Ambu mami & the film star who locked himself in

Ambujam was busy scrubbing her soapy clothes in  her kollai (backyard) when her neighbour, Pankaja hailed her across the fence separating both their houses.

“Ambu mami, did you hear the news?”

“What news?”

“Film star Manokanth has come to our village to rest after his latest movie shooting! It seems he always wanted to stay in a village and he liked ours when he was going in his car! He is staying in Chettiyar’s house. Just imagine, next door to you!”

Ambujam replied rather sanctimoniously – “What a chatter box you are Pankaja. Why should his coming be of any interest to us?”

Pankaja deflated. She had been married just a few months ago and found her marital home rather boring during the hours of daytime when her husband was at work. Her parents’ home had a TV (a rarity in those days) and her chief source of amusement before marriage had been to stare at the black & white TV shows and movies aired, in great delight. She tried to fill her day hours these days with neighbourhood gossip and often came over to Ambujam’s house in the afternoon for a sip of Ambu’s famous kaapi and a vat of gossipy tales. Ambujam had vainly tried to discourage this tendency and had finally, given up in resigned defeat.

Leaving a morose Pankaja staring at her, Ambujam trudged into her house after hanging out her clothes to dry. To her surprise, she found Chettiyar seated in the lone wooden chair in her house fanning himself in her hall. He stood up when she walked in.

“Vanakkam, Chettiyar.”

“Vanakkam, Ambu mami. I hope you are well.’

“Oh, yes. Of course.”

Ambujam stared at him in puzzlement. Chettiyar was not the sort of person to drop in suddenly for a friendly chat. The man seemed ill at ease today. She wondered when he will broach the purpose of his visit.

Chettiyar cleared his throat twice. Finally, he started talking in a hurried manner, his words tumbling over one another.

“You must have heard that actor Manokanth is staying at my house? Yes?”

When Ambujam nodded, he continued.

“Manokanth has been staying for the past three days in my house. The man seemed friendly enough when he came, without any airs that you would expect from a film star. He dismissed his secretary and his servant and wanted to live in anonymity for a few days.”

“Yes, Pankaja was just telling me.”

“Drat it, then the entire village must know, if she does. Anyway, like I said the man spent the first two days dressed in a simple veshti and a shirt and asked permission to visit my orchards during those days. My servant who works in the orchard told me that he spent the entire time sitting under the shade of the biggest mango tree and reading novels. My wife sent him hot lunch baskets through the same servant.”

“Does he pay you for the stay?”

“Yes, he pays me very well but that’s not the reason we allowed him to stay. My wife is a big fan of his movies and was thrilled when he asked us whether he can stay.”

“What happened yesterday?”

Chettiyar stared at her.

“But… but… how do you know of it?”

“You told me he was happy in his orchard visits for the first two days. So something must have happened yesterday to upset you since you are here today. Tell me.”

“You are a genius, Ambu mami. Yes, something happened yesterday but I don’t know what! The man simply refuses to come out of his room now and only permitted my 3 year old granddaughter to bring him food and kaapi once in the morning. My wife is worried out of her mind. The man didn’t even bathe today unless he snuck out to bathe in the middle of the night. My house has a bathroom, you know.”


Ambujam nodded. Most houses in her village didn’t have a bathroom and the residents of the village defecated in the wee hours of the morning in open spaces in separate areas designated for men and women. Bathrooms such as the one in Chettiyar’s house were considered a luxury.

“Can you help me, Ambu mami to find out what the issue is? Something is clearly wrong with the man.”

“Yes, I will help you. Come, let’s go to your house now.”

Trailed by Chettiyar and following his wife, Ambujam stopped outside the door of the room where the film star had locked himself into.

She knocked.

There was a groan followed by what sounded like go away mouthed quietly.

“Manokanth sir, I am here to help you. Open the door.”

“I WON’T. Now, stop bothering me and go away.”

“But… but…”

The door shuddered with the sound of something heavy hitting it inside.

A distressed Chettiyar’s wife whispered that this is how it had been since yesterday.

Ambujam had heard enough.

“Leave this matter to me. I will find out what happened. Continue sending food and water to him.”


Ambujam was back the next day with a small dapper man at her side in the Chettiyar’s house. Chettiyar’s wife remembered him as the film star’s secretary.

“I know what is the issue with Manokanth. His secretary is here to help me bring him out of that door.”

Ambujam stormed up the stairs to the filmstar’s room and knocked. The words “Go, away” were heard in an agonised whisper again.

“Manokanth sir, your secretary is here. I know what your issue is. You can leave quietly with your secretary via the back door. Your car is waiting for you. Ok?”

“Whoever you are, thank you! I will unlock the door now but I don’t want anyone else apart from my secretary to be there when I do open.”

“Of course, all of us will leave now except your secretary.”


The only sound of Manokanth’s exit was the whir of his car as it moved away.

“Ambu mami, you have to explain.’

“It was simple. The man was possessed by the vampire that hangs around in that empty wasteland near your orchards you know. The vampire hates sunlight, that’s why he was unable to come out during day time.”

“But why did he not come out at night too?”

“He wouldn’t want you to know he is possessed, would he?”

“But… but… why did you send him away then? He should have been cured by the village priest. How did he accept to go now if he cannot go out during sunlight?”

“His secretary covered him from head to toe in a black cloak. Don’t worry. I asked the secretary to take him to the dargah at the outskirts of the village for an exorcism.”

Chettiyar and his wife breathed a sigh of relief.


Manokanth heaved a sigh of relief before turning to his secretary.

“I was so scared I would be caught you know. I would never have been able to act in a film again. I still don’t know who the culprit is.”

The secretary was puzzled.

“The culprit?”

“The one who stole my toupee. Foolishly, I forgot to bring my spare one when I came here. No one except you should look at my bald head!”

“It’s ok, sir. Relax  now. You are safe. But tell me, why did that Ambu mami ask me to take you to a dargah?”

You can read the first part of the Ambu mami series here


  1. Simply hilarious Lavanya. Idyllic village setting in rural Tamil Nadu. Ambu mami reminds me of thuppariyum Sambu in some ways though he was quiet different. Ambu mami sounds like my grandfather’s sister Koma Chitti who was a widow. :))


  2. Hey Lavanya , The great Ambumami , nosey Pankaja , frivolous actor Manokanth , stiff Chettiyar …all these characters as well as the rural ambianace are excellently woven in your story to make it exciting. #MyFriendAlexa #SujatawdeReads


  3. Lavanya, I love Ambu Mami! What a twist to the tale. I need to read all your Ambu mami tales now. Keep writing, and regaling us with your hilarious tales. πŸ™‚
    #DeepTiesReads #MyFriendAlexa


  4. hahahahh.. lavanya.. appu thatha kadhaigal and thuppariyum sambu dan enakku nyabagam vandadu. i puposely posted in tamil as i wanted to enjoy the dialect. loved this πŸ™‚


  5. Now that was hilarious! Who would’ve thought that a missing toupee would lead the actor to a dargah. πŸ™‚
    These stories are coming out very well, Lavanya. Enjoying them thoroughly.


  6. I am a great fan of Ambu mami. I loved the way you wrote the story, I could see the story in front of my eyes like a movie. Ambu mami is so innocent and witty, can’t find such people now.


  7. Amazing, helpful information a lot of thanks. Great collection of articles to choose the wheelchair repair.
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