Tamil Nadu

When the camera rolled, she lived the character'

Actor Manorama’s career could be divided into two phases. In the first half, she essayed some of the finest comic roles in Indian movies by a woman, at times outdoing male lead comedians such as Nagesh and M.R. Radha. In the second half, she donned powerful character roles that defined landmark films in the later 1980s and early 1990s.

 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, binding together comedy and drama to leave a lingering effect on the audience.

Whether it is the mid-day meal cook who self-immolated for the sake of her son’s education in Gentleman or the respected big-toothed matriarch in Vijayakanth’s Chinna Gounder, Manorama brought out the complex character of a mother in all its colours.

 “In Singaravelan, her ‘ Thai Amma’ character involved on the one side being my caretaker in a mother’s position and on the other mildly flirting with Kamal sir, the young protagonist. The way she did the sequence brought dignity to the character itself,” says actress Kushboo, who collaborated with Manorama in numerous films. In the shooting spot, Manorama was an outstanding mentor too, she says. 

All through her career, whether it was the domineering wife Lakshmi in Kasethan Kadavulada or ‘ Baby Amma’, the estate owner and guardian of two young girls in Nadigan, Manorama’s essay as a middle-aged woman with modern outlook made the characters vibrant and real.

One of her finest roles came in K. Balachandar’s Unnal Mudiyum Thambi. Her depiction of the travails faced by the woman of the house in balancing an ultra-conservative father-in-law, a Carnatic musician in Bhilahari Marthandam (Gemini Ganesan), and a socially conscious brother-in-law in Udayamoorthy (Kamal Haasan), remains an acting benchmark.

 Veteran director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao says she brought out multiple shades in her comedy roles as well. “In Aboorva Sagotharargal, when her son was arrested and kept in a police station, she had to be this wailing mother seeking his release. In that sequence, you could feel the dire situation of the mother and the humour produced by the modulation,” he points out. Often, she would produce variety that a director himself would not have imagined. 

Actor and director Visu says her greatness was in the effortless manner in which she brought out the nuances, a quality she developed from her time in theatre. “She would come to the sets fully prepared. All you had to do is explain the scene. She would become the character when the camera rolled. Even if the scene had very little for her, she would give her 100 per cent.”

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 9:31:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/when-the-camera-rolled-she-lived-the-character/article7751052.ece

Next Story