Fans bid tearful goodbye to ‘poor man’s superstar’ of Kerala

Chalakudy (Kerala):  The ‘poor man’s superstar’ of Kerala, Kalabhavan Mani, was on Monday given a grand send off by his fans, friends and colleagues here.

Mani died on Sunday night. He was 45, and is survived by his wife and a daughter.

At his last rites, fans were shouting slogans like “Inquilab zindabad” and “Mani, you will never die”, making it difficult for the police to control the fans who wanted to see their star one last time.

The Kerala Police team also found it tough to perform their duty to give Mani a send off their way, as crowds kept jostling for space to see it.

When the pyre set up at his home was lit by Mani’s nephew (brother’s son Dinesh), many were seen crying loudly and the police had to push away people who wanted to come near the burning pyre. Even when smoke started to billow out, the crowd waited — showing the love and affection that the people at Mani’s hometown in Chalakudy had for him.

Right from morning in his home district Thrissur, thousands of fans waited for hours to get a last glimpse of the actor, even as a special police team began a probe into what caused his death.

His body was moved to three different places for the public to pay their homage, before it was brought to his home for his last journey. Top political leaders from across parties also paid their last respects to Mani.

Mani breathed his last at a private hospital at Kochi and soon after his death, speculation surfaced that this was not a natural death as the hospital authorities reported the presence of a chemical in his body.

The actor, who loved his tipple, was reportedly suffering from liver-related illness and doctors had advised him to exercise caution.

On Saturday, Mani was brought in a serious condition from his outhouse in his hometown Chalakudy near here. It was his favourite place to spend time with his friends.

Soon after the police registered a case of unnatural death late Sunday night, they sealed his outhouse and on Monday morning, a team of forensic experts and police dog team conducted a probe at the place where Mani was last present.

On Monday morning, a team of police surgeons conducted the autopsy at the state-run Medical College Hospital here and samples of his internal organs have been sent for tests to identify the chemical substance.

According to media reports, police have taken statements from five of his friends with whom he was last seen at his outhouse.

Despite Mani having a temperamental nature, he was a much loved person in his hometown Chalakudy as he never put on any airs. He was always proud of the way he made it to the top and was seen mingling with everyone.

Rising from being an auto-rickshaw driver, Mani in an acting career of close to a quarter century went on to act in over 200 films, including those in Tamil and Telugu. He was known for his dancing style besides his trademark ballad singing.

Mani started donning the greasepaint in 1993, but his stock rose hugely with the film “Sallapam” in 1996 and after that, through his characteristic laugh and dialogue delivery style, he never looked back. Eventually, his star status grew to a level where he was often referred to as the “poor man’s superstar”.

A naturally gifted artiste, Mani proved his mettle in the film “Vasantiyum Lakshmiyum Pinne Njanum” where he played the title role of a blind man. This film took him to even greater heights and won him the special jury award at the national and the state level in 2000.

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