On a regular day, 72-year-old Rajamani, a retired school teacher in Chennai, is at home memorising comedy dialogues from Tamil films, wearing costumes, ready to enact the scenes. Sometimes it’s a salwar kameez, sometimes, a Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya style cotton saree… and on one occasion, even her grandson’s shorts and shirt to resemble a schoolgirl!
What is Rajamani up to, you ask? She and her grandson, Mohamed Thoufiq, a Visual Communication graduate, are a sensational duo from Chennai known for their viral TikTok videos. When Rajamani walks down the streets to the market or to the temple, she often has people stop and ask about her latest videos.
“A lot of them recognise me as the TikTok paati. Some of them come shake hands and take selfies with me. Children ask me what my next video is. One girl who had lost her father recently told me that my videos were making her happy. When we had gone to watch Darbar in the theatres, a few of them came and told me they like my videos and that I should continue doing them. When I hear such feedback, it makes me feel happy, and young,” she says laughing.
Rajamani was born in Kumarapalayalm in Erode district, where she studied and later worked as a school teacher. After her retirement, she has been spending time in Chennai with her two grandsons -- Zubair and Mohamed Thoufiq -- at her daughter Ameena Parveen’s house. “I have only one daughter and after her, my two grandsons are my everything. I will do anything for their happiness,” she beams.
So when her youngest grandson asked if she’d do one TikTok video with him, she didn’t hesitate. The dialogue was from Sivakarthikeyan’s Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam. “I used mostly do comedy videos of [actor] Santhanam on TikTok until then, and I thought I could ask my grandmother if she wanted to try something new with me,” he shares with TNM.
Rajamani continues with a smile, “When he was making them himself, I would just comment on how well he was acting. When I did a video with him, I was surprised by how many people liked it.”
Their first TikTok video together was uploaded on October 12 last year has over 15.5K likes so far. Their profile is now reaching a million followers with close to 22 million likes.
With the success of their first video, Rajamani and Thoufiq were encouraged to do more. Scroll through their TikTok profile and you’d find videos of songs, comedy dialogues, famous dialogues, and more, all made fun to watch just because of Rajamani’s adorable antics.
Her recent Chandramukhi video, with over 27 million views and counting, is also her personal favourite, she shares. “Everyone worked for it. My grandson, my daughter everyone… they lifted the bed while shooting it for the effects. I had to apply makeup… It was unforgettable,” she tells TNM.
And at Rajamani’s household, ‘teamwork’ gains a whole new definition. “When paati started doing it with me, my mother joined, taking the videos for us. My brother directs them. We do it together as a family,” says Thoufiq.
When it comes to dealing with negative comments, Rajamani brushes them aside with an easy wave of her hand. “We don’t get many negative comments. When we did the “good morning coach” video from Bigil, someone had said that my grandson was not going to leave me until he killed me. I don’t take it seriously. Such things are common when you’re opening yourself up to the public,” she says.
With growing popularity, the two also hope that these videos might open doors to bigger opportunities. “It is my grandson’s dream to act, and he has slowly started getting audition calls,” Rajamani says, adding that Thoufiq has done a three-month course in acting too.
And what if Rajamani gets offered a film role too? “I wouldn’t mind,” she laughs.
Apart from the fun of it all, making these TikTok videos has brought interesting challenges for Rajamani too. “Sometimes when Thoufiq asks me to do multiple takes, I lose my patience. I also can’t dance but my grandson makes me do it," she chuckles.
For Thoufiq, it has become a way of bonding with his grandmother. “I get to spend time with her and that is my biggest takeaway. People comment on our videos saying they are stress busters. It is our biggest compliment,” he says.