S. Manivannan Rajagopal (31 July 1953 – 15 June 2013), popularly known mononymously as Manivannan, was an Indian film actor and director. In a career spanning three decades, Manivannan went from being a story and dialogue writer for veteran director Bharathiraja from 1980–82 to a successful director who thrived in experimenting with different genres, before becoming an actor. With over 400 films to his name, Manivannan was one of the most experienced actors in the field and has directed exact 50 films. Manivannan was mainly a supporting actor in films and often played the comedian or the villain's role.
During his lifetime, he supported various political parties, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. He later became affiliated with the Naam Tamilar Katchi and had long supported its ideology of Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism.
Manivannan attended the Sulur Government Boys' High School and later enrolled at Kovai Government Arts College. While completing his pre-university course in Kovai, he became acquainted with Sathyaraj and became friends. According to Sathyaraj, he provided poor guidance to Manivannan and made him pursue a degree in history in advanced English, which made him struggle with topics such as Shakespeare, forcing him to drop out later. While still at college, Manivannan was bitten by the stage-bug and consequently he staged a few performances. Inspired by the impact the film Kizhake Pogum Rail(1978) made on him, he wrote a fan mail to the film-maker Bharathiraja and the letter ran to more than a hundred pages. Bharathiraja took him under his fold as an apprentice. Manivannan joined Bharathiraja's camp around 1979, when the director was acting in and was directing by P. S. Nivas, Kallukkul Eeram.
He penned the story and dialogues for some of his mentor's films between 1980–82 like Nizhalgal, Tick Tick Tick, Alaigal Oivathillai and Kaadhal Oviyam. Manivannan assisted Bharathiraja in a handful of films like Koththa Jeevithaalu (Telugu), Red Rose (Hindi) starring Rajesh Khanna and Lovers (Hindi).He learned trade hard and fast within two years under Bharatiraja and by 1982 made his directorial debut. He had also penned the story and dialogues for a bunch of other films like Lottery Ticket acted by Mohan and Prabhu, Agaya Gangai acted by Karthik, Nesam acted by Ajith Kumar. In Kodi Parakuthu, directed by Bharathiraja, Manivannan did the villain's role.
Although Manivannan has directed 50 films in Tamil and had around 34 films as box-office hits, he was most known for his acting skills among public. He was considered unique in the industry for his wisdom and his character roles. He had acted alongside many a star including Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Sathyaraj, Karthik, Mohan, Madhavan, Ajith Kumar, Vijay, Surya and among others. He has starred in over 400 films. Amaidhi Padai, directed by Manivannan, is believed to have given him headway as an actor. He started getting plush offers and was seen acting in as many as thirty films a year from 1990–2011.
Manivannan directed fifty films including a few ventures in Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi. As a director, he made films in different genres – from romance to thriller to drama. He made his directorial debut with Gopurangal Saivathillai in 1982. The Hindu wrote that his film Amaidhi Padai (1994) "has set the standards for political satire in Tamil cinema". In 2013 he directed his 50th and last film Nagaraja Cholan MA, MLA, a sequel to Amaidhi Padai. Manivannan directed his best friend Sathyaraj in a good 25 films and gave 12 successive hits as the director of Tamil films with Satyaraj as the lead hero – Jallikattu, Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi, Ganam Kortaar Avargale, Manidhan Marivittan, Ullathil Nalla Ullam, Vazhkkaichakkaram, Pudhu Manithan, Therku Theru Machan, Government Mapillai, Amaidhipadai.
His proteges have proved themselves as successful directors. Vikraman, R. K. Selvamani, Sundar C., Seeman, K. Selva Bharathy, Radha Bharathi, C. V. Sasikumar, E. Ramadoss, Jeeva Balan and Rasu Madhuravan once took orders for Manivannan. Withering irony, and a very cool way of delivering the dialogues is Manivannan's motif and style in films.
Manivannan was first a staunch supporter of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) as his father R S Maniam was the DMK town secretary of Sulur, which made Manivannan develop an interest in the ideology of the Dravidian movement. However, later he became a Marxist and an activist in the naxalite movement. He had political differences even with his father.
Manivannan was a Tamil patriot and joined the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(MDMK) political party and campaigned for them during the 2006 Assembly elections. He later joined Naam Tamilar Katchi and has been as supporter of Tamil Eelam. Manivannan once said: "If I were born in Tamil Eelam, I would have certainly joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a warrior and sacrificed my life for the Eelam, since I am born in Tamil Nadu, there is Eelam feeling in me."
Manivannan hails from a small town called Sulur in Coimbatore District. He was born to R.S. Maniam, a rice merchant, textile trader and a well known politician in Coimbatore and Maragatham who has contested in the elections and won a seat in the panchayat. Manivannan married Sengamalam, has a daughter and a son Raghu, who is acting in the movies and is popularly known as Raghuvannan.
Manivannan died shortly after the release of his 50th directorial venture Nagaraja Cholan MA, MLA due to a cardiac arrest (heart attack) on 15 June 2013 at the age of 60 in his Nesapakkam residence at Chennai. His body was wrapped in the flag of Tamil Eelam as he wished. Two months after his death, his wife died on 15 August 2013.