Saturday, June 15, 2013

Homage to Manivannan,The Beaming Beard of Tamil Cinema.

        In the early eighties, there stepped into the Tamil film industry a new face, to add fame to his home town Coimbatore. His physical profile was not yet accessible to the Tamil population because he was working behind the scene and screen, as dialogue writer and assistant director and then came up with his first directorial venture 'Gopurangal Saivadhillai'.The title implies that the social and traditional values held at the height of adoration will never crumble. The maiden movie proved the man's might and put him on a growing scale.
       This was followed by a line of successful films, that this great brain produced, on a wide variety of themes like crime thrillers,[ 'Nooravathu Naal','24 Mani Neram', 'Janavari' 1 and 'Vidinja Kalyanam'] political satire [ 'Paalaivana Rojaakkal' and 'Amaidhi- padai']and social and family stories mostly associated with the rural belt[ 'Mudhal Vasantham'' Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi','Therku Theru Machan' and 'Vaazkai Chakkaram'].In all these movies, there  was another  film entrant, from the same soil, a tall stout man of stunning frame, called Sathyaraj, initially taking up villain roles and then as a robust rugged and aggressive hero. The master who moved the action in all these films was the beaming, bearded Manivannan who is today no more. I look upon this moment,as one of agonizing loss for the Tamil film industry, because this great film personality, both as director and actor, always made Tamil film watchers exhilarated and moved by his spontaneity and vigour.
        It was Barathi Raja who first introduced this bearded director as an actor in his Rajini starring movie 'Kodiparakkudhu', lending him his voice as well. Manivannan and his inseparable beard got fixed firmly in the minds of film goers, notwithstanding the fact it was the role of a crude die- hard villain he played in that movie. This was a promising starting point for Manivannan, to get transformed from a director's portrait to that of an actor to make his innings for a long term. The audience began to identify one after the other, the latent acting legacy of this exemplary performer, capable of easily switching over to a galaxy of roles. He continued his performance as villain, mixing a strong element of comedy with villainy, as M.R.Radha and T.S.Balaiah would do. At a time when the Tamil audience are missing great talents like M.R.Radha, T.S.Balaiah, S.V.Renga Rao, S.V.Subbiah and Raguvaran, the sudden death of Manivannan would only create a greater vacuum as far as character acting and father roles are concerned.
     Manivannan  had always essayed character and comedy roles with consummate ease and felicity. As a comedian, his singular banter, joining hands with  invincible Sathyaraj who often succeeds in hitting his companion with words in an unexpected way at an unexpected moment, Manivannan had quite often made the tall man succumb to his humour shots. There was always a layer of mischief behind the  deceptive tag of the naive look, that he so naturally sported in every film that he appeared .The mutual banter of Manivannan and Sathyaraj became incomparable in many of their joint ventures to generate the comic grandeur and it was asking for a repeat in films like 'Maman Magal' and 'Amaidhipadai', though both the films were totally different in thematic content and presentation.
      I think Vijay is the next hero, with whom Manivannan would have acted in more films after Sathyaraj, as Vijay's father, father in law, well wisher and senior companion and the latest in the list was 'Velayudham'.Manivannan's way of acting as a comedian and character actor has revealed an increased degree of warmth and geniality and this has made him dearer not only to his fellow actors but also to the audience. In paternal roles, he has been memorably endearing, in films like 'Vaanavil',as Arjun's father and in 'Sullan,' as the father of Danush. No one can forget him as a friendly, loving and promiscuous father of an equally promiscuous son {played by Karthik Muthuraman} in Agathiyan's 'Gogulathil Seetha'i. Similarly, the films' Vaseegara' and 'Minsaarakkanna' also portrayed an intimate father-son relationship between Manivannan and Vijay. Manivannan has effectively portrayed a variety of  emotions, as a loving and concerned dad of heroines in films like 'Ennavale','Ellaan Avan Seyal','Parthiban Kanavu' and 'Youth'.
    Manivannan's comedy sense has been vigorous with all his team mates irrespective of who ever the actor is. He has created a humour wave with 'Karthik' in 'Ullathai Allitha', 'Mettukudi' and Pistha. He has been an enjoyable companion of heroes for a comedy show in films like VIP  and 'Naam Iruvar Namakiruvar'with Prabu Deva, in 'Tata Birla' with 'Parthiban' and 'Seena Thaana001' with Prasanna. He has joined Kamalahasan in 'Avvai Shanmugi', 'Pammal Sambandham' and 'Panja Thandiram', to be a part of the contextual comedy scripts of those movies. 
    The first in the list, stands unique, showing him as a hilarious landlord, running after Kamalahasan,who is disguised as a woman. He has also done a few character roles in Rajini's films, like 'Padayappa’ and 'Sivaji'.In Shankars 'Mudhalvan' he generated a lot of comedy moments, shunting between the long term Chief Minister Raguvaran and the one day CM Arjun as their P.A. It was a lovely performance he portrayed, as a person of good intentions for the welfare of the people.
    It looks as though Manivannan could easily walk into any shot and finish the take without any need for redoing the shot. His effortless acting manner, has always kept him the busiest among character actors and with his beaming beard, he seemed to carry the magic of master strokes in acting,that made him continue his onward march, uninterrupted.Cheeky, guile, crude, passionate and endearing,were the celluloid faces of late Manivannan. The robust film goers in Tamil Nadu, will ever remember him as the richest storehouse of energy, enthusiasm and entertaining fervor, in the line of his amazing  predecessors like M.R.Radha ,S.V.Renga Rao and T.S.Balaiah whom Manivannan himself had frequently declared as his role models in the field of acting. To me in particular, the speedy and forceful dialogue delivery of Manivannan as a character actor, will keep ringing in my ears, perpetuating genuine memories of this classic actor.

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