Thilakan, colossus on stage and screen, leaves the scene
Thilakan, Malayalam cinema’s acting powerhouse, is no more.
After battling multiple organ failure for over a fortnight now, Thilakan breathed his last in a private hospital here at 3.35 a.m. on Monday, leaving behind a rich oeuvre of films, almost every single one of them epitomising his powerful histrionic capabilities.
Thilakan, who had suffered a stroke some years ago, had returned to the stage and cinema after treatment, but his health deteriorated some weeks ago. He was admitted to a hospital in Thrissur with fever a month ago and brought here later in a critical condition. He leaves behind wife and six children.
Thilakan’s body was kept at Victoria Jubilee Town Hall in the city from 11 a.m. to enable the public to offer their last respects to the thespian. Wreaths were placed on the body on behalf of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Defence Minister A.K. Antony. Speaker G. Karthikeyan, Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, Culture Minister K.C. Joseph and Minister for Cinema K.B. Ganesh Kumar led the mourners. The cremation was held with State honours at the electric crematorium in the city.
Seventy-seven-year-old Surendranath Thilakan, a man of rough edges on and off screen, but whose courage and convictions remained resolute even in the face of ostracism from his chosen vocation, acted in nearly 200 films during his four-decade-long film career and won accolades and several awards on the way. The nation honoured him with the Padma Shri in 2009.
Thilakan began as a student political activist and his acting career was an extension of his activism. He began his professional life in theatre and left a strong imprint as a theatre artiste before moving into films in the early 1970s. He did not look back till he faced the wrath of his colleagues in cinema a few years ago. Pushed to the margins, the battle-hardened veteran returned to theatre, only to bounce back with some stunning performances over the past one year and more.
Although Thilakan made his debut in cinema in 1972 with Periyar, it was with award-winning director K.G. George’s Kolangal (1981) that he truly arrived in tinsel town. It was followed by Yavanika, another masterpiece from Mr. George. The film went on to attain cult status in Malayalam cinema.
Thilakan made a huge impact with films such as Moonnampakkam, Panchagni, Dhwani, Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam, Namukku Parkkan Munthirithoppukal, Rithubhedam, Jathakam, Nadodikkattu, Kireedom, Kattukuthira, Perunthachan, Santhangopalam, Gamanam, Sandesam, Kilukkam, Sphadikam, Veendum Chila Veettukaryangal, Ekantham, Indian Rupee and Ustad Hotel.
Thilakan won the national award for the best actor in a supporting role for Rithubhedam in 1988. He won the State award for the best actor twice, for Perunthachan (1990) and Gamanam and Santhanagopalam (1994). He was the recipient of the State award for the second best actor on six occasions, beginning with Yavanika (1982) and the last for Kattathoru Penpoovu (1998). Ekantham fetched him a special jury award in 2007.