Rasipuram Subramaniyan Iyer Manohar, better known as R S Manohar, was a versatile actor in Tamil cinema who essayed a range of roles from hero to negative and comedic in nearly 300 films. Making his debut in films with Rajambal (1951), he went on to make an impact in films such as Vannakkili (1959), Kaidhi Kannayiram (1960), Vallavanukku Vallavan (1965), Vallavan Oruvan (1966) and Iru Vallavargal (1966). He gained immense popularity playing villain opposite M G Ramachandran in films like Ayirathil Oruvan (1965), Kaavalkaaran(1967), Adimai Penn (1969), Ulagam Suttrum Valliban (1973), Pallandu Vazhga (1975), and Idayakkani (1975). A doyen of the Tamil stage, he also devoted himself to theatre, continuing to stage mythological plays. Performing 31 plays in approximately 7,950 performances, some of his famous plays include Ilangeswaran, Chanakkiya Sabadam, Soorapadman, Sisupalan, Indrajith, Sukrachariyar, Naragasooran and Thirunavukkarasar. His contribution to the stage includes introducing 'dramascope' with stereophonic sound system, swift transformation of sets, and pyrotechnics to symbolise battle scenes. He was honoured with the Nadaka Kavalar award.
He was born on 29 June 1925 in Salem District, to Subramaniyan Iyer and Rajalakshmi Ammal. He gained the name Manohar after he essayed the lead role in the school play Manohara. Graduating from Pachaiyappa's College, Chennai, he found employment in the Postal department. His break in films came when he was signed on in the lead role for Rajambal (1951). He underwent another name change, when producer R M Krishnaswamy abbreviated his name to R S Manohar. He went on to act in films such as Vannakkili (1959), Kaidhi Kannayiram (1960), Vallavanukku Vallavan (1965), Vallavan Oruvan (1966), and Iru Vallavargal (1966).
Making his mark in negative roles, he won acclaim as he was pitched against M G Ramachandran in films such as Ayirathil Oruvan (1965), Kaavalkaaran (1967), Adimai Penn (1969), Ulagam Suttrum Valliban (1973), Pallandu Vazhga (1975), and Idayakkani (1975).
While his cold, villainous stare and threatening voice sent chills down the spine, his dominating screen presence would make even heroes appear diminutive in comparison. However, he was also known for his comic roles; the range of characters he effortlessly played was linked to his wide exposure as an actor on stage.
He is also celebrated for raising the bar in Tamil theatre; his contribution is considered second only to the theatre great, Nawab Rajamanikkam. Manohar acted in plays that were largely adapted from historical incidents or mythological stories. He acted in approximately 31 plays, in a whopping 7,950 performances. Some of his more popular plays include Ilangeswaran, Chanakkiya Sabadam, Soorapadman, Sisupalan, Indrajith, Sukrachariyar, Naragasooran and Thirunavukkarasar. He also produced the English play, Last Tango in Heaven, which was later made into a film.
Loving the freedom to create that theatre offered him, the epics he staged and the clever special effects he brought to the stage were immensely popular in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. His pioneering contributions to theatre include the introduction of 'dramascope' with stereophonic sound system, instant transformation of sets, and pyrotechnics to represent battle scenes.
Among the awards he received for his contribution to drama and cinema, is the Nadaka Kavalar award in 1970.
R S Manohar passed away on 10 January, 2006 in Chennai.