Padmashri Sukumari
Born (1940-10-06)6 October 1940
Nagercoil,[1] Southern Division, Travancore
Died 26 March 2013(2013-03-26) (aged 72)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Occupation Actress
Years active 1950–2013
Religion Hindu
Spouse(s) A. Bhimsingh (1959–1978)
Children Dr. Suresh Bhimsingh
Parent(s) Madhavan Nair, Sathyabhama Amma
Awards Kerala State Best Supporting Actress
1974: Various films
1978: Various films
1985: Arappatta Kettiya Gramathil

Sukumari (6 October 1940[2] – 26 March 2013) was an Indian film actress best known for her work in Malayalam and Tamil films.

She began acting at the age of 10.[3] In 2003, she was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India for her contributions toward the arts.[4] She won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the Tamil film Namma Gramam (2010).[5]

Sukumari died on 26 March 2013, following a heart attack while under treatment for burn injuries she received while lighting the pooja lamp at her residence in Chennai.[6]

Early life

Sukumari was born on 6 October 1940 in Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, to Malayali parents Madhavan Nair (a bank manager) and Sathyabhama Amma of Tharishuthala Valia Veedu in Kalkulam. Sathyabhama Amma was the niece of Narayani Pillai Kunjamma,a famous beauty who spurned the king in favour of marrying the aristocratic landowner Kesava Pillai of Kandamath[7] Through her cousin, Ambika, she is related to the Travancore Royal Family.

She studied at Poojappura LP School until second grade; she then moved to Madras, where she studied until fourth forum.[8] She had four sisters (Rajakumari, Sreekumari, Jayasree and Girija) and one brother.


She left home at a young age to study dance with her aunt (Kunjamma) Saraswathi Amma in Chennai, alongside her first cousins the Travancore Sisters: Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini (their mothers were sisters). She learned dance with the sisters and mastered dance forms like Kerala Natanam, Kathakali, Bharathanatyam etc.Before moving to Chennai she started learning dance from her Valiyamma Karthyani Amma. She went for an all-India tour with the sisters.

Sukumari was noticed by a director when she visited the sets of a film with Padmini, and she made her film debut in the lead role in the Tamil film Or Iravu.[9] She acted in various Malayalam films of the black and white era, like Udhyogastha by P. Venu, Chettathi, Kusruthikkuttan, Kunjali Marakkar, Thacholi Othenan, Yakshi and Karinizhal. She later became popular after starring in various films of Priyadarshan like Poochakkoru Mookkuthi, Oodarathuammava Aalariyam, Boeing Boeing and Vandanam. She also appeared in various films directed by Balachandra Menon like Manicheppu Thurannappol and Karyam Nissaram.[9] In later years she played a major role in Nizhalkuthu (2002) directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan.[10] She played many notable mother roles. She acted in films in Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi, Simhala, Oriya and Bengali, and used her own voice in all languages without using dubbing artists.

She starred in many television serials in Malayalam and Tamil, including Swapnam, Thulabharam, Swamiye Saranamayyappa, Madhavam, Daivathinu Swantham Devootty, Vandanam, Mayamma, Sreeguruvaayoorappan, Malakhamar, Aakashadhoothu, Velankanni Mathavu, Megham, Manasi, Amma Thamburaatti, Amme Devi, Swarnamayooram, Avicharitham, Thalolam, Manthrakodi, Coimbatore Ammayi and so on. She appeared in many serials by Sreekumaran Thampi. She appeared in some advertisements and albums. She was a good singer. She conducted few concerts. She participated in many stage shows, cultural programmes, public functions,performances and talk shows. She served as a judge on various popular reality shows, including Minnum Tharam, Idea Star Singer both on Asianet, Comedy Festival on Mazhavil Manorama, Amma Ammayiyamma and Pachaka Rani both on Kairali TV. She acted in many short films, including the popular Sheetha Kaattu. Her Bengali movie with Gopi Krishna included seven dance numbers. She learned to play some musical instruments in her childhood including the Mridangam and Veena. She had featured in many Sinhala movies as a dancer. From the age of seven years, she danced on stages throughout India, U.S.A., Singapore, Malaysia, Ceylon, etc. She performed in different troupes like "Dances of India" along with the Travancore Sisters (Lalitha, Padmini, Ragini), Pushpanjali: Along with Mrs. Raja Sulochana (film artiste) did more than 5000 stage shows, Kuchala Kumari Troupe: Did about 1000 stage shows. She was an active stage drama artiste for the past 40 years in MR.Y.G. Parthasarathy Troupe (1000 stage shows), Viveka Fine Arts Club: More than 5000 stage shows, directed by Cho. Ramaswamy. She attended many cultural stage shows all over the world in places like Singapore, Malaysia, Ceylon, Dubai, U.S.A., Germany, etc.Awards named "Sukumari Smaraka Puraskaram" and "Faema Sukumari Puraskaram" have been instituted in her memory.

Personal life

Sukumari married director A. Bhimsingh in 1959. He died in 1978. She was 38 when her husband died. The couple had a son, Suresh, who has acted in films like Amme Narayana, Yuvajanotsavam, and Cheppu, and is a professional doctor. Suresh got married to Uma, a costume designer. Suresh and Uma have a son named Vignesh.[11] Malayalam actors Ambika Sukumaran, Vineeth, Shobana and Krishna are her relatives.


On 26 March 2013, Sukumari died from a cardiac arrest at a hospital in Chennai where she was receiving treatments for burns she had sustained while lighting a traditional lamp at her residence in February 2013.[6][12][13][14]


Following her death, several South Indian personalities offered their condolences. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who had co-starred with Sukumari, said in a condolence message that Sukumari had left a unique imprint on South Indian cinema and theatre with her talents. Kerala's Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy called Sukumari a "phenomenon in Malayalam cinema". Actor and Minister for Cinema K.B. Ganesh Kumar said actors in the Malayalam film industry had lost "the loving presence of a mother in the sets". Leader of the Opposition V. S. Achuthanandan called Sukumari's death a "huge loss for Indian cinema". Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala said Sukumari would be remembered for "the diversity of characters that she gave life to". Communist Party of India State Secretary Pannian Ravindran said Sukumari was "an unforgettable acting genius". Union Minister of State for Food and Consumer Affairs K. V. Thomas described Sukumari as an actor who conquered the film scene with her unique acting style.[15] South Indian Film Artistes Association president R. Sarathkumar remembered the actor as being an inspiration to others. Actor and renowned television producer Raadhika Sarathkumar recalled Sukumari's many dance performances.[16] Actor and president of Association of Malayalam Movie Artists Innocent said at a condolence meeting at Kochi that her death was an irreparable loss to Malayalam film industry. South Indian film star Mohanlal likened her death to the loss of "a mother, sister and a good friend". Speaker G. Karthikeyan also expressed grief at her death.[17] Director Shaji Kailas deemed her loss an "irreparable one for the film industry".[18]

Partial filmography

Main article: Sukumari filmography

Awards and honours

Year Award Category Film Language Role
2003 Civilian awards Padma Shri
2011 National Film Awards Best Supporting Actress Namma Gramam Tamil Ammini Ammal
1974 Kerala State Film Awards Second Best Actress Chattakkari Malayalam Margarette (Maggie)
1979 Kerala State Film Awards Second Best Actress Various films Malayalam
1983 Kerala State Film Awards Second Best Actress Koodevide,Karyam Nissaram Malayalam Dr.Susan,Annie
1986 Kerala State Film Awards Second Best Actress Arappatta Kettiya Gramathil Malayalam Devaki
1990 Tamil Nadu State Film Awards Kalai Selvam Award Tamil
1991-1992 Tamil Nadu State Film Awards Kalaimamani Award Tamil
2000 Tamil Nadu State Film Awards Sivaji Ganesan Award Tamil
2005 Filmfare Awards Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award
1998 Asianet Film Awards Best Supporting Actress Samaantharangal Malayalam Aishu
2005 Asianet Film Awards Lifetime Achievement Award Malayalam,Tamil, Telugu & Kannada
2006 Asianet Film Awards Best Supporting Actress Malayalam
1979 Kerala Film Critics Award Best Supporting Actress Ezhunirangal Malayalam Sharada's mother
1982 Kerala Film Critics Award Best Supporting Actress Chiriyo Chiri Malayalam Sukumari (Herself)
1985 Kerala Film Critics Award Best Supporting Actress Arappatta Kettiya Gramathil Malayalam Devaki
Kerala Film Critics Award Chalachithra Ratnam Malayalam
2000 Kerala Film Critics Award Sprcial Award for Contribution to the Film Industry Malayalam
2011 Kerala Film Critics Award Chalachitra Pratibha Malayalam
1967 Kerala Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Various films Malayalam
1974 Kerala Film Critics Association Awards Special Award Chattakkari Malayalam Margarette (Maggie)
1980 Kerala Film Critics Association Awards Best Character Actress Malayalam
1981 Kerala Film Critics Association Awards Best Character Actress Malayalam
1971 Films Fans Association Awards – Madras Best Supporting Actress Thoraimugam Tamil
1974 Films Fans Association Awards – Madras Best Supporting Actress Chattakkari Malayalam Margarette (Maggie)
1997 Prachodanam Award
2000 Gulf Malayalee Cine Awards All Rounder of the Millennium Malayalam
2001 Kala Kairali Awards Special Award
2001 Dubai Kairali Kala Kendra Association Award Lifetime Achievement Award
2002 Bharath Cine Awards Tamil Thirai Ulaga Sagapthangal Tamil
2003 Parvathypadmam Puraskaram Lifetime Achievement Award
2004 Kerala Woman Beauticians Association: TV Serial Award Best Character Artist Avicharitham Malayalam
2007 SICA Award Lifetime Achievement Award
2007 P.S. John Endownment Award
2007 Malayala Chalachithra Parishad Lifetime Achievement Award Malayalam
2007 Ernakulam Press Club Award Lifetime Achievement Award Malayalam
2007 Kala Abu Dhabi Award Kala Ratnam Award
2007 Prem Nazir Award Malayalam
2008 Mathrubhumi Amrita Film Awards Lifetime Achievement Award Malayalam
2008 Nippon Paints Award Lifetime Achievement Award
2009 Telefest Award Best Actress Mizhikal Sakshi Malayalam Kooniamma/Nabisa
2009 Atlas Critic Award Malayalam
2011 Bahadoor Award Malayalam
2011 Act Puraskaram Malayalam
Sangeetha, UK Award Abhinava Puraskaram
Trichur Nagar Sabha Award Jangiya Award Malayalam
Prashasthi Pathram Acting with two generation actors in different languages
Kala Kairali, Chennai Award Abhinaya Bharathi
2002 Soorya Stage & Film Society Honour Felicitation for Outstanding Contribution to Indian Cinema
2002 Gurupooja, Soorya Festival Special Honour Lifetime Achievement
Honour by Kaniyapuram Rail View Residence Association
ICCI Honour
2012 Honour by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry
2013 Honour by Friends of Arts & Culture Entertainments (FACE Dubai)

See also


  2. "സുകുമാരി അന്തരിച്ചു". Mathrubhumi. 2013-03-26.
  3. Article - The Hindu Archived 7 May 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  5. "National Film awards winners 2010". Bada Screen. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  6. 1 2 "South Indian Actress Sukumari passes away". The Week. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  7. Kerala Council for Historical research Family History Papers Tharishuthala by K. K. N
  9. 1 2 Before moving to Chennai she started learning dance from her Valiyamma Karthyaniyamma. Archived 22 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. Archived 22 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. Malayala Manoram Online Edition, 27 March 2013
  12. "Actor Sukumari succumbs to burns". The Hindu. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  13. "Sukumari, veteran Malayalam actress, dies". Times of India. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  14. Gopi, Vinod (27 March 2013). "Ammavilikannanju: Sukumari Inni Orma". Malayala Manorama.
  15. "Grief over Sukumari's death". The Hindu. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  16. "Actor Sukumari succumbs to burns". The Hindu. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  17. "Actor and Padma Shri awardee Sukumari passes away". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  18. "Actress Sukumari's funeral to be held in Chennai today". IBN Live. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
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