Entertainment

Comediennes who made Tamil cinema bright

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Can the current comediennes fill the vacuum created by T.A. Madhuram, M. Saroja and 'Aachi' Manorama?

Like comedians, their woman counterparts too had dominated the Tamil film industry for a long time. The pioneer was T.A. Madhuram, who made her debut after marrying popular comedian N.S.Krishnan. The duo dominated the silver screen in 1930s. Her quick wit, matching that of NSK's, evoked thunderous peals of laughter.

During the period 1936 to 1957 the couple had acted as pair in over 100 films. The memorable ones include ' Vasanthasena', ' Chandrakantha' and ' Sakunthala.'

There were many comediennes who followed her footsteps, but it can be stated assertively that only artistes such as M. Saroja and ' Aaachi' Manorama made their presence felt equally as hers.

M. Saroja, wife of popular comedian "Danaal" Thangavelu, was introduced by Director K. Subramaniam when she was just 14 years old. She played the role of MGR's cousin in " Sarvadhikari." Later, she acted in more than 300 films in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Kannada. On the 100th day celebration of " Kalyana Parisu", Saroja and Thangavelu got married in a Madurai temple.

Her milestone movies were " Kalyana Parisu" and " Arivali." Her role as India in " Arivali" is a memorable one.

Another comedienne who dominated the 1940s is T.P. Muthulakshmi. She was one of the prominent lead comedienne during that period. She has acted in around 350 movies. In "Arivali", she is paired with "Danaal" Thangavelu and their comedy was a big hit. In one scene, Thangavelu explaining to her how to make Poori and the way she responding with the dialogue "Adhaan enakku theriyume" was hilarious. Muthulakshmi memorable movies are "Arivali", "Nadodi Mannan", and "Vallavanakku Vallavan".

During the 1940s and 1960s C.T. Rajakantham made her debut in ' Sabapathy.' In her early movies, she formed a successful comedy pair with her husband Kali N. Rathnam. A memorable movie of Rajakantham is " Madras to Pondicherry."

'Sachu', a versatile actor, made her debut as a child artiste in " Rani" and filled the vacuum created by Baby Saroja with her performance.

Sachu made her debut in Tamil cinema as a heroine in " Veera Thirumagan" opposite C.L. Anandan. After that she started playing the role of a comedienne. One cannot forget her role in " Kadhalikka Neramillai" opposite Nagesh.

She has acted in more than 500 films and in five different languages. Her other memorable movies are " Sorgam", and " Ooty Varai Uravu." In 2000, she moved to TV serials and has played prominent roles in " Manbumigu Mayor", " Costly Mappillay", and " Veetukku Veedu Looty".

And then the Tamil cinema witnessed the arrival of a phenomenal multi-talented artiste — 'Aaachi' Manorama. She made her debut initially as a heroine in 1958 in " Maalayitta Mangai." She then moved to comedy roles.

Her presence with eminent comedian Nagesh saw humour at its pinnacle in Tamil films between 1960 and 1969. Teaming up with 'Cho' Ramaswamy in the 1970s and 80s and later with Thengai Srinivasan, Venniradai Moorthy, and Suruli Rajan in the 70s and 80s, 'Aaachi' rode high in the world of comedy.

Manorama acted alongside Nagesh in 50 films and in 20 films with 'Cho' Ramaswamy. In 1974, she shared the screen space with legendary comedian Mehmood in Hindi movie " Kunwara Baap."

Manorama, who acted in more than 1,500 films, dominated films with her acting skills despite the presence of male stalwarts in them. Some of her best films include " Anbe Vaa", " Thenmazhi", " Ethir Neechal", " Galatta Kalyanam". One can never forget her role as ' Jil Jil Ramamani' in " Thillana Mohanambal." She was on a par with Sivaji Ganesan and Padmini in the film with her acting.

Manorama changed her style of acting from comedy to character artiste after K. Balachander's " Unnal Mudiyum Thambi." ' Aachi' had acted with MGR and Sivaji in the beginning of her career. Later, she has had performances with Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Prabhu and Karthik.

'Aachi' also made her presence felt with later generation actors till her death.

'Aachi', the Legend

Affectionately referred to as ‘Aachi’, actor Manorama's performance matched and sometimes bettered the lead actors of her movies.

Manorama with Cho Ramaswamy in 'Onne Onnu Kanne Kannu'. The song that established her as a singer, 'Vaa vadhyaare ootanda', was sung with Cho.

Manorama shares screen space with Nagesh and Sowcar Janaki in 'Ethir Neechal'. Nagesh is said to have once remarked that Manorama could eat him for lunch.

Thengai Srinivasan's 'Madras Tamil' had only one match - Manorama could out-talk him when it came down to it. Here, a still from 'Kaasethan Kadavulada'.

But perhaps her breakout role was as the unforgettable Karuppayee-turned Jil Jil Ramamani turned Rojarani of 'Thillana Mohanambal'. In fact, Cho is said to have remarked that Manorama was the "female Sivaji Ganesan".

With the next gen - Manorama with Kamal Haasan in 'Michael Madana Kama Rajan'.

Who's the superstar? - Manorama with Rajinikanth in 'Billa'.

Manorama with M.G.R. in 'Anbe Vaa'.

Manorama with Jayalalithaa in 'Kandan Karunai'.

NTR was one of three Chief Ministers Manorama acted with.

>Fact File

  • One of Manorama's biggest achievements, was, perhaps, combing well with all of the lead comedians across five different generations.
  • M.R.Radha, Nagesh, Thengai Srinivasan, Janagaraj, Pandia Rajan, Goundamani and Senthil, Vivek and Vadivelu - she has worked with them all.
  • She has acted with three legendary actors who would all go on to become Chief Ministers - M.G.Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa and N.T.Rama Rao. She has also appeared in plays written by two former Chief Ministers - C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi.
  • She went on to sing under every music director even as she was leaving her mark in the film industry as a comedian. For A.R. Rahman, she sang 'Madrasai Suthi Paarka Poren' for the film May Matham.
  • She was caught in a rare controversy when she campaigned against actor Rajinikanth in support of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the 1996 elections.

She has also shared screen space with popular 90's comedians Goundamani and Senthil in several films. Seen here in a picture from 'Chinna Gounder', where she also acted with Vijayakant.

'Madrasa Suthi Paaka Poren' - the iconic song in May Madham sung by Manorama for A.R.Rahman.

She played a pivotal character in the Telugu blockbuster 'Arundhati', sharing screen space with Anushka Shetty.

She is also one of those rare actors who has acted with current film stars. Here, with Suriya in an image from 'Perazhagan'.



It was Kovai Sarala who made it bog after Manorama. She got her first film offer when she was in 9th standard and acted with Vijayakumar and K.R. Vijaya in '' Velli Ratham.'' She was in Class 10, when she played a 32-year-old pregnant woman in '' Mundhanai Mudichu'', her second film. She played a 65-year-old mother in Bhagyaraj's " Chinna Veedu".

After that, Kovai Sarala showed her comedy skills in many films. She paired with S.S. Chandran, Goundamani, Senthil, Vadivelu and many other actors. " Japanil Kalyanaraman", " Thangamani Rangamani" made her popular. Director V. Sekar gave her important character-cum-comedy roles in his movies like " Viralukketha Veekkam" and " Koodi Vazhnthal Kodi Nanmai".

Kovai Sarala once told reporters that her dream was to act in a movie pairing Kamal Haasan. Her dream came true with the release of " Sathi Leelavathi" where she and Kamal dominated the frames.

Some of her memorable movies are " Viswanathan Ramamoorthy", " Kandha Kadamba Kathirvela", " Muni" and " Aranmanai" series. She tried to do the role of 'Sowcar' Janaki in the remade movie of " Thillu Mullu", but it bombed at the box office.

Like lead actors, many leading actresses too had tried their hand in comedy. 'Sowcar' Janaki, Kanchana, and even Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had done the job with ease. One cannot forget the performance of Jayalalithaa with Sivaji Ganesan in " Galatta Kalyanam".

Kanchana's memorable comedy movie was " Bama Vijayam".

'Sowcar' Janaki scored comedy performances in " Ethir Neechal", " Bama Vijayam" and " Thillu Mullu". All the three clicked at the box office. The comedy song, " Aduthathu Ambujatha Parthela" with Srikanth, in " Ethir Neechal," is still a popular number.

In movies of recent times, 'Jangiri' Madhumita and Aarthi have proved their mettle. Aarthi's memorable movies are " Arul", " Giri", " Kundakka Mandakka". Her best on-screen pair was Vadivelu. She has acted with him in many films and her acting is widely appreciated.

'Jangiri' Madhumitha started her career in Vijay TV's " Lollu Sabha". She made her film debut in " Oru Kal Oru Kannadi". She and Santhanam will match each other other in the film with their timing. Her acting in " Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara" won her Vikatan Award for Best Actress in Comedy Role. She is also a busy TV artiste.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 2:29:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/Comediennes-who-made-Tamil-cinema-bright/article14404869.ece

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