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Passing of a versatile actor

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A STYLE OF HER OWN: Philomina.
A STYLE OF HER OWN: Philomina.

K. Pradeep

Philomina's histrionic skills won her many hearts and fans.

Philomina had that uncanny ability to slip into the skin of any character. She could be a scheming shrew, make you roar in laughter or bring a lump in your throat. Philomina was one of those actors who made an impact even in a cameo.

From stage to screen

Like most actors Philomina had cut her acting teeth on the stage. This experience stood her in good stead when she was offered her first film role. In a freewheeling talk a few years back Philomina had said, in that Thrissurian slang, that she was liter ally caught off guard when that offer came. What disturbed her parents was that she had to travel to Madras for the shoot. She remembered how she stood behind the door as Moidu Padiyath, who scripted the film and others tried to convince her parents. Tho se were days of indecision and turmoil. `Kuttikkupayam' (1964), produced by T.E. Vasudevan and directed by M. Krishnan Nair was a big hit. Philomina, who essayed the role of Prem Nazir's mother, a Muslim character, went on to become an integral part of M alayalam movies.Life was never the same again for this simple woman from the village of Mullurkara, in Thrissur district. She was flitting from set to set breathing life into numerous roles. In between she got married, but lost her husband when her son w as just three years old. Acting was not a lucrative option. Philomina slogged to build up career and life, brick by brick.Better times rolled and this versatile actor established herself. Her individualistic voice and unique style of dialogue delivery we re her greatest assets. Philomina used to very proudly claim that no one ever dubbed for her. There were many instances, she said, when production managers did not pay the full remuneration at the end of shooting schedules but had to come back to her for want of the right person to do the dubbing. That was the time, she used to say with that hearty laugh of hers, when they would be squeezed to the last paise due to her.Philomina won her first State award, for the best supporting actress, in 1970 for her roles in films `Thurakkathavaathil' and the widely acclaimed `Olavum Theeravum.' In 1987 she received the award for the second time for `Thaniyavarthanam.'Somewhere during this time there was a short break in her career. However, she came back with a ba ng with some challenging roles in the films of Bharathan and Padmarajan. And Philomina did full justice to the confidence reposed in her by these and the other directors. The roles in films like `Chatta,' Innale,' `Njan Gandharvan,' `Venkalam,' `Churam,' `Vietnam Colony' were testimony of Philomina's versatility.

Keen sense of humour

It was Sathyan Anthikad who first cast Philomina in a comic role. Perhaps he was ins pired by what he saw of this actress in films like `College Girl.' The film `Madanmaar Londonil,' gave this talented actress a new image. From then, with a keen sense of commitment to her job and a passion for acting, she transformed herself into the mos t popular comedienne of Malayalam cinema. Her roles in films like `Godfather,' `Malayogam,' `Kireedam,' `Uncle Bun,' `Manathe Kottaram,' `Thalayina Manthram,' `Vrudhanmaare Sookshikkuka,' `In Harihar Nagar,' and many others revealed the different facets of this genre. In a career spanning over four decades Philomina starred in 750 films and numerous television serials. This ebullient actress was last seen in `Meerayude Dukhavum Muthuvinte Swapnavum.'One thing that always troubled her was loneliness. Liv ing in a small, well done-up apartment in Kochi till she shifted to her son's place in Chennai a couple of years back, Philomina dreaded evenings. All the bravado she revealed on screen faded when she had to shut and bolt the door. She very often said th at she was scared of travelling alone, of burglars, of being alone and those daily shots of insulin.


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