Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Childhood Memories Of Kalabhavan Mani


Director Vinayan talks about his experiences in the films, 'Vasanthiyum Lakshmiyum Pinnne Njaanum', and 'Karumadikkuttan'

Photos: Director Vinayan. Images from 'Vasanthiyum Lakshmiyum Pinnne Njaanum', and 'Karumadikkuttan'

By Shevlin Sebastian

Kalabhavan Mani walked down a narrow rope bridge in Thodupuzha, on an afternoon in June, 1998. He was playing a blind street singer, Ramu, in the film, 'Vasanthiyum Lakshmiyum Pinnne Njaanum'. On the river bank, there was an elderly washerwoman, called Nannitalla, played by a theatre artist called Ammini Kutty.

When Ramu heard the sound of the washing he asked whether it was Nannitalla. She replied in the affirmative. Ramu said, “Has Thomas Sir come?”

How did you know?” said Nannitalla.

When Thomas Sir's clothes are washed, there is a different sound,” says Ramu. “He gives me his old shirts and mundu. I wear his clothes all the time.”

Nanitalla said, “Why can't you buy some clothes yourself?”

Ramu said, “I don’t have any money. All my life I have worn only old clothes.”

Immediately, after saying this, Ramu started crying. “This weeping was not there in the script,” says director Vinayan. “But Mani was so immersed in the character that tears began to roll down his face. It was a magnificent performance. Once I shouted, 'Cut', all the crew members started clapping. Many unit boys went and hugged him.”

But as Vinayan was getting ready for the next scene,. Mani came next to him, and burst out crying. Vinayan asked Mani what had happened.

Mani said, “Sir, when the scene was taking place, I remembered my childhood. Till Class 9, I never wore a new shirt or trouser, even during the festivals of Vishu and Onam. My mother was a servant in a neighbouring house, where there was a boy, Rajesh, (name changed), who was of my age. I would wear his old clothes and go to class. But, at the school, when Rajesh would see me, he would give me a mocking grin.”

When Mani recounted this incident, everybody, including Ammini Kutty started crying. “So I stopped the shoot, even though it was only 3 p.m.,” says Vinayan. “We were all upset.”

There were other emotional moments, too. In the 2001 film, 'Karumadikkuttan', Mani played a mentally-challenged man, who would do anything if you asked for his help. There was a landlord by the name of Pranchi Sir (played by drama artist Santosh), who was asthmatic. One day, according to the script, he fell ill, but there was no vehicle to take him to the hospital.

At the location, at Kuttanad, Mani said that he would carry Santosh, on his shoulders, even though the latter weighed 90 kgs. “And with ease, Mani lifted up Santosh, placed him on his shoulders, and ran forward at full speed,” says Vinayan. “That was because he had a childhood experience that enabled him to do it.”

When Mani was in the primary section of a government school at Chalakudy, rice sacks would be brought to the school. The school would hire headload workers to transfer the sacks from the gate to the store room. “That was when Mani opted to do the job,” says Vinayan. “He would get Rs 1 for this work. And he always gave the money to his mother. As a result, it made him strong. So, he had no problem in lifting up Santosh.”

Vinayan pauses, at his home in Kochi, shakes his head sadly, and says, “Mani was a great actor. So, it has been an unbearable loss for Malayalam cinema that he had an untimely death.”

Mani died, on March 6, at the age of 45, at Chalakudy. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode) 

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