Thilakan, the artist among actors
'Losing Thilakan is like losing someone in family.'
The tribute paid a by a fan on twitter couldn't have been better expressed.
Malayalam has seen Thilakan in all shades - the doting father, the disciplinarian father, the jealous father, the father who raped his step-daughter, the womanizer, the underworld don, the scary villain, the comic villain, the grandfather, the comic hero, the uncle, the historic figure, the Christian priest, the pujari, the maulvi...
For Thilakan, no character was impossible or taboo. Malayalam saw him in all shades but one: that of a tree-hopping young lover. Maybe Malayalam realized his greatness a tad too late or did our filmmakers think bald men were incapable of falling in love?
What would a father feel when he sees his son, who he dreamt of making a police officer, who is just one interview away from realizing his ambition, wield a knife and murder a street goonda? When Sethu's father first commands and then pleads in tears, totally helpless, all his life coming down like a castle of cards, "Kathi thazhe idada mone (Drop that knife son.)", how many us didn't feel the knife go right through us. How many of us longed for a different twist. We felt the pain, and still feel the pain. And the cruel filmmaker made a sequel of that, as if he hadn't hurt us enough, making Sethu a goonda himself, and the father a pimp who sells his daughter. Didn't I say no role was taboo for Thilakan?
Chacko, the mathematics teacher, who wants his son to become an engineer, could have been an uncle you and I know of or your dad or mine. "Bhoogolathinte oro spanthanavum kanakkilanu, (Mathematics is the pulse of universe)", said Chacko as he caned his son, and we all started hating mathematics. This world would have been a lot different had mathematics not been the pulse of universe, or so we believed. None of us have forgotten what (a + b)2 is, not after the caning Thomas Chacko got from his dad. "A square minus B square is equal to... ba ba ba alla (yes it is certainly not ba ba ba)"
The father in Sandesham, who stayed away from his family so that his children's education doesn't suffer because of his frequent transfers, and his sense of achievement when he sees his sons graduate, and his belief that his sons can do no wrong.... And yet all goes wrong
The grandfather who sees his grandson drown in the sea, only to find the body the third day... the moonnaam pakkam
The perumthachan - the grand craftsman - who kills his even more capable son to keep his friend's honour or was it out of jealousy as the myth goes...
The old man who lusts for his maid, and any woman he could lay his eyes on...
The opposition leader in the village of panchavadi...
The chief minister who is no less than a Chanakyan...
The priest who loves kids, the priest who sees a plot in everything...
Didn't I say no role was taboo for Thilakan? Because Thilakan was an artist, not a star.
In a country where superstars, semi-superstars and wannabe superstars, collected national awards for best actor, Thilakan doesn't have one against his name. He often rued this country honours stars and not actors.
A fan on twitter said, "I always thought Thilakan was Mohan Lal's father when I was a child." Who could blame him? Such was their chemistry. The father and son who immortalized Sethu and Chacko didn't see eye to eye in recent years.
Thilakan, the outspoken actor that he is, accused superstars of trivializing Malayalam films, rightly so. The reaction was swift, he was barred from films, unofficially of course.
After many years of forced hiatus, Thilakan came back as Achuta Menon in Indian Rupee. The loudest cheers in the cinema hall were reserved for him, not the youth icon Prithviraj. We may still idolize our superstars, but will always hold a grudge. If only they had allowed him a few more films.
Thilakan, the grandfather dhabawallah in Usthad Hotel, his last movie, tells his grandson, "Sulaimani ellavarkum undakkam... pakshe oro sulaimaniyilum ithiri mohabbat venam. (Everyone can make a sulaimani... but mix it with a little mohabbat."
Lalettaaa and Mammukka, go have a sulaimani, with a little mohabbat in it.
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