Thilakan has a special chemistry with the average Malayali. And the long queue of his fans that snaked around the Victoria Jubilee Town (VJT) Hall at Palayam here on Monday proved the alchemy of the relationship.

Fans of Malayalam cinema’s much-loved actor flowed in large numbers to pay their last respects to the stalwart who carved for himself an enviable position in the filmdom with rare versatility and genius. From 10.30 in the morning, people from all walks of life flooded the hall, until 3.30 in the afternoon, when the body was taken to Shanthi Kavadam here where he was cremated with full state honours.

Ministers K.C. Joseph, Anoop Jacob, K.B. Ganesh Kumar, and K. Babu; Shashi Tharoor, MP; Speaker G. Karthikeyan; Leader of the Opposition V.S Achuthanandan; CPI(M) leaders Pinarayi Vijayan, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, and Kadakampally Surendran were among the senior political leaders who paid homage to the actor. Several figures from the Malayalam film industry and cultural figures were present.

The body was first taken to his son Shammi Thilakan’s house before it was brought to the VJT Hall where wreaths of flowers were placed on it on behalf of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

When asked to describe the way they saw the actor, most – whether it was a homemaker from Thycaud or a University College student – had two standard responses. His natural flair at occupying a range of roles, and that he was a man of conviction who always stood firmly by his beliefs.

Rathnamma stood in a safe corner away from the crowds of camerapersons who monopolised much of the space around the actor and his family at Shanthi Kavadam prior to the cremation, craning her neck in vain to catch a glimpse of the rituals under way. She echoed a popular sentiment – that the vacuum Thilakan has left is near-impossible to fill. “He was such a joy to watch and the only times that my husband would insist on going to the cinema hall was if Thilakan was part of the film,” she said, as she reminisced the characters played by the actor.

“He had a very natural way of acting and he never over-dramatised any role he played. He effortlessly slips into the character and it is difficult to think of any one memorable role he has played,” said Venugopal, a Secretariat employee. He was also all praise for the fact that the actor “did not ever succumb to any pressures and spoke his mind irrespective of whether it rubbed any one up the wrong way.”

A TV personality and actor, Parvathi T said that Thilakan was a “classic example of one who observed life and through his genuine performances, he managed to turn each moment into a work of art.”

Actor Revathy, who is currently in Mumbai, said on the phone, that it was a pity that there was a lack of documentation that recorded the nuances of his acting. It would have proved invaluable to upcoming actors. “His ability to transform so completely into whatever character he is meant to play is so rare and that secret died with him,” she said, wishing she had had more opportunities to work with as flawless an actor as Thilakan.

Keywords: Thilakan

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