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There’s no stopping her

Enduring and endearing

Enduring and endearing   | Photo Credit: Manorama Photo: G. Moorthy.



Aachi Manorama is as dazzling and vibrant as ever



As I eagerly wait to meet Manorama a flashback of all her scenes flood my mind. Then, a baritone voice interrupts my thoughts. “Vanakkam” says the Aachi, glittering in her gorgeous pink silk sari and resplendent with stone jewellery. Something in her voice and looks makes me comfortable instantly. Perhaps, that is the quintessence of Aachi, with five decades of success in the tinsel world behind her.

Evergreen gallery

Manorama was born as the third daughter for the couple Arumuga Clockudaiyar and Ramamitham at Raja Mannarkudi in Thanjavur district. She was named Gopi Shantha. Poverty and family situation drove Gopi Shantha and her mother to Pallathur near Karaikudi, where they began a new chapter in life.

“I was just a 10-month-old baby when my mother came to Pallathur in search of prosperity,” she says and narrates how poverty forced her on to the stage. At the age of 10, she performed on stage as a playback singer and a gypsy dancer for a play titled ‘Andaman Kaithi’ at Kottaiyur.

When she started her stage performances, ‘baby’ Gopi Shanta who is still addressed as ‘papa’ by her near and dear ones, was rechristened as Mamorama by the drama director Thiruvengadam and the harmonist Thiayagarajan.

Sinhalese film

She continued to act in plays and so far has given more than 6000 stage performances. She moved to the silver screen with the role of a comedienne in Tamil film Malayitta Mangai in 1958. Walking down memory lane, she says, “I actually faced the camera for the first time in my life for a Sinhalese film directed by Masthan in a friend’s role of the heroine.”

She played the heroine in four films : Konjum Kumari, Periya Manitha, Alangari and Athisiya Piravi. She also made her debut in the Hindi film Kunwara Baap opposite Mehmood.

Fifty years on as a hit comedienne, Manorama says: “Comedy is a tough job and I do it with the blessings of the Almighty.” She has enthralled audiences in all South Indian languages — Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

“Though I do not know the languages, I can render the dialogues. Directors even want me to dub the dialogues in their movies,” she says. “I simply go and perform with the blessings of the creator,” she says.

In 1987, the doyen, who is popularly called ‘Female Shivaji’ brought laurels to the Tamils by entering into the Guinness of Book of World Records for acting in more than 1000 films. In 2009, the record remains unbroken. Even today, she moves with same vigour and vibrancy with more than 1,350 films in her kitty now. “It is actor Kamal Hassan who gave me the exciting moment of my life that featured me in the world record,” she says.

What keeps her going? “I am young at heart. I have stopped growing after 26! Time has the right to tear pages off the calendar but certainly not my young spirit,” she laughs.

From one of her earliest triumphs as ‘Jil Jil Ramamani’ in Thillana Mohanambal where she scored amidst a score of stalwarts such as Shivaji Ganesan, Padmini and Balaiah, to the latest role of Chandramma in the Telegu film Arundhathi, a historic-thriller, the versatile actor’s charisma continues to mesmerise.

Apart from films, she is busy acting in television serials and ad films. “I do not commit myself, unless I believe in the credibility of the product and the company.”

Transgender

If there is one role she would like to essay, the lady says there is. “I would like to do the role of a transgender (Thiru Nangai). It is not just a desire to do a different role. But I want to create an awareness about them, and the sad life they lead for no fault of theirs,” she says.

Other than that, Manorama has just one wish, “I wish and pray to God that I die acting,” she smiles.

S.S. KAVITHA

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