Obituary – Surendranath Thilakan

published on September 25, 2012

 Thilakan, renowned as Malayalam film’s acting genius, passed away following a cardiac arrest at the age of 77 at a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram early Monday morning. He is survived by four sons and two daughters.

The great actor had been battling for life at the private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram ever since he was admitted there on August 23. Thilakan breathed his last at 3.35 am Monday. The body was cremated at the Santhikavadam Crematorium in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday evening with full State honours.

Surendranatha Thilakan, known simply as Thilakan, was born at Ayroor in Pathanamthitta district on July 15, 1938. He had acted in more than 300 films but the start of acting was with the theatre when he an intermediate student and he had been associated with many drama troupes in his early days including the pro-Left Kerala Peoples’ Arts Centre (KPAC).

His first screen appearance took place with director KG George’s Oolkadal in 1979. It was just a minor role but that turned out to be the birth of the Malayalam movie’s Perumthachan (the master craftsman) of acting.  That relation between the director and the actor stayed on and he acted in George’s next two films Kolangal and Yavanika.

A recipient of Kerala State Film Award for best actor three times, he was honoured with Padma Shri in 2009. He won the National Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1988. Thilakan had come close to winning the national award for best actor twice and on both the occasions the winners had expressed surprise as to why he was not given the award.

Thilakan had received the second best actor award of the State Government six times. With a solid background through years of acting on stage, Thilakan outshone almost all other Malayalam actors when it came to doing character roles. He donned the role of a ruthless villain or comic character with the same ease with which he did his character roles.

Thilakan had dominated the headlines more for controversies than his films in the last years of his life. He took on the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), which expelled him and he also faced a ban. Politicians and cultural leaders batted for him but that could not help him much. However, he never showed willingness to compromise.

It was an irony that his fiercest enemies were some of the best actors who together with him had gave birth to some of the greatest Malayalam movies ever made. He made a forceful comeback last year with a strong character in Indian Rupee, directed by Ranjith, which fetched him the second best actor award of the State Government for a sixth time.

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