Manorama Aachi, I love you and miss you

  • Sowmya S, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Oct 12, 2015 09:50 IST
Manorama won many hearts with her portrayals of mothers and grandmothers on big screen.

I woke up to the news of Kollywood actor Manorama’s death on Sunday. I was shocked; I couldn’t believe that someone as great as her could just….die. I knew my feelings were irrational and that she had to eventually die because she was getting older and kept falling sick, but I couldn’t control my grief. It felt like I had lost one of my great, great grandmothers. Well, you can’t blame me, for the 78-year-old was the mother and grandmother to many, many people on the big screen. And every time I saw her in a movie theatre or on television, I was convinced that she really was the grandmother. (And that’s how she earned the title ‘Aachi’- Tamil for grandmother)

Tamil cinema has had a handful of talented women and Manorama was the undisputed queen of that lot. She was an excellent dancer and an effervescent singer.

Manorama in her younger days.

She was born as Gopichanda in Mannargudi (Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu) on May 26, 1937, and made her big screen debut with the 1958 Tamil flick Maalayitta Mangai. But people sat up and noticed her only after she essayed the role of the vivacious and kind singer-cum-dancer ‘Jil Jil Ramamani’ in the 1968 Tamil blockbuster Thillana Mohanambal.

I was not even born at that time, but when I watched the movie in the late 1990s on television, I remember being enchanted by her. She shared almost all of her scenes with either legendary actor Sivaji Ganesan or the heart-meltingly beautiful actor Padmini in that movie. But I don’t think people even looked at these two actors in those scenes because they were being regaled by Manorama.

Read: Legendary actor Manorama no more

She was a natural singer and sang many memorable numbers during her career. Her AR Rahman number ‘Madrasa Suthi Paaka Poren’ in the 1994 Tamil film May Matham brings back many fond memories.

She was Tamil cinema’s first successful woman comedian. She was paired with Kollywood’s best-known comedian Nagesh in several flicks. But my personal favourite is the 1989 Kamal Haasan-starrer Aboorva Sagodharargal. The scene where she begs a policeman to release her son (Kamal Haasan) from the jail is a real rib-tickler. No female actor has so far been able to match up to her comic standards and I don’t think anyone can ever fill her shoes.

I have, for years, tried to understand what it is that makes her tick. She was not as beautiful as her female counterparts, nor did she possess unique mannerisms like Superstar Rajnikanth. But many people in the South loved her to bits.

Is it her little quirks in every comic scene that makes her adorable? Or is it the complete honesty in her acting? I have no idea. But I do know one thing for sure: she may have lost the battle of life to multi-organ failure but she has won the hearts of many, many people by acting in more than a record 1,000 movies in the last six decades. (And not to mention a Padma Shri and a National Award for best supporting actress.)

Aachi, I love you and miss you. But I know you are up there in the heavens, doing what you do best: cracking jokes with Nagesh and making people laugh.

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