‘Rocket’ Ramanathan, considered one of the first mimicry artistes in Tamil cinema, passed away late Tuesday night, at the age of 74, of age-related ailments. Ramanathan made his acting debut in the RC Sakthi-directed Sparisam in 1982. Though he was part of successful films like Oru Pullaankuzhal Aduppoodhigaradhu and Manakanakku, the actor’s stage career far surpassed his on-screen work.
In particular, Ramanathan was known for his impeccable impressions of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MG Ramachandran and thespian Sivaji Ganesan.
Veteran actor and mimicry artist Chinni Jayanth recalled his performances fondly. “In the 1970s and 80s, when I was in school and college, I used to see a lot of his shows. Personally, I am a big fan of his MR Radha impression,” he said.
Conferred with Kalaimamani Award and Kalaiselvan Award by the State government, Ramanathan can be credited for popularising mimicry in Tamil Nadu.
Chinni Jayanth concurred: “His audience was mainly in the villages and his routine with a ‘steel tin’ was extremely popular.” He also fondly remembered the time Ramanathan’s Nadaswaram act left him and Rajinikanth in peals of laughter.
Actor Robo Shankar, who referred to Ramanathan’s demise as a personal loss, said, “I have done a lot of shows with him. He felt Shankar was too normal a name and gave me the moniker of ‘Malaysia’ Shankar.” Shankar added that Ramanathan gave him numerous stage opportunities.
Known for his unique dialogue delivery, Ramanathan laid the path for future mimicry artistes and proved the field was lucrative. “At a time when mimicry artistes hardly got a chance to act in cinema, his courage to pursue both helped me overcome my fear of chances drying up,” said Chinni Jayanth.
Nadigar Sangam released a statement condoling his death.
Ramanathan is survived by his wife Bhanumathi and children, Sai Bala and Sai Guru Balaji.