Tamil Nadu

Actor Manorama — She ruled the screen

SEA OF HUMANITY: (From left) Thousands of people took part in the funeral procession of actor Manorama in Chennai on Sunday; actors Rajnikanth, Kovai Sarala, DMK president M. Karunanidhi and actor Vijay paying their respects at the actor's residence.

SEA OF HUMANITY: (From left) Thousands of people took part in the funeral procession of actor Manorama in Chennai on Sunday; actors Rajnikanth, Kovai Sarala, DMK president M. Karunanidhi and actor Vijay paying their respects at the actor's residence.  

Whether comedy or drama, Manorama’s success sprang not just from her remarkable talent but also her amazing ability to adapt.

Maalayitta Mangai, the 1958 drama produced by Kannadasan and directed by G.R. Nathan, is remembered mainly for two reasons today — one, the magical Viswanathan-Ramamurthy score, studded with hits like Naanandri yaar varuvaar and Senthamizh thenmozhiyaal. And two, the actress listed as “puthumuga arimugam” at the bottom of the second scroll of cast names, far below the character artists: Manorama. She plays Anjalai, the domestic help earning a salary of six rupees in a rich household. It’s a supporting role, with comic shades — she would go on to play a similar role in many films.

Sakalakalavalli, the versatile actor

Back in the day, Thillana Mohanambal was one of the few novels that was successfully translated into a movie. Director of the film A.P. Nagarajan made it a star-packed film. Most of the characters essayed in the film stand out even now, years after its release.

But Manorama just slipped under the skin of the character — Karuppayee-turned-Jil Jil Ramamani-turned Roja Rani — refused to be overshadowed even by the thespian and her mentor Sivaji Ganesan.

Nothing captured the life of a Sadir dancer — who had to contend with the life of having to be at the mercy of landlords, normally known as Minors.

When she tells Sivaji Ganesan in the film “Yellathan Kattren. Yenna Prayojanam. Ippadi Perai Maathi Vachittu Oor Oora Peya Alaiyiren” (I have learnt every art form. What is the point? I have to change my name and moving around like a ghost), her poignant words bear testimony to the status a woman artist in a patriarchal world despite possessed with talents.

Jil Jil Ramamani, the fictitious character probably bore the closest resemblance to Manorama.

In the film, Sikkil Shanmugasundram would introduce her to his troupe, saying that she could perform Karagam, poikal kudirai, sadir and all other art forms. “Ondrum Vidurathu Illai. Sakalakalavalli” ( She doesn't leave anything untouched. She's so versatile). Knowing her as he did, he probably was paying the highest compliment to Manorama the artiste. She indeed was a Sakalakalavalli.

Unnal Mudiyum Thambi - Evolution as a character artist

Manorama was K. Balachander’s choice for the role of daughter-in-law of a famous musician. Caught between the imperious father-in-law Bilahari Marthanadam Pillai and a speech impaired husband and a irrepressible brother-in-law, Manorama as Anni Ankayarkanni suffers silently even as she seeks to effect peace in the family.

Burying fathom deep the comedian in her, Manorama evolves into one of the finest character role in Tamil films. Her facial expressions in the scene in which her husband plays Karaharapriya in nagaswaram to bring together his father and brother was no less musical.

Pattikada Pattanama - Adding flavour to Madurai dialect

Vellaiamma, the quintessential Madurai woman, is all courage and firmness beneath her jovial disposition. Manorama, who donned the role in the film Pattikada Pattanama, was in full flow and enthralled everyone with her effortless rendering the Madurai dialect. The way she says “Aithan” (Atthan) is both loveable and ridiculous.

She had the audience in splits when she almost drowns M.R.R. Vasu’s sidekick Pakkoda Kader in the Vaigai river and later thrashes Vasu after inviting him for a feast. Her courage is manifest when she comes all the way to Chennai in search of Vasu, who had deserted her after marriage.



Manorama -- She ruled the screen

Fact files

  • »She had known me as a three-year-old child actor. A loving woman and a great performer. I would say that she and Nagesh are the mummy and daddy of Tamil cinema comedy. I am honoured that they both admired my work, commented on it and cheered me on. Bye bye my loving, funny mamma. -- Kamal Haasan.
  • » Aachi Manorama's death comes as a shock to all of us. I was talking to her yesterday evening and she said that she will participate in the event related to Nadigar Sangam elections. Within a few hours, I got the news that she is no more. It is a great loss to the film industry. --Sarath Kumar.
  • »Her contribution to the film industry is immense. While her achievements — she has acted in more than 5000 stage plays and 1200 movies apart from netting several film awards and receiving Padma Sri — are many, she remained a simple, humble human being. --Vijayakant, DMDK leader.
  • » Original Name: Gopishantha and Place of Birth: Mannargudi.
  • » First film: Malaiyitta Mangai (1958).
  • »Important films: Bommalattam (1967); Thillana Mohanambal (1968); Karunthel Kannayiram (1971 Duet wit S.P.B); Mr. Sampath (1972, directed by Cho); Pattikada Pattanama (1972, Madurai dialect); Unnal Mudiyim Thambi (1988).
  • » Manorama got her Padmashri in 2002

>Mistress of arts

Whether comedy or drama, Manorama’s success sprang not just from her remarkable talent but also her amazing ability to adapt.

>Manorama was like an elder sister to me: Jayalalithaa

Describing Manorama as her elder sister, Tami Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said the veteran actor’s demise was an irreparable loss and the vacuum created by her passing away cannot be filled by anyone..

>Singing, her launch pad into theatre and films

Manorama had plenty of opportunity to watch films when her family moved from Mannargudi to Pallathur in Chettinadu.

>When the camera rolled, she lived the character'

It is safe to say that no one in the Tamil film industry portrayed the role of a mother with the versatility and subtlety that she brought to the screen.



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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 6:50:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/actor-manorama-she-ruled-the-screen/article10153128.ece

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