It was director Vinayan who re-wrote the concept of hero in Malayalam films. He dared to feature Kalabhavan Mani as a blind protagonist in the film Vasanthiyum Lakshmiyum Pinne Njaanum and the success of the film was soon followed by Karumadi Kuttan by the same director.
The actor who proved his mettle as side-kick comedian soon scaled up the ladder as lead character and as anti-hero. Mani then went on to portray diverse roles and there by established himself as one of the most versatile actors not only in Malayalam, but also in the south Indian industry.
On his first death anniversary, Onmanorama revisits Kalabhavan Mani's mercurial brilliance on screen.
Beginning his career as a mimicry artist Mani embarked into filmdom through the film Aksharam directed by Sibi Malayil. However, it was Sallapam directed by Sundar Das that cemented his career in the film industry. He has acted in more than 200 films rubbing shoulders with all the major actors.
His roles in films Kathanayakan, Kottaram Veetile Appoottan, Akashathile Paravakal, Valkkannadi and Malsaram among others were some of the films that were critically acclaimed along with their commercial success.
Mani's performance as villain in Vikram-starrer Gemini paved the way for a series of roles in Tamil as anti-hero. He has acted in more than 25 Tamil films in major as well as minor roles. He has also acted in four Telugu films.
A prodigious singer of folk songs with a unique style Mani has crooned for a few films. His recent role as Constable Perumal in Papanasam with Kamal Haasan, a remake of the Malayalam fim Drishyam collected much accolades as well.
The demise of Mani will always be a a big loss to Malayalam cinema.