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A death and many doubts

Miss Kumari  

June 10, 1969, Malayalis woke up to the shocking news that their favourite actress Miss Kumari was dead. The newspapers had a bold heading but very little details on her death. It simply read something like ‘Miss Kumari was rushed to Jawaharlal Memorial Hospital, Udyogamandal, following a stomach ailment but she breathed her last on the way. The burial took place in Bharananganam, her native place.’

The film world was agog with rumours about the reasons for her sudden death. There were some who believed that her death was unnatural. Miss Kumari was totally cut off from the world of cinema during her last days. She lived in isolation, indifferent of what was happening around her. Some Kochi-based film journalists who had met her knew what was happening. She seemed to be tormented, in a state of mental agony and fear. She was frustrated. And with the unexpected turn of events some of the journalists believed that Miss Kumari had a mysterious end.

Miss Kumari’s entry to films was rather unexpected. She was in no way involved in the arts while at school. A journey to Alappuzha in search of a job turned life changer. Born into a Christian family in 1932 her real name was Thressiamma. She was an average student with no artistic talents. After passing her matriculation examination her ambition was to become a school teacher. Those days matriculation was enough to apply for a teacher’s job. She first tried to find a job somewhere close to her home but with nothing forthcoming her parents decided to seek for a job in Alappuzha.

On the boat to Alappuzha Thressiamma and her father met T.J. Mathew and they began chatting. Mathew was working with the orchestra team in Udaya Studio. He promised Thressiamma a job in the studio. The father and daughter reached the studio with Mathew. But the management rejected Thressiamma’s job request but offered her a role in their new film, Vellinakshathram. Thressiamma accepted the offer. She was featured in a song scene along with a group almost reduced to that of an ‘extra’ actress. But when Udaya Studio began work on Nalla Thanka, Thressiamma was elevated to the status of a heroine. It was K.V. Koshy, one of the producers of the film, who changed her name to Miss Kumari.

That role was the turning point. Miss Kumari became one of the busiest stars in Malayalam cinema. Her roles in Neelakuyil, Manthravadi, Athmasakhi, Ana Valarthiya Vanampadi, Mariyakutty and Poothali consolidated her position as the foremost actress.

It was while she was at the peak of her career that Miss Kumari got married to an engineer named Hormis. She was forced to stop acting. Gradually she disappeared from public gaze confined to the four walls of her house.

Her last public function was at Maharaja’s College in 1967. She took the stage along with singers P.B. Sreenivas and S. Janaki.

Former MP, Sebastian Paul, who also worked as a film journalist for some time, recalls the function, “I was one of the organisers of that function. We did our best to make it a grand affair as it was the first event after we had wrested the college union administration from the KSU. We were contesting as a united front comprising three student wings. It proved to be a successful experiment. Suresh Manjooran was the brain behind the function. I remember that though Miss Kumari accepted our invitation and graced the occasion she was very gloomy throughout.”

Miss Kumari’s last two years before her death on June 9, 1969, were miserable. During this phase a producer had approached her for a film and she was ready to act. But she was not allowed to take up the assignment. “We knew that she was not happy at all after she left cinema. Several doubts and questions about her death still linger. But somehow they were not probed,” adds Sebastian Paul, who used to publish and edit Lavanya, a film magazine.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 3:23:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/A-death-and-many-doubts/article14386292.ece

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