Her introduction to plays was not as an actor, it was instead as a singer for the men who played female roles in theatre

Manorama Remembering lady laughter and her work with five chief ministersImage: Manorama/Youtube
news Sunday, October 11, 2015 - 17:16

If you mention the name Manorama to any movie-goer who has watched Tamil movies from the 60s to early 90s, the first thing they would tell you is how versatile an actress she was and about her comic timing.

Born as Gopishantha, better known as Manorama, a stage name given by director Thiruvengadam, she has acted in more than 1500 movies and in five languages.

However, her introduction to plays was not as an actor, it was instead as a singer for the men who played female roles in theatre, which was the norm in those days.

Her first stage play was “Yaar Maghan” in 1949 when she was only 12.

Manorama has worked with five chief ministers in south India: C N Annadurai, NT Rama Rao, MG Ramachandran, J Jayalalithaa and Kalaignar Karunanidhi.

She had acted with the late former chief minister, C N Annadurai who founded the Dravidian Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), in Naan Kanda Hindu Rajyam, a play written by him.

She has worked with Kalaignar Karunanidhi, former chief minister of Tamil Nadu in stage plays. Kalaignar Karunanidhi and Manorama played the main leads in Udaya Sooryan, a play that was written by him.

In an interview in 2001 with Shobha Warrier of Rediff, she said,"The greatest experience of my acting career was that I grew up delivering the poetic and powerful dialogues written by Karunanidhi. If people appreciate my dialogue delivery today, it's all because of Kalaignar. He was very insistent that we speak proper, pure Tamil. Even while rehearsing, he made sure that we spoke pure Tamil. It is only now that I realise the importance of his insistence."

She spoke about how Karunanidhi would correct them if they uttered even a word wrong.

"I can’t forget my first film. Poet Kannadasan happened to see my play, Mani-makudam (written by his friend Kalaignar Karunanidhi), and immediately signed me for the film that he was making,” she said.

In 2008, Karunanidhi and the film fraternity felicitated Manorama on her completing 50 years in films since making her debut in 1958. Paying homage to Manorama, Karunanidhi said she was like a member of his family. 
Coming to movies, she has also acted with the late former Tamil Nadu chief minister MG Ramachandran and present Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa in several movies.

Watch video from movie Kasikku pora sanyasi in which she acted with MGR.


In the Rediff interview Manorama speaks fondly of J Jayalaithaa and says the actor's intelligence was something that struck her and it took the latter only minutes to memorise her lines or learn dance steps. She further claimed that Jayalalithaa and she used to refer to each other by their nicknames- Ammu and Mano.

Jayalalithaa who reached Manorama's residence on Sunday said, "The experience of acting with her is forever etched in my memory in movies like Kandan Karunai and Galatta Kalyanam."

Watch video from movie Kadhal Vahanam in which Manorama and J Jayalalitha acted together.

Manorama has also acted with the late former Andhra Pradesh chief minister NT Rama Rao in Telugu movies like Lava Kusha in 1963.

Malayitta Mangai (1958) was her first film as an actress. She was noted for her fluency in Tamil and Telugu.

She established herself as a comedienne in south Indian cinema and reigned as the comedy queen for many years being rightly branded as “lady laughter”.

By 1985, she was the only actress to have acted in up to 1000 films. Manorama was awarded the Padmashri in 2002.


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