Malayalam director Siddique dies at 60

Siddique had directed many popular comedies in Malayalam cinema with his friend Lal, like 'Godfather', 'In Harihar Nagar', and 'Ramji Rao Speaking'.
Director Siddique
Director Siddique
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Writer and director of many comedies in Malayalam cinema, Siddique, passed away in Kochi on August 8, Tuesday. He suffered a cardiac arrest on Saturday at a hospital in Kochi, where he was admitted since July 10 due to respiratory issues. The 60-year-old filmmaker hailed from Kochi.

Like many artistes of his generation, Siddique had begun his career at the mimicry troupe run by Kalabhavan, a prestigious arts centre in Kerala. With Lal, his friend and colleague at Kalabhavan, he forayed into Malayalam cinema in the latter half of the 80s, writing comedies of a new flavour with an element of melancholy in them. If comedies were mostly written as a parallel track in films until then, in Siddque and Lal’s works, they merged with the main storyline, letting you smile even in the densest of scenes.

The duo first wrote the 1986 classic Pappan Priyappetta Pappan, directed by Sathyan Anthikad, about a young man (Rahman) who is wrongly snatched before his time by Yamarajan, the Lord of Death. Sathyan’s evergreen film Nadodikkattu also had their story behind it, about the funny situations two unemployed men land up in. Siddique and Lal also worked behind the scenes with director Fazil in movies such as Nokketha Doorathu Kannum Nattu in 1984 (where both appear as men sneezing on the road in a funny scene) and Manichitrathazhu (1993), contributing to the light-hearted scenes in both.

The two of them began co-directing films in 1989, and their first movie Ramji Rao Speaking turned out to be a hugely popular comedy about three miserable men deciding to pose as kidnappers in a hilarious turn of events. Their next two works  In Harihar Nagar (1990) and Godfather (1991)  also turned out to be immensely successful, and are cited among the best comic films to come out of Malayalam. In Harihar Nagar, which centred on four idle bachelors, had sequels later on, but the first film remains the most adored. Godfather, about a young couple from two feuding families falling in love, remains their biggest hit to date, running in theatres for a record 417 days in 1991-92. Actors such as the late Innocent, Mukesh, and Jagadish came out with some of their best comic performances in Siddique-Lal movies.

In 1996, however, the director duo decided to split ways. Siddique continued to write and direct films, while Lal proved himself to be a wonderful actor. Hitler (1997), with Mammootty playing a dominating brother to five sisters, was the first film Siddique made independently and though it was a success, it did not age well as his previous films with Lal did. Siddique continued to make comedies like the 1999 film Friends (which got remade in Tamil and Hindi), as well as dramas such as Chronic Bachelor (2003). Barring a few scenes like the one with Sreenivasan’s uncontrollable burst of laughter in Friends, these movies did not enjoy the same following as the early Siddique-Lal movies.

Siddique also occasionally forayed into other languages. His film Bodyguard (2010) was remade in Tamil with Vijay and in Hindi with Salman Khan. Another remake was Mammootty's Bhaskar the Rascal (2015) into Tamil with Arvind Swamy. He also made a Telugu film called Maaro in 2011. Siddique also made several movies with the superstars Mohanlal and Mammootty, the last one being Big Brother, which released three years ago.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the cultural world has lost a talented artist who began in mimicry and grew to be a popular filmmaker. Siddique, he said, had presented serious life problems in a light-hearted way.

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