and `Kavitha' produced by Modern Theaters. He has done stage, films and also acted on TV dramas like 'Oviyam' and Velan. When it comes to acting, he supposedly likes all the actors; but of special mention are M. R. Radha and Savitri. Both, in his opinion, were brilliant in their own way.

M. R. Radha Indian actor

Madras Rajagopalan Radhakrishnan, popularly known by his stage name, M. R. Radha, was an Indian film actor and politician who served as the opposition leader of the tamilnadu legislative assembly. He was given the title of "Nadigavel" by E.V.R. Periyar in a stage, for his acting prowess. After a successful career on stage in his early years, he acted in films from the 1930s to the 1970s, and then, giving up films, he went back to his first love, the stage.

Savitri (actress) Indian actress

Savitri Ramasamy was an Indian film actress, playback singer, dancer, director and producer known for her works primarily in Telugu cinema and Tamil cinema. She is also known for her works in Kannada, Malayalam and bollywood. Savitri's first significant role was in the 1952 Telugu film Pelli Chesi Choodu. In 1960, she received the Rashtrapati Award for her performance in the Telugu film Chivaraku Migiledi. In 1968, she produced and directed the Telugu film Chinnari Papalu, for which she received the state Nandi Award for Best Feature Film (Silver). She often referred as "Mahanati" and "Nadigaiyar Thilagam".

Partial filmography

1935Bhaktha RamadasTamilDebut film as a comedian
1946 Vidyapathi Tamil
1947 Rajakumaari Tamil
1948 Abhimanyu Tamil
1949 Velaikaari Tamil
1950 Manthiri Kumari TamilRajaguru
Digambara Samiyar Tamil
1951 Marmayogi Tamil
Sarvadhikari TamilRemake of The Gallant Blade [4]
Jungle English
1953 Petrathai Tamil
Kanna Talli TeluguSankar
Azhagi Tamil
1954 Mangalyam TamilGopi
1955 Guna Sundari Tamil
Doctor Savithri Tamil
Pennarasi TamilMinister
1956 Amara Deepam Tamil
1957 Makkalai petra magaraasi Tamil
Mayabazar Tamil Shakuni
Thangamalai Ragasiyam TamilKing Adithan
Ambikapathy Tamil
Pathini Deivam Tamil
1958 Uthama Puthiran Tamil
Nadodi Mannan Tamil
Illarame Nallaram Tamil
1959 Bhagapirivinai Tamil
1961 Arasilangkumari Tamil
Pasamalar Tamil
Nenjam Marappathillai Tamil
1965 Enga Veetu Pillai Tamil
1965 Aayirathil Oruvan Tamil
1966 Anbe Vaa Tamil
Thali Bhagyam Tamil
Nadodi Tamil
Naan AanaiyitalTamil
1968 Ragasiya Police 115 Tamil
Kudiyirundha Koyil TamilBhoopathy
Pudhiya Bhoomi Tamil
En Thambi Tamil
Thillana Mohanambal TamilMaharaja of Madhanpur
1969 Sivandha Mann Tamil
1970 En Annan Tamil
Thalaivan Tamil
1971 Thangaikkaaga Tamil
Kulama Gunama Tamil
Savaale Samali Tamil
1973 Raja Raja Cholan Tamil
Ponnunjal Tamil
Pattikaattu Ponnaiya Tamil
1975 Mannavan Vanthaanadi Tamil
Pallandu Vazhga Tamil
Ninaithadhai Mudippavan Tamil
1976 Satyam Tamil
1978Thacoli Ambu Malayalam
Varuvan Vadivelan Tamil
1979 Avesham MalayalamShekhar
Nadagame UlagamTamil
Mamankam Malayalam
Thirisoolam Tamil
1980 Chandra Bimbam Malayalam
Arangum AniyarayumMalayalam
Ratha Paasam Tamil
Shakthi Malayalam
Guru Tamil
1981 Garjanai Tamil
Thadavara Malayalam
1982 Chilanthivala MalayalamShekhar
Thooral Ninnu Pochu Tamil
Parvaiyin Marupakkam Tamil
1983 Thai Veedu Tamil
Dowry Kalyanam Tamil
Sandhippu Tamil
Saatchi Tamil
1984 Vaazhkai Tamil
Naan Mahaan Alla Tamil
Simma Soppanam Tamil
Vetri Tamil
1985 Eetti Tamil
1986 Karimedu Karuvayan Tamil
Nambinar Keduvathillai Tamil
Mella Thirandhathu Kadhavu Tamil
1987 Velundu Vinaiyillai Tamil
Jallikattu Tamil
1988 Thambi Thanga Kambi Tamil
1989 Paattukku Oru Thalaivan Tamil
Meenakshi Thiruvilayadal Tamil
1990 Pulan Visaranai Tamil
Paattali Magan Tamil
Paalam Tamil
Avasara Police 100 Tamil
1991 Enga Ooru Sippai Tamil
Captain Prabhakaran Tamil
Maanagara Kaaval Tamil
1992 Thai Mozhi Tamil
Kaviya Thalaivan Tamil
1993 Yejaman Tamil
Ezhai Jaathi Tamil
Gentleman Tamil
Nallathe Nadakkum Tamil
Thanga Pappa Tamil
1994 Sethupathi IPS Tamil
Paasamalargal Tamil
Periya Marudhu Tamil
1995 Karuppu Nila Tamil
1996 Poove Unakkaga Tamil
1997 Vallal Tamil
1998 Moovendhar Tamil
Poonthottam Tamil
1999 Endrendrum Kadhal Tamil
Rojavanam Tamil
Pooparika Varugirom Tamil
2001 Sharja To Sharja Malayalam
Vinnukkum Mannukkum Tamil
2002 Varushamellam Vasantham Tamil
Baba TamilBaba's maternal uncle
Winner TamilVelayutham
2004 Arasatchi Tamil
2005 Anbe Aaruyire Tamil
2006 Sudesi Tamil



Nambiar suffered from bacterial infection and died at his residence in Chennai on 19 November 2008. As his last act on Earth, he looked at his wife (the woman he loved above all) one final time & then slowly closed his eyes. He was survived by his wife Rugmini Amma, 2 sons — one, a senior BJP leader Sukumar Nambiar, and the other, Mohan Nambiar, a prominent businessman based in Coimbatore and a daughter, Sneha Nambiar. His eldest son Sukumar Nambiar died on 8 January 2012 aged 63 and later his wife Rugmini Amma also died on 11 April 2012 aged 82.

Chennai Megacity in Tamil Nadu, India

Chennai is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, it is the biggest cultural, economic and educational centre of south India. According to the 2011 Indian census, it is the sixth most populous city and fourth-most populous urban agglomeration in India. The city together with the adjoining regions constitute the Chennai Metropolitan Area, which is the 36th-largest urban area by population in the world. Chennai is among the most visited Indian cities by foreign tourists. It was ranked the 43rd most visited city in the world for the year 2015. The Quality of Living Survey rated Chennai as the safest city in India. Chennai attracts 45 percent of health tourists visiting India, and 30 to 40 percent of domestic health tourists. As such, it is termed "India's health capital". As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Chennai confronts substantial pollution and other logistical and socio-economic problems.


"If there was anyone who could act with both the top heroes (Sivaji Ganesan and M. G. R.) of Tamil cinema then, it was Nambiar. At one point, directors could not think of anyone else but him to play villain."

"This is a very big loss...you cannot find a human being like him easily."

"He was a villain only when the camera got rolling...otherwise, he’d always keep us laughing with his ready wit,"

"In ‘Nenjam Marappadillai,’ he plays a really old man...the makeup would take hours together, but he would be extremely patient. His skin was flawless and almost pink...he took great care of his health."

"Nambiar swami was responsible for taking most of us in the industry to Sabarimalai"

"I have acted with him in several films. He would be very jovial and enthusiastic on the sets. When one worked with him, one forgot the burden of work. He was very fond of me and I always had great regard and respect for him. His passing away is a great loss indeed."

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  1. Mohan V. Raman (16 November 2010). "Reel villain, real hero". Chennai, India: The Hindu. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  2. http://www.thehindu.com/2000/09/29/stories/09290226.htm
  3. "A handsome villain". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 20 November 2008.
  4. "Sarvadhikari 1951". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 25 October 2008.