Thrissur: The shocking death of Kalabhavan Mani, often referred to as the "poor man's superstar", has left his fans in Thrissur shaken. Thousands of them waited for hours to get one last look at the actor, even as a special police team began a probe into what caused his death.
Mani passed away on Sunday night at a private hospital at Kochi and soon after his death, speculations surfaced that this was not a natural death as the hospital authorities reported presence of a chemical in his body. He was 45, and is survived by his wife and a daughter.
Mani's friends and colleagues from the film industry started making a beeline on Monday morning to have one last glimpse of the hugely talented actor, who died unexpectedly.
Top political leaders from across parties also paid their last respects to Mani.
The last rites will be conducted in Chalakudy at 5 p.m. and given the crowd that has gathered, the police are finding it tough to contain the mourners.
Passions were running so high that Innocent, the Chalakudy Lok Sabha member and president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes, could not move in to pay his personal tributes to his partner of numerous films. People milled around to grab the opportunity to take one last look at Mani. In this melee, the dress of Innocent was torn.
Mani, 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 loved person at his home town Chalakudy as he never carried any airs about him. He was always proud of the way he made it to the top and was always seen mingling with everyone.
Rising from being an autorickshaw 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.