Chalakkudy: On Saturday noon, 13 days after local lad who had made it big in films left the stage forever, mourners from near and far made a beeline to Mani Koodaram, the residence of Kalabhavan Mani at Chalakudy in Thrissur.
The house remained closed, window panes pulled down, wearing bereaved look. Rose petals and thulsi leaves were fresh on his tomb. Mourners and even picnickers on way to Athirapilly waterfalls, filed past the mound on the spot Mani was cremated.
Auto rickshaws ferried hordes of mourners, albeit with pride since Mani had been one of them; he had started off as an autorickshaw driver in town, juggling work and pare time to do stage programmes.
In the tomb’s background, mourners took selfies. Some collected pieces of earth for keeps sake. Close friends and admirers of Mani had collected his ashes in 1,000-rupee notes after the cremation.
Next to the burial ground was a Jaguar XF bearing register number KL-64-C-100. A Mahindra XUV, Mithsubushi Pajero, a Honda Getz (all bearing 100 number plates) caravan and ten odd motorcycles were parked on Mani’s residential premises.
“Everyone is talking about the controversies surrounding his death. For us we lost a father figure, on whom we relied for everything,” said R.L.V. Ramakrishnan, Mani's younger brother. “Mani has left a fortune for the kin of four generations though he never practised thrift. Chettan had planned everything ahead and he has earmarked money for even the marriage of his 15-year-old daughter whom he fondly called Ammu,” he said.
“In my case, he gave a three-storied 'Kalgruham,' a place for me to prace,” Ramakrishnan said.
“Mani literally ensured that all relatives were settled well. He helped when a marriage came in the family, when someone started building a house and so on,” Ramakrishnan added.
The loss is also irreplaceable for people like Chakkara, a ten-year-old boy with autism from Pathanamthitta. Chakkara used to call Mani and listen to his songs when the actor was alive. Mani even took him home to sing songs. Now his parents have asked Ramakrishnan to mimic Mani and sing a song to Chakkara.
Ramakrishnan, who is a lookalike of Mani, is also getting many calls from the fans of the actor asking him to copy Mani's mannerisms by wearing a gold chain, bracelet, red smearing on the ear and the moustache.
When asked about the extravagant nature of Mani, Ramakrishnan said, “Mani Chettan never bothered about money and he used to forgive those who cheated him. People loved him and he loved them back. I heard many took ashes from Mani's cremation ground. Still people from across the state are visiting Chalakkudy to have a look at the place,” he said.
Mimicry artist Ranjith, Mani's sister's son who is working in a troupe based in Kochi also agreed with what Ramakrishnan said. “Mani loved us all after becoming a movie star and took care of everything in the family,” he said.
Mani who died on March 6 used to help and fund many people and projects. During the last few years he stopped extending huge financial support. Instead he conducted stage shows to raise funds for the poor and needy. His death has put a question mark on the sustainability of his philanthropic activities and those who depended on him. Just like his hit song Minnaminunge Minnum Minunge, Mani's cousins, his manager Jobin, his close relatives are all saddened by the huge loss....