Four years since actor Thilakan's death, a tribute to his contribution to Malayalam cinema

No role was too big or small for the veteran actor.
Four years since actor Thilakan's death, a tribute to his contribution to Malayalam cinema
Four years since actor Thilakan's death, a tribute to his contribution to Malayalam cinema
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By Devendranath 

It’s been four years since Malayalam actor Thilakan’s death. His filmography was incredibly versatile and his willingness to explore all kinds of roles went to prove what the legendary Russian theatre actor Constantin Stanislavski said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.”

Thilakan possessed the rare ability to become the characters he played, whether in drama or comedy, whether he was playing a villainous role or otherwise. He remains etched in the minds of Malayalam cinema goers for the many memorable performances that he delivered over the years. Here’s a look at some of these:

Vakkachan (Yavanika) 1982

Modelled on a real life Kottayam based theatre actor Chachappan, Vakkachan could only have been played by an actor of Thilakan’s calibre. It also helps that he honed his skills in theatre — a reason why he got the minute detailing right.

Paul Paulokkaran (Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal) 1986

Thilakan’s character evokes a mix of revulsion and fear. Every time he stares at his stepdaughter Sophie (Shari), you can almost read his mind. Paulokkaran rarely smiles, he is either gruff or drunk. The only time you see him ease his guard is when he’s with his daughter. He watches the Solomon-Sophie affair warily. In that penultimate scene when Solomon (Mohanlal) looks helplessly at a distraught Sophie after he discovers her stepfather’s brutality, it’s hard to forget Paulokkaran’s sneer — that smugness on his face. That’s the moment you really love to hate him

Ananthan Nambiar (Nadodikattu and Pattanapravesham) 1987 and 1988

Ananthan Nambiar can’t say boo to a goose. Yet he is hailed as one of the dreaded underworld dons in his terrain. It’s difficult to visualise Thilakan in that role, yet he pulls it off in style. Not only does he crack you up with his hilarious unintentionally funny one liners (“Pavanayishavamaayi”), he is also eminently likeable. He carries forward the act in the second edition and shares some fine moments with Karamana and Sreenivasan.

Thampi (Moonam Pakkam) 1988

Whenever he donned the garb of an ageing man, Thilakan brought an intensity to it.  Thampi is a loving granddad — a bum chum to his grandson. When his man Friday breaks the news of his grandson’s death, Thampi has a look of disbelief. It’s a moment when you want to run towards him and give a reassuring hug. The final scene when he walks into the sea, determined to unite with his grandson is one of the most haunting scenes in Malayalam cinema. 

Achuthan Nair (Kireedam) 1989

Sethumadhavan’s (Mohanlal) fall is inextricably linked to the ambitions of his middle-aged father, constable Achuthan Nair. Thilakan plays a typical father who wants to live his dream through his son. In the end, it’s that climax scene and the father’s heart-wrenching appeal to his son that reverberates in your mind — “Money ninde achanada parayunne, kaththithazheidra!” Thilakan’s power-packed performance is one of the reasons why Sethumadhavan remains an indelible memory.

Sankaran (Naduvazhikal) 1989

Thilakan’s character, Sankaran, is reminiscent of Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer’s Ettukaali Mammonju. He is that archetypal name dropper, who claims to know every VVIP.  Thilakan lends a comic touch to all that pompousness and makes it immensely memorable.

Raman (Perumthachan) 1990

The actor’s fluidity and ingenuity is in fine flow in this M.T. Vasudevan Nair classic. He is so convincing as the master carpenter and envious father that he almost lets us buy his justification for the act of dropping a chisel on his son’s neck. 

Keshavan (Mookilla Rajyathu) 1991

Once again the actor displays his superb sense of comic timing here. As one of the four patients who run away from an asylum for the mentally ill, Thilakan wisely picks traits that bring forth the eccentricities of an ex-army man. It’s difficult to forget that side-splitting scene where he strips down to his underwear to protest against foreign textiles.

Chacko Mashu (Spadikam) 1995

In this film, Thilakan plays a headstrong Mathematics teacher who believes that Maths is the ultimate truth. Yet he works with a faulty formula for a happy family. Every time he tries to force-feed formulae into his teenaged son’s head, he also inadvertently crushes his dreams. With his thick eyebrows and perpetual scowl, he is not an easy man to like. Thilakan simply owns the role.

Kochuthomman (Veendum Chila Veetukaryangal) 1999

They share an enviable friendship, the father (Thilakan) and son (Jayaram). They are passionate about theatre, and food — and in fact, together, they plot and foil a marriage proposal. But then overnight, the equations change. It’s only in the end that we realise that it was all a big act from Kochuthomman’s side to make a man out of his son. He tells his son — “Ippolada nee oru nayakanayathu,” and the son retorts— “Pakshe nalla nadan ippozhum appan thanneya.” What a fitting tribute to that act!

Natesan (Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu) 1999

Thilakan plays a wily, horny sexagenarian who can’t get enough of beautiful women.  He is instantly smitten by the charms of Bhadra (Manju Warrier) who is out to trap him to seek revenge. But Natesan is unaware, going all out to woo her, dropping sly hints about his desire and even adding a bit of romance to the proceedings. Thilakan plays the villain and lecher with commendable restraint.

Achutha Menon (Indian Rupee) 2011

Two things — that arresting voice and the quiet strength in which Thilakan’s character talks about life to JP (Prithviraj). Superb! 

Kareem (Ustad Hotel) 2012

Hands down his most lovable performance of all time. Thilakan plays Kareem, the dear old granddad who imparts the magic of suleimani to his awe-struck grandson — “Every suleimani should have a bit of mohabbat in it.” Be it the way he narrates his love story to Faizi (Dulquer Salman) or his dismay when Faizi excitedly talks about going abroad or that final scene when he has found the ultimate peace, Thilakan breathes life into Kareemka with charming serenity.  

(This article first appeared in You can read the original article here. The News Minute has syndicated the content.)

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