Happy birthday, Goundamani! Here’s a tribute to the 80-year-old actor and comedian featuring a few of his best one-liners, songs and scenes from Tamil films.
Goundamani came into Tamil cinema over four decades ago in Nagesh’s Server Sundaram in 1964, but his first credited role was as Rajinikanth’s sidekick in 16 Vayadhinile almost a decade later. For his ability to “counter” his fellow actors on screen as well as on stage as a theatre actor, Subramani earned the name “Counter” Mani, which over time morphed into Goundamani. He acted in over 300 movies between 1980 and 2000, mostly paired with Senthil in senior-junior roles. The duo have made us laugh for years and although they don’t act anymore (Goundamani’s last film was Vaaimai in 2016) they are still very much a part of our films and lives. Today, the Tamil meme nation depends on Goundamani Senthil, and Vadivelu, to comment on politics, current events, and society.
The iconic “vaazhapazham” comedy track from Karagaatakaran, which Senthil recalled as a scene that ‘just happened’, crediting dialogue writer Veerappan for its success, is at the heart of the Goundamani-Senthil relationship. The scene has been ripped off, remade, repurposed and reused over and over again in Tamil cinema and popular culture, even inspiring Vadivelu’s comic scene from Nesam Pudhusu
The Senthil-Goundamani comedy is known for their elaborate set up, often with Senthil’s questions that Goundamani counters witty one-liners. The most popular ones are from Vaidehi Kaathirundhal, Karakattakaran, Vietnam Colony, Udan Pirappu, Suriyan, Gentlemen, Ullathai Allitha, Brahma, Indian and many more.
Much before these, was Goundamani’s superb role in the Pandiarajan debut film Kanni Rasi. In an early scene in the film, he plays the much battered man of the house who has to contend with his brother in law garnering all the attention in the house.
Dialogues like “Shutup yuvar mouth,” “Adu eppdi da enna pathu anda kelvi kekkalam?” “Enaku intha disturbance ae pidikala,” “gokka mokka,” and more feature in mashup tributes to Goundamani, in memes, YouTube videos, whatsapp status and ringtones and daily life conversations.
The petromax light comedy is a classic. A set up that involves Goundamani explaining how a petromax lantern works, and Senthil destroying the mantle is immediately followed by a woman who wants to hire the light from Goundamani. Who then asks the woman “Petromax light thaan venuma?” (Do you really want just the petromax?)
Goundamani played ‘Royal’ Ramasamy, a personal assistant to Viswanathan (Vijaykumar) the politician in the 1993 film Walter Vetrivel. In the best comedy clips, such as the shopping scene below, his retorts to Viswanathan who lectures Goundamani on honesty and integrity, gently prick the bubble of a pompous, smug politician. A year later, Goundamani played a similar role in the Vijayakanth-starrer Sethupathi IPS as Muthaiah, Sethupathi’s head chef.
The lottery scene from Rakkayi Koil is another one of Goundamani-Senthil’s classics. Goundamani wins a lottery for Rs. 15 lakhs and goes around the town boasting about it to his neighbours and wife, and even asks his employer, the senior Manorama to “Shutup yuvar mouth! Yaara pathu avan Ivan’ngra.. Ivarrrr… Avarr…” He soon finds out that his dreams of earning lakhs and building a bungalow drowned with the ticket that Senthil threw into the river.
In the film Singaravelan, Goundamani plays off Kamal Haasan, Mano, Charlie, and Vadivelu – each fantastic comic actors themselves. But it is Goundamani, whose sarcastic one liners in the film are the best of the lot.
Chinna Gounder in 1992 by RV Udayakumar was a super-hit film, and the comedy scenes, which were frequent breaks in the movie, are one of Senthil and Goundamani’s most popular. They arrive at Chinna Gounder Vijayakanth’s house for work, with Senthil asking his “intelligent” questions all the way to which Goundamani takes him to task. Their scene with Manorama also continues to be one of the most loved comedy clips.
In Jai Hind police officer Goundamani asks Pulikutty Senthil, “Adenna thalaikku mela keeri pulla paduthirikidhu” and arrests him for his hairstyle and for riding triples while singing ‘Yeh Dosti’ even though Pulikutty warns that his brother is Poonakutty.
Goundamani-Senthil’s comedy was central to this film.
In 1995, Goundamani turned hero for Raja Enga Raja, co-starring Ramya Krishnan and Sadhana. He played a man working in Delhi, in love with Sadhana, but his marriage is arranged with Ramya Krishnan. The film featured many comedy scenes with Goundmani, Senthil and Manorama. Goundamani played the lead role in about ten movies in his career including Piranthaen Valarnthaen, and later in 49-0 and Enakku Vera Engum Kilaigal Kidaiyathu.
Almost every Goundamani dialogue from Suriyan is popular, starting from, “Start the music”, “Who is that disturbance?” to “Inda kosu tholla thaanga mudiyala, marundhu adichi kollungadaa,” “Sathya sodhanai” and “Arasiyalla idellam sadaranamappa,” from this comedy scene below where Goundamani pretends to be taking an important call over a phone that is dead. Much later, in Indian too his dialogues mocked politicians and the “Good morning oppicer” one is most famous.
The best comedy scenes from Goundamani’s peak years in his career in the 80s and 90s, were “take that 25 rubees” from Thedi Vandha Rasa, the Goundamani, Senthil and Vadivelu combo from Kovil Kaalai, the hilarious kidnap scene from Ullathai Allitha where Goundamani and Senthil bargain with kidnappers over the amount of ransom to be paid, Goundamani as Prabhu’s assistant in Vietnam Colony, comedy scenes in China Vathiyar, Goundamani-Senthil in Maha Prabhu, Thalaiaati Bomaigal and more.
Goundamani’s comedy also features remix of songs, including many Hindi, which he and Senthil made popular among Tamil people. The famous scene from Thalattu Ketkuthamma where Goundamani sings ‘Ho gaya ho gaya’, and gets into trouble for it was popular. This was also where the famous “Sithappu” reference came from. In other films, he sings ‘Ramaiya Vasatavaiya’, and also ‘Rakamma Kaiya Thattu’, ‘Maanguyile poonguyile’ and ‘En peru padayappa.’
Goundamani is known for being the same Counter Mani on sets too, as many have recalled in speeches. Sathyaraj once left the audience of a press meet in splits with many behind-the-scenes stories, adding that what he shared was just a little of what happened in sets between shots. He said, “Usually I finish my part in one take, but with him it would take us ten takes. He would make our acting humourous.”
Goundamani has always shied away from giving interviews and speaking outside of film meets. His first, and thus far the only interview he has given is for Vikatan before the release of his 2015 film 49-0, a political satire starring him in the lead. It was a short interview where he revealed that he doesn’t watch any Tamil or South Indian films, and if he does watch films it’s usually only Hollywood.
In film events, however, his speeches are most awaited. 49-0 was one of the funniest where he repeated in his classic style, “Idhu oru nalla padam thaan.”
With inputs from Karthikeyan Asokan and Subha Rao