In July 2013, Manju Warrier returned to the front of camera after 14 years. This story featured the front page of many newspapers to the distaste of many people. A lot asked ‘Isn’t this comeback way too much hyped’ ? When she next started signing movies and it again found headlines,they now felt that she was an overrated actress and this return is not going to make any impact. Many others even went to the extent of criticizing her for leaving her family behind and stepping back to Cinema.
I never complained. What had happened in a celebrity’s personal life had never bothered me too and I have always felt its unfair to comment on things we don’t really know about. Instead the huge fan of this actress in me was just glad. Because I could now watch one of my most favorite actresses back again on big screen – something which I never dreamt would happen when she retired from the arena after her marriage in 1999!
Around 20 movies in 4-5 years – that’s all what Manju Warrier’s career had been about but I wonder if there has been any other actor or actress who had made such a huge impact and found a permanent place in Keralites’ hearts in such a short span. Manju Warrier made her debut in 1995 in the movie , Sakshyam and didn’t have to wait long to get an author backed role as it happened in her very next movie Sallapam .
Sallapam’s ‘Radha’ was a big break through and she hasn’t looked back ever since. She had won one state award(Ee Puzhayum Kadannu) ,one national award (special jury- Kannezhuthi pottum thottu) and four film fare awards in a row which is also a record ! Her last three movies were Summer in bathlehem, Pathram and Kannezhuthi pottum thottu ,all among her career best performances which speak volumes of the epitome at which she left and what shock it gave to the movie lovers.
Summer in Bethlehem‘s Abhirami particlarly stands out as my most favorite character by Manju Warrier and for that matter one of my most favorite performances ever by a leading actress in Malayalam as well. The movie had one of the best works by Suresh Gopi in a non-police role, Jayaram’s fantastic comedy , Mohanlal’s stunning cameo and Vidyasagar’s enticing music but still Summer in Bethlehem wouldn’t have been the same without Manju Warrier. Abhirami was a trouble-maker and caused nothing but headache to people around her.
Yet we could never hate the character because the actress who portrayed her was so immensely likable.Manju Warrier got to be jovial, mischievous, funny to moody,gloomy,grieved all in one character and she carried out it all to perfection. I really doubt if the movie’s writer Ranjith would have created this character which possessed so many layers in the exact same manner for any other actress if Summer in Bethlehem had released post 1999.
During Manju Warrier’s brief stint in Malayalam, the film makers wrote characters for a leading actress with more screen space , tougher lines and challenging scenes to enact apparent from the fact that we saw more heroine oriented movies like Kanmadam and Kannezhuthi pottum thottu. If she could make you laugh out loud with her terrific comic timing , she could also bring you to tears with equal ease as saw in movies like Ee puzhayum Kadannu ,Summer in Bethlehem and many others. Also how often after 1999 have we seen actresses share important space with Superstars yet walk away with laurels in their action thrillers like Manju Warrier did in Pathram and Araam thampuran.
Back in 1999, i still remember watching interviews of Thilakan, Mala Aravindan and Seema all around the same time when Manju Warrier stopped acting .All three of them mentioned that their favorite actress is Manju and each of them spoke in length on why they were sad that she had decided to put an end to her career. I used to wonder back then, in a state where we have seen great talents like Sharada, Sobhana and Urvashi, why they were all still raving only about Manju. Fifteen years later and today I completely understand what those senior artists meant .We have seen few talented actresses over the years but no one quite like Manju Warrier.
Manju Warrier’s comeback movie – How old are you is all set to release this month .The teaser and particularly the trailer has looked very exciting. She couldn’t have also asked for a better re-launch pad as the movie is scripted by Bobby-Sanjay who are considered to be among the most respected writers of this generation. Now that everything looks promising,the question everyone has in mind is – “Can Manju Warrier make a telling return ?” I sincerely hope so. In fact ,I had not wished for the success of any other movie in recent times like this because the admiration I have for this actress is utmost.