N. Viswanathan

N. Viswanathan
Born Viswanathan
Vellore, Madras Presidency, India
Died 17 November 2010 (aged 8081)
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Years active 1963–2010
Spouse(s) Paramita
Children Ashoke Viswanathan

N. Viswanathan (1929 – 17 November 2010), popularly known as Calcutta Viswanathan in the Tamil film industry, was an Indian actor and academic. A Tamilian by birth, he moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata) at a young age and taught English at St. Xavier's College, Calcutta for more than 40 years. Viswanathan was also a well-known public speaker.[1] He made his acting debut in Mrinal Sen's Punascha and continued to act in Bengali films.[2] In a career that spanned 40 years, Viswanathan appeared in nearly 100 films in Bengali, Tamil and English. He was a member several theatre groups and also formed the "Calcutta Players", an acting troupe.[2]


Early life

Born into a Tamil family in Vellore, Viswanathan moved to Kolkata, West Bengal at an early age. He was educated at St. Xavier's College, Kolkata and joined the same college as a professor in English.[3] He had great command over English and Bengali languages, and was particularly well known for his British accent.[4] Viswanthan was also a public speaker who participated in numerous debates and won accolades for India.[5] He also has a short stint with Doordarshan, Kolkata.[4]

Entry into films

While teaching at the college, he was offered a role in Punascha (1961), a Bengali film directed by Mrinal Sen. The film received a certificate of Merit for Third Best Feature Film in Bengali.[6] Viswanathan then got a chance to act in another Bengali film titled Kanchenjungha (1962), directed by Satyajit Ray. The film had the distinction of being the first original screenplay and first colour film of Ray.[7] Viswanathan received critical acclaim for his role in both the films. He became a favourite of Ray for his "urban [and] sophisticated image".[4]

After the release of these two films, Viswanathan got numerous offers in Bengali, Tamil and English languages. He entered the Tamil film industry in the 1970s and acted in films such as Lalitha, Mogam Muppadhu Varusham and Moondru Mudichu, alongside prominent actors. Other Tamil films released during the period include Kavari Maan and Balu Mahendra's Moodu Pani, where he was cast in a prominent role.

Viswanathan was well known for his "pipe-smoking", a style which he adopted in most of the films.[4]

Theatre group

Viswanathan was also a member of Utpal Dutt's "People's Little Theatre" (PLT), and later formed his own group named "Calcutta Players".[4]


Viswanathan had prolonged illness for a long time before his death.[3] He died at the age of 81 at his "Sarat Bose" residence in Kolkata on 17 November 2010.[3] He is survived by his wife Paramita, a son and a grand daughter. His son Ashoke Viswanathan is a film maker.[3]

Partial filmography


  1. Special Correspondent (18 November 2010). "Professor Viswanathan passes away". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  2. 1 2 "Noted professor, acclaimed actor". The Times of India. 18 November 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Actor N Viswanathan dies at 81". The Indian Express. 18 November 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Veteran actor N Viswanathan dead". Rediff.com. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  5. Chaki, Rohini (3 January 2008). "In the spell of words". The Telegraph (Calcutta). Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  6. "9th National Film Awards". Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  7. Robinson 2003, p. 142


  • Robinson, A (2003). Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye: The Biography of a Master Film-Maker. I. B. Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-965-3. 
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