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Manorama — the magic never wanes

After a small break Manorama is back in action. Apart from her film assignments she is also into television production. The veteran artiste in conversation with MALATHI RANGARAJAN ...

Manorama with her son Bhupathi in their new tele-serial, "Robot Raja."

EVEN WHEN Manorama was a much-in-demand comedienne in cinema, she had a great fan following that ardently listened to her on AIR's popular radio serial, "Kaappu Katti Chathiram."

Those were the days when television was unheard of and All India Radio had complete monopoly over home entertainment. She is surprised that people still remember her days with AIR. She shouldn't be. Such was her capability that she was able to hold sway with listeners by the sheer mesmerism of her voice. And the Manorama magic continues till today.

With the advent of Doordarshan began the comedienne nonpareil's sojourn on the small screen. The switchover to character roles in the past few years was again a smooth transition and so was her foray into satellite channels. But in the past year the veteran seemed out of circulation. Not seen in films or on TV, you almost began to miss her. So the sudden invitation to come over to her house comes as a pleasant surprise. The lady is all smiles as she informs that she is into television production — her first serial, under the banner of Sri Ram Movies, will be "Robot Raja," directed by K. Nataraj.

To be telecast as a weekly every Saturday beginning tomorrow (April 10) on Raj TV, at 9 p.m., "Robot Raja" that opens this holiday season, promises to be a treat for children.

After a long period in hibernation, Manorama's son Raj Bhupathi dons the grease paint for "Robot Raja." You had watched Bhupathi in films such as "Kudumbam Oru Kadhambam" and "Manal Kayiru" where he had acquitted himself quite well as Visu's son in the first and the hero's friend in the next. "Then I did more than half dozen serials on DD, after which there has been a lull," says Bhupathi. Now with "Robot Raja" you can probably expect to see him more often on screen ...

Bhupathi then tells you why his mother was not in action for some time. "All of a sudden she fell ill and it was quite a while before doctors could diagnose the ailment... " Timely treatment has given her a new lease of life and the actress has already begun shooting for films. Her light music troupe, Musirama, has also been revived.

She has done "Kuththu" that has just been released and is now working in AVM's "Paerazhagan" (Surya does a double role in it) and the Ajit film "Jana." "Working with the younger crop is so rejuvenating for me. They have abundant talent, commitment and energy and are equally good at dance, fight and histrionics ... I feel so happy to be acting with them," she says humbly. "Surya is amazing in "Paerazhagan." It's not easy to do comedy ... I was dumbstruck by the light-hearted role he did in "Pithamagan." Again in "Paerazhagan" he differentiates between the two roles so beautifully that though I'm on the sets I can't believe it is the same actor doing both the roles ... so I laugh when he says that he's scared when acting with me," she adds.

Her rapport with actors of this generation and the previous is incredible. She smiles: "They address me as `Aachi' and treat me with deference and I reciprocate their kindness. I never ask them about their personal lives nor offer unsolicited advice ... "

It is to her mother that Manorama attributes the goodwill she has earned, the recognition she has received for her acting skills and the unflinching support from producers over the years. "My only grief is that she wasn't around when I received my Padma Sri ... our journey of life together from Chettinad (Manorama was a 10-month old baby when they went there) to Chennai, with all its pitfalls, disappointments, successes and joys, is a long one. And even today, it could be dry or drought-hit, but every time I go to Chettinad, it stirs my heart as no other place does ... " she sighs.

Her life now revolves more round her son's career. Manorama says, "Bhupathi is not in want but I want him to do well as an artiste... however when acting together (as they will be in "Robot Raja") I do not make allowances... I do my best and so does he ..." Apart from Manorama and Bhupathi as principal players, "Robot Raja's" cast includes Vennira Adai Moorthy, Delhi Kumar, Pallavi and Devipriya. As for the title score, M. S. Viswanathan has set to music the lyric of Kamakodiyan.

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