Veteran actor Manorama, who was affectionately called as ‘Aachi’ (granny) by her fans, died of multiple organ failure in the city late on Saturday. She was 78. A Padma Shree awardee, Manorama is survived by her son, Boopathi.
A comedy artist and a singer, she belonged to a generation of south Indian cinema that contributed personalities such as former Tamil Nadu chief ministers M G Ramachandran, M Karunanidhi and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N T Rama Rao.
She was called as ‘Aachi Manorama’ for her popular granny roles in TV serials, which she played in the later part of her career.
Born in Mannargudi in the Tiruvarur district, Manorama — whose original name was Gopichanda — started her career as a stage performer. It was veteran actor S S Rajendran who brought her to Chennai to act in his own theater group, a move that eventually helped her to get into the movie industry.
Her first film was Malayitta Mangai (1958), which was produced by lyricist Kannadasan. She sang her first song in Ratha Thilagam (1963), also produced by Kannadasan.
Manorama also sang a song composed by A R Rahman for the film May Madham (1994).
In a career spanning nearly six decades, she acted in over 1,500 films.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who visited her house to pay tributes, recalled the days when they worked together in the movies.
“We used to visit each other’s houses whenever we didn’t have shooting schedules…She used to call me Ammu and I called her Manorama,” Jayalalithaa recalled. “If Sivaji Ganesan was Nadigar Thilagam, Manorama was Nadigai Thilagam,” she added.
In fact, the one and only major controversy that Manorama was caught up in her life time was when she campaigned for Jayalalithaa during 1996 elections, after she completed her first term in office.
Against the popular mood in the film fraternity, her support for Jayalalithaa was also a stand against Rajinikanth at a time when he made his controversial statement that “even God can’t save Tamil Nadu if Jayalalithaa is elected (back) to power.”
Besides Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah, leaders of various political parties and film personalities including M Karunanidhi, K Veeramani, GK Vasan, musician Illayaraja, lyricist Vairamuthu, actors Vijay, Karthik, Ajith and several others paid their respects to the actress.