He won the ‘Best Actor’ award at the 1960 Afro-Asian film festival, the first Indian actor to win one at an international fest. He hailed from Tamil Nadu and dominated Tamil cinema for over five decades. His career comprises of 283 incredible films, and he was intensely popular for remembering entire scripts after glancing at them by his eidetic memory. His legacy has influenced several actors in the region, and he holds 12 President Awards for ‘Best Actor’ to his name. He won the highest award for an artist, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, in 1997. He was aptly titled as the ‘Marlon Brando of the Indian film industry’ by the Los Angeles Times.
He had done over 114 films, and was cast as the solo lead in 92 of those. He received a Padma Bhushan from the Indian government and was virtually one of India’s first superstars, and certainly the most influential one. He is also an awardee of the Dadasaheb Phalke award.
He starred in nearly 70 films in his career that towered over four decades. He also starred in the Oscar-nominated film Mother India.
Fondly called Dadamoni; his six-decade career has left an unmatched legacy for Indian actors. His movies broke all existing box office records, and his film Kismet was the first film to gross over one Crore. His versatility enabled him to maintain his acting panache for both his roles as the protagonist and the antagonist along with character roles for which he is still intensely popular among artists even today. He is especially revered for pioneering the concept of natural acting.
5. M. R. Radha
A theatre actor till the end, His performance years started in the 1930s and reached up to the 1950s. He was titled as ‘Nadigavel’ by E.V.R. Periyar for his acting.
He starred in a plethora of roles ranging from the comic roles to the antagonist one in an enormous career of over a thousand films during his 50 years acting career. He earned the sobriquet ’Jerry Lewis of India’ for his similarities to the Hollywood actor.
7. M. G. Ramchandran
Master of many trades; a politician, an actor, director, and a producer; he remains one of the most iconic and influential actors of Tamil cinema. He led the industry for three decades since he started in lead roles in the 1940s and was elected as the chief minister of the state for three consecutive terms.
8. M. N. Nambiar
One of the most spiritual actors of his time, his name was synonymous with that of the antagonist in Tamil films for over 50 years.
A very prolific actor, his work in over 200 movies spanning four decades popularized him as a lead actor in mainstream Hollywood pictures.
He rose to fame for his portrayal of ‘Narad Muni’ in mythological depictions in the 1950s. In the following decades, he primarily played the role of the villain till the 1980s.