In memory of Actor `Aachi’ Manorama

26 May 1937
10 Oct 2015
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Gopishantha, (26 May 1937 – 10 October 2015) better known by her stage name Manorama, also called as Aachi, was a Tamil actress who had appeared in more than 1,500 films, 1,000 stage performances, and several television series until 2015. She holds a Guinness World Record for acting more than 1000 number of films, a feat she achieved in 1988 and later by 2015, she had acted in more than 1500 films. She was the recipient of the Kalaimamani award by the Government of Tamil Nadu, she was awarded the Padma Shri in 2002, National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for the movie Pudhiya Pathai in 1989.

Manorama was born as Gopishantha to Kasi Kilakudaiyar and Ramamirtham in Mannargudi, Thiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu.She mentioned her indebtedness to her mother for her success: Many of the mother roles that she has played in films resemble her own mother.Her family moved to Pallathur near Karaikudi owing to poverty.She started her acting career at 12,and when she started on stage, she was rechristened Manorama by drama director Thiruvengadam and harmonist Thiayagarajan. She continued to act in plays and performed as a playback singer.

She fell in love with her manager in the drama troop S.M.Ramanathan and got married in 1964. The couple begotten a son named Bhoopathy. She got divorced from S.M.Ramanathan in late 1966 and then resided in a separate house in Chennai.

She quoted in an interview in 2015, “My mom wanted me to study medicine. But it was not easy to become a doctor in those days, and I became an actress. So, if I hadn’t taken up acting, I would have tried to become a doctor as my mom wished for it. But now, fortunately, my grandson is a doctor, and I am proud of it.”

She acted in small roles in few Vairam nataka sabha dramas. Once she went to see a drama of S.S.Rajendran who was residing at Pudukkotai, in Tamil Nadu, and was introduced to him by P.A.Kumar. She showed her skill in dialogue delivery and was offered a job in S.S.R Nataka Mandram company and played in hundreds of stage productions all over the district: The dramas included Manimagudam, Thenpandiveeran and Pudhuvellam. She credits her work in Manimagudam as where she was first recognised as an actress, She then took part in an unfinished film starring S.S.Rajendran and Devika.

She migrated from dramas to the silver screen with the role of a heroine in the 1958 Tamil film Maalayitta Mangai: Kavignar Kannadasan gave her the lead role this film. The first film in which she played the heroine the 1963 Konjum Kumari. Then, she concentrated more on comedy from 1960. She was given equally challenging roles alongside the well known comedian Nagesh in 50 films.

When asked in an interview as to how she got into films, she quoted, “It’s all because of Kannadasan. It was he who changed my life by casting me in the film Maalayitta Mangai in 1957. It was a comical role, and he trusted me so much and said that I will be able to pull it off. I was very doubtful about it, but he told me, “If you are going to act in films only as a heroine, people here will throw you out of the industry after three or four years, but doing such roles will take you places. And you have the talent, too, to reach higher peaks.” That is when I got confidence and continued doing comedy roles.”

She has acted predominantly in Tamil films since 1958 but also acted in Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada movies as well. Her onscreen pair with Tangavelu was appreciated in the film Vallvanakku Vallavan in 1965. Her on-screen pair with Nagesh was very popular in 1960-69 and then with Cho in the 1970s and 80s and later with Thengai Srinivasan, Venniradai Moorthy, Surali Rajanas well in the 70s and 80s.

She has done playback singing for 300 songs in Tamil films and sung songs pictured on herself. The first song that Manorama sang in cinema was in a film called Magale Un Samathu. She has sung classical based song with TM Sounderajan in the film Dharshinam where she was paired with Cho. The first song that she sang on film was in Magale Un Samathu. The film’s producer was P.A.Kumar who gave her the opportunity.The song was composed by G.K.Venkatesh, a famous older music director, with whom Ilaiyaraja had worked as an assistant, and Manorama sang her song with L.R.Eswari, another classic Tamil singer. The song began, “Thaatha thaatha pidi kudu… Indha thalladha vayasila sadugudu….” However, it was Vaa vaathiyaare uttaande… composed by music director V.Kumar for the film Bommalattam, that was the first song sung by Manorama which became a hit. She performed it with Cho Ramaswamy on the screen. She has sung songs composed by M.S.Vishwanathan as well as A.R.Rahman.

Some of her best Tamil films include “Anbe Vaa”, “Thenmazhi”, “Ethir Neechal”, “Galatta Kalyanam”, “Chittukuruvi”, “Durga Devi”, “Annalakshmi” and “Imayam”. In Telugu, she starred in films such as “Rikshavodu”, “Krishnarjuna” and “Subhodayam”.When asked in an interview as to which are her memorable roles, she said “It is Nadigan, which had Sathyaraj and Khushbu in the lead. I cannot forget that role of Baby Amma in my life. Also my role in Chinna Gounder, for which I had to sport weird, artificial teeth, is something which I always think about.

Her performance in the 1968 Thillana Mohanambal is widely considered a cornerstone in her career.Her work was noticed even among stalwarts like Sivaji Ganesan and Natiya Peroli Padmini. Manorama shared in an interview that initially she was nervous acting in front of veterans like T.S.Balaiah, but, the director A.P.Nagarajan made her understand that the scenes in which Jil Jil Ramamani appears, she would be the center of attention.This gave her the confidence to skillfully portray the wildly expressive, loud-talking but tender-hearted character.

She acted alongside the well-known comedian Nagesh in 50 films and in 20 films with Cho Ramaswamy. They made an notable pair and acted in many well-received comedies. In 1974 she shared the screen space with the legendary comedian Mehmood in the Hindi movie Kunwara Baap.

Manorama was paired with Nagesh regularly in films with M.G.Ramachandran in lead like En Kadamai, Kanni Thai, Thayin Madiyil, Kadhal Vaganam, Chandrodhyam, Anbee Vaa, Padagotti, Kadhal Vagahnam, Vivasaaye, Thaikku Thalaimagan, Vettikaran, Ther Thiruvizha. Other directors casted the Nagesh-Manorama pair in films like Anubhavi Raja Anubhavi, Kungumam, Saraswathi Sabadham, Panjavarnakilli, Navarathiri, Puthiya Paravai, Patthu Matha Bandham, Anbu Karangal, Micheal Madan Kamarajan, Annamitta Kai, Gowri Kalyanam, Anbe Aaruyire, Server Sundaram, Ner Vazhai, Ninaivin Nindraval, Poojaikku Vandamalar, Deiva Thirumagal, Rakta Thilagam, Aannavin Asai, Thiruvarutchelvar, Seetha, Karunthel Kannayiram.

Cho and Manorama were paired together in 20 films which included Malligai Poo, Annaiyum Pidhavum, Dharisanam, Anbai Thedi, Nanaivin Nindraval, Nirai Kudam, Ayiram Poi, Mohammed Bin Tughlaq, Bommalattam, Delhi Mappilai, Vilayattu Pillai, Kanavan, Rojavin Raja, Suryagandhi.

Manorama, actress Sachu and Jayalalithaa have acted together in 2 films as a combination – Galata Kalyanam and Bommalattam. Manorama and Jayalalithaa have acted in 25 films together.

The character she was given by K.Balachander in the 1989 film Unnal Mudiyum Thambi she personally considers a cornerstone as she was giving a new challenge as an actor.She related in an interview on Toronto TV that one of the most challenging characters she played was the role of the 50-year-old unmarried woman in the 1990 film Nadigan with Sathyaraj.She said in an interview, “Playing that character was a tight-rope walk, since one wrong step could have made the character seem vulgar. She supported and encouraged young talents and budding directors.” In 2013 she acted in a short film named “Thaaye Nee Kannurangu” directed by LGR Saravanan. She acted as a Cancer Patient as a Mother of Mr.Srikanth.

In one of her last interviews, in 2015, when asked if she had any regrets about her life. To this, she had said: “I’ve no regrets at all. I’m blessed in this life.”When asked if she had any regrets, she quoted, “I’ve no regrets at all. I’m blessed in this life. Even in my next birth, I want to be born as Manorama again. I want this same life, and same people around me. Most of all, I want my mom with me again.”In an interview to BBC in 2015, “If I had chosen to act only as a heroine then I would have disappeared from the scene long ago. So, I decided to take up comedienne roles, so I survived in the industry for nearly six decades”.

When asked as to how she was able to do more than 1500 films, she said in her interview in September 2015, “I believe I am a blessed person. Without God’s will, I couldn’t have acted in so many films. It all just happened in my life, and you won’t believe it, but I still have the urge to act. The one person who is the reason for all my success is my mom. She did everything for me in life, and I miss her the most now (she breaks into tears). Whatever I achieve or have achieved in life is only because of her.”

She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2002. She won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for the movie Pudhiya Pathai in 1989.She was the recipient of the Kalaimamani award by the government of Tamil Nadu. She holds a Guinness World Record for acting more than 1000 number of films.

Cho Ramaswamy claimed on the Tamil TV show Koffee with Anu that he was the first one to call Manorama the female Sivaji Ganesan: He admired her for her versatility and the ability to surprise with her performances.

When she was asked in an interview in 2015 by Times Of India Publication, if she had any regrets about her life, she had said: “I’ve no regrets at all. I’m blessed in this life. Even in my next birth, I want to be born as Manorama again. I want this same life, and same people around me. Most of all, I want my mom with me again.”

Manorama had been unwell for some time recently, she passed away at 11.20 P.M on 10 October, 2015due to multiple organ failure in Chennai, She was 78 and is survived by her son and singer-actor Bhoopathy.

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