Thilakan liked Sidney Poitier the best, had high regard for Manju Warrier, and hopes for Dulquar Salman.

Thilakan loved to talk. Yes, he did speak a lot in bitterness about his colleagues towards the end of his life, but even then he would always be happy to speak about his art.

During a break at the shooting of Ustad Hotel, one of his last films, on the Kozhikode beach, one hot afternoon earlier this year, he fondly talked about Sydney Poitier, his favourite actor. “I still remember watching Sydney Poitier in To Sir With Love at a cinema in Kollam in my student days,” he had said. “What an actor he was!”

And he went on to recite some of Poitier’s famous dialogues in the film. He remembered everything. How did he like Poitier’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? “No, I have not seen the film yet, as only recently could I get a DVD of it,” he said. “It is such a pleasure to see Poitier’s films.”

Brando, an inspiration

There was another actor who made a huge impact on him: Marlon Brando. “I still remember how thrilled I was to watch Brando playing Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar,” he had said. “It was one of my earliest inspirations as an actor.”

Who, according to Thilakan, was the best actor in Malayalam cinema? “Me,” he had said, on another occasion. It was not arrogance, but supreme self-confidence.

He was extremely fond of Manju Warrier. “She is our best actress ever,” he had said on another occasion. “An artiste like her comes once in a century. She had the potential to do so much.” And how did he find the new crop of actors? “I think Dulquar Salman is very promising. He looks a natural actor to me,” he had said, while shooting with the young actor for Ustad Hotel. “He has a bright future as an actor.”

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