Actor, comedian and singer Manorama, affectionately referred to as ‘Aachi’, whose performance matched and sometimes bettered the lead actors of her movies, died of multiple organ failure here on Saturday. She was 78 and is survived by her son and singer-actor Boopathy.
She had acted with MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, NTR, Jayalalithaa, Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Nagesh, ‘Cho’ Ramaswamy, ‘Thengai’ Srinivasan and the present-day actors. Manorama’s life in a way resembled the unforgettable Karuppayee-turned Jil Jil Ramamani turned Rojarani of Thillana Mohanambal.
An artiste who matched the best in the industry
Manorama’s life in a way resembled the unforgettable Karuppayee-turned-Jil Jil Ramamani-turned Rojarani of Thillana Mohanambal. Born as Gopichanda in Mannargudi, she moved with her family to Pallathur in Chettinad to eke out a livelihood. There she assumed the name ‘Pallathur Papa’ and later Manorama.
Even while acting in plays in Pallathur, she got a chance to act in a film with late S.S. Rajendran and Devika made in Pudukottai. But it did not see the light of day. But SSR had spotted her talent and invited her to participate in the drama Manimagudam in Chennai. Thus began her film career.
Her first film was Malayitta Mangai produced by lyricist Kannadasan in 1958. Her experience in the theatre and singing talents came in handy in the film world. She rendered her first song, under the baton of G.K. Venkatesh.
But it was the parody of “Pogathey Pogathey En Kanava”, in the film Ratha Thilagam, to the music of K.V. Mahadevan produced by Kannadasan, that identified her talent as a singer.
She went on to sing under every music director even as she was leaving her mark in the film industry as a comedian. For A.R. Rahman, she sang “Madrasai Suthi Paarka Poren” for the film May Matham.
Her body language and dialogue delivery coupled with an affable nature secured her a permanent place in the Tamil film industry. Whether it was the corrupt Madras Tamil or dialects of Thanjavur or Madurai or the Kongu region, she rendered them all effortlessly. She acted in over 1,000 films and sang hundreds of songs.
Film historian Vamanan in his book Thirai Isai Alaigal has said it was Mukta Srinivasan who gave her an opportunity to render the song in Madras Tamil in the film Bommalattam. Vaa Vaathiyarey Ootandey became an instant hit and a cine magazine described her as the star of the month. “But actor ‘Cho’ Ramaswamy who was cast opposite her in the film wrote a letter to the magazine saying she was the star of the generation,” recalled Mr. Vamanan.
She was caught in a rare controversy when she campaigned against actor Rajinikanth in support of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the 1996 elections.