Baby Saroja, child star of yesteryear, dies at 88

Baby Saroja, the child superstar of yesteryear, who shot to fame with films like Balayogini and Tyagabhumi, died on Monday. She was 88.

The first daughter of of K. Viswanathan (brother of famous director K. Subramanyam) and Alamelu, she was born in 1931 and was introduced by her uncle Subramanyam in three films as a child star.

Wearing a wide vibrant smile and a smocking frock, the child floored everyone with her lullaby Kanne Paapa in 1937 from Balayogini and became such a sensation that several babies born that year were named after her. This set the stage for her second film, Tyagabhumi, from Kalki Krishnamurthy, where she would work alongside many famous stars of the era, including Papanasam Sivan.

The Hindu, in a review of the film in 1939 wrote: “Acting honours go to Baby Saroja (no more a baby, but a cheery vivacious girl) who is at home acting or dancing. Her actions are expressive and her movements spontaneous.” She danced for the Tamil version of Krishna Nee Begane Baro written by Papanasam Sivan and sung by her mother.

At the age of nine, she reportedly already had fans in Japan and colour postcards of her were printed there.

Two years later, she bagged Kamadhenu, directed by Bombay-based Nandlal Jaswantlal who also made films like Nagin and Anarkali. It was not just films however, as she tried her hand at other arts and even excelled in them.

Not just an actor

Baby Saroja learnt to play the veena under Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer.

After moving to Mumbai (formerly Bombay), she went on to master Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement.

Even at 70, she wouldn’t stop and trained under S. Rajam in painting.

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