The retrospective section at the 16th International Film Festival of Kerala will feature one of the most loved and respected figures in Malayalam cinema – Madhu or Madhavan Nair.
It has been almost 50 years since Ninamaninja Kalpadukal, through which the lanky, soft-spoken Hindi lecturer made his screen debut. Over the years, he has graced the Malayalam film industry with his presence. He also made a mark as a producer, director and studio owner.
He was often gutsy to experiment with different fields of cinema: he starred in Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s film Swayamvaram (1972) when he was already a star.
At the 16th IFFK, we get a chance to recollect those characters made immortal by him on screen. Seven films which mark Madhu’s career over the years will be presented. One of his best known films, Swayamvaram (1972), directed by Malayalam auteur Adoor Gopalakrishnan is the story of lovers Viswam and Seetha who run away and settle in the city. Released in 1972, the film broke the norms of Malayalam cinema and won both critical and commercial applause. Madhu, who often showed the guts to experiment with different types of cinema, starred in Swayamvaram when he was already a star. The film went on to win four National awards including for best director and best actress.
One of the highpoints of Madhu’s career came in 1965 through Rama Kariat’s Chemmeen, adapted from Thakazhi’s novel with the same title. The film was a smash hit at the box office and won much critical acclaim. A realistic take on the life of the fishermen community, Chemmeen has Madhu playing the memorable tragic hero Pareekutty, and Sheela as his lover Karuthamma.
Another offbeat film, Olavum Theeravum directed by P. N. Menon, was part of the new wave that shook the Malayalam film industry and marked its “breaking into realism”.
In 1969, Madhu made his debut in Hindi with K.A. Abbas’ Saat Hindustani. Incidentally the film was also the debut of superstar Amitabh Bachchan. The film deals with the struggle by Anwar Ali (Bachchan) and his six friends including Shaubut Sanyal ( essayed by Madhu) to recapture Portuguese-occupied Goa.
Madhu played the role of a novelist who comes to live in a haunted house in Bhargaveenilayam (1964), directed by Vincent. It was the only film for which Malayalam author Vaikom Muhammed Basheer wrote the screenplay. The film also stars Prem Nazir and Vijaya Nirmala.
In 1976, Madhu directed Theekkanal which was a success. Jayaraj gave him the role of a patriarch in his film Kudumbasametham (1992). He played the role of a strict disciplinarian father who wants his son to toe his path.
Madhu once said of himself, “I believe I succeeded as an actor all these years because I was never a star; no man has ever gone to see a film just to see me.” Yes, he was never the star, he was always the great characters he essayed on screen.