Well-known Tamil actor, writer and director Manivannan passed away at his Nesapakkam residence here on Saturday following cardiac arrest. He was 58 and is survived by wife Sengamalam and two children Raghu and Jothi.
Hailing from Sulur in Coimbatore district, Manivannan began his career as an assistant to veteran director Bharathiraja. He later wrote storylines and dialogues for his mentor’s films, including Nizhalgal, Alaigal Oivathillai and Kadhal Oviyam in the early 1980s.
Manivannan made his directorial debut with Gopurangal Saivathillai in 1982 and continued to give noted hits like Pudhu Manithan, Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi and Jalli Kattu. He was also one of those directors who had experimented with various genres — from romance to thriller.
His 50th directorial venture, political satire Nagaraja Cholan MA, MLA, starring Sathyaraj, which was released recently was a sequel to his hit film Amaidhi Padai.
But it was as an actor that Manivannan won the hearts of many, managing with ease both as a comedian and as a character actor, playing the role of a father or uncle to the protagonist in many films. He will be most remembered for his roles in Amaidhi Padai, Mudhalvan, Sangamam, Ullathai Allitha and Avvai Shanmugi.
Manivannan, whose assistants include Vikraman, Sundar C, R K Selvamani and Seeman, too went on to become successful filmmakers. He was known off screen as a follower of Marxist and Periyar ideology and spreading them through his firebrand speeches in political meets. He was also a supporter of Tamil Eelam.
Kolathur Mani, founder of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, recalled Manivannan as a nationalist and a communist who spread the views of the movement among the public. “He used his popularity in films to put forward the views of the movement to the public in political meets and not to gain any party post,” he said.
Mani also recalled a couple of instances when Manivannan volunteered himself to be part of his party’s meet and gave a speech in Coimbatore though he was not invited and had come to know about the event through wall posters. “During a conference at Tirupur, it was raining heavily but he continued to sit through even though he was not keeping well. He was a man of simplicity,” Mani said.
Prof A Marx, activist, said Manivannan was not only a well-read, lover of Tamil language and a follower of Marxist, Mao and Periyar ideologies but was also in charge in the district level in a communist movement before he made it big in films. “He was a voracious reader,” Marx said.