Back in the day, Thillana Mohanambal was one of the few novels that was successfully translated into a movie. Director of the film A.P. Nagarajan made it a star-packed film. Most of the characters essayed in the film stand out even now, years after its release.
But Manorama just slipped under the skin of the character — Karuppayee-turned-Jil Jil Ramamani-turned Roja Rani — refused to be overshadowed even by the thespian and her mentor Sivaji Ganesan.
Nothing captured the life of a Sadir dancer — who had to contend with the life of having to be at the mercy of landlords, normally known as Minors.
When she tells Sivaji Ganesan in the film “Yellathan Kattren. Yenna Prayojanam. Ippadi Perai Maathi Vachittu Oor Oora Peya Alaiyiren” (I have learnt every art form. What is the point? I have to change my name and moving around like a ghost), her poignant words bear testimony to the status a woman artist in a patriarchal world despite possessed with talents.
Jil Jil Ramamani, the fictitious character probably bore the closest resemblance to Manorama.
In the film, Sikkil Shanmugasundram would introduce her to his troupe, saying that she could perform Karagam, poikal kudirai, sadir and all other art forms. “Ondrum Vidurathu Illai. Sakalakalavalli” ( She doesn't leave anything untouched. She's so versatile). Knowing her as he did, he probably was paying the highest compliment to Manorama the artiste. She indeed was a Sakalakalavalli.