Picking Thilakan’s finest performances is not an easy task. There are just so many.
Here is rewinding to some of Thilakan’s unforgettable roles (that include his own picks).
Achuthan Nair in Kireedom
In a film that had the dimensions of a Shakespearian tragedy, written by Lohithadas, he gave everything he had to play a man whose only ambition in life was to see his son doing better than him. With Mohanlal also coming up with one of his finest-ever performances, the Sibi Malayil film remains one of the best-acted Malayalam films of all time.
“Mohanlal contributed a great deal towards my performance in Kireedom,” Thilakan had admitted.
Title role in Perunthachan
One of MT’s greatest scripts demanded an exceptionally gifted actor and debutant director Ajayan found one in Thilakan. He played, with enviable ease, the complex character of the master carpenter who kills his own son. “I was charged up to do the film after reading the script,” Thilakan had said. “It was disappointing to miss out on the national award for it.”
Cheriyachan in Gamanam
One of his least-watched films, but one of his best. As a man who is abandoned by his wife and children because of a misunderstanding, he gave a heart-wrenching performance.
Paul Pailokkaran in Namukku Parkkan Munthirithoppukal
In one of Malayalam cinema’s finest-ever love stories, directed by Padmarajan, he played one of the scariest villains. “The role of the cruel man who rapes his stepdaughter was not easy to play,” Thilakan had said.
Kochuvava in Kattukuthira
It was a role - of a poor, lower caste man’s rise to power and his revenge - that was immortalised on stage by Rajan P. Dev. “It was an extraordinary character written by S.L. Puram originally for the stage, and I knew comparisons with Rajan P. Dev would be inevitable but I was able to make Kochuvava memorable in my own way,” Thilakan had said.
Krishna Kurup in Santhanagopalam
In the role of a man who has to feign his own death so that his family could benefit, he was brilliant. He relied more on his expressions than the dialogues, which were not many. “I would not have been able to make the film without Thilakan; nobody else could have played that role,” said its director Sathyan Anthikad.
Grandfather in Moonnam Pakkam
It is not everyday that a mainstream Malayalam cinema could be conceived with an 85-year-old man as the hero. But, then, Padmarajan is no ordinary director, Thilakan no ordinary actor. “I could surprise Padmarajan with some of my scenes in the film, like the one in which I was holding the clothes of my dead grandson,” Thilakan had said.
Vakkachan in Yavanika
Among his earlier works, the role of the theatre manager in K.G. George’s masterpiece, stood out. “I could contribute to the film not just as an actor; I was glad to share my experiences from theatre with George for the making of the film,” Thilakan had said.
Mooppil Nair in Rithubhedam
The cruel patriarch, another strong character M.T. wrote, was safe in Thilakan’s hands. “I used my eyes to bring out the character’s evil mind, and the director, Prathap Pothen, did not even know it while shooting,” he had said.
Retired judge in Kilukkam
This Priyadarshan film may have belonged to Mohanlal, Jagathy Sreekumar, and Revathy, but some of its funniest scenes featured Thilakan. Remember the way Thilakan throws away in fear the horror fiction he was reading, cursing its author! “It is among my favourite films,” Thilakan had said. “The humour in ‘Kilukkam’ was of the highest class.”
The list of unforgettable characters Thilakan played could go on and on, in films such as Sandesam, Parinayam, Sphadikam, Nadodikkattu, Sanmanassullavrkku Samadhanam, Veendum Chila Veettukaryangal, Kolangal, Jathakam, Ekantham, Radhamadhavam, Mukhamudra, Kauravar, Dhwani, Panchagni, Kudumba Vishesham, Mookkillatha Rajyathu, Kudumba Puranam, Kattathoru Penpoovu, Indian Rupee, Ustad Hotel’…