After the success of 16 Vayathinile, one of the most frequented offices at the time belonged to SA Rajkannu, the producer and distributor of Bharathiraaja’s film. Like everyone else, I had gone to the office as a press photographer and saw Goundamani in this pose.
It struck me that the pose was nothing like anything I had ever seen from any leading comedian at the time. It was so casual and yet, so different. I immediately asked him if I could take a photograph. He smiled in response and was ready for the shot in a moment’s notice. That’s how this memorable photo came to be.
The man is the king of ‘counters’. What you see on screen with respect to his spontaneity is pretty much what he is off-screen also. Give him a script and he will take a quick look at it and be able to improvise on the spot so effectively that the comedy tracks often end up becoming the highlight of the entire film. He was always a progressive thinker, and tries to ensure that he inserts relevant issues of the time into his comedic tracks. He once expressed that the people watching his comedy tracks should be able to take something valuable from them.
Even after all these years, I’m astounded by how Goundamani maintains his fitness and health. The first time I was in a shoot, I noticed he was not eating together with the rest. I didn’t understand why, but eventually, I understood that he generally eats only homecooked food with specific dietary inputs. The reason he does not visit the eating area on the sets is to stop himself from getting tempted. He is still very much the same ‘Counter’ Mani we originally knew, and I wish for him to remain healthy always.
(The photographer has taken stills for more than 500 films over the last three decades.)