Recognise him? Yes, he is the unforgettable old man in serials and movie, K.T.S.Padannayil. K . Pradeep visits him at his shop in Tripunithura
It is just half past four in the morning. Most of the shops have not yet pulled up the shutters. A small group of people gather before a little shop. The shopkeeper, an old, thin man with a prominent moustache, moves around with ease in the feeble light. Some of his customers stay back, newspaper in hand, to chat.
Joining them, with comments and queries is this elderly shopkeeper. This has been the routine of Kochuparambil Thai Subramaniam (KTS) Padannayil, whenever he is not away on acting assignments.
He is the same Padannayil who was the ‘Valliamama’ in ‘Dillivala Rajakumaran’, who was the man about the place in the palace, trying to figure out who was the son of whom and creating chaotic comedy.
With more than five decades of acting experience on stage, screen and television, it has been for KTS Padannayil a long, solitary, often painful journey.
Acting happened when Padannayil had nothing much to do after he had to drop out from school. Not being able to study beyond Class IV still remains a deep, live wound inside. “I was not bad in studies, loved to read. But my parents could not afford the meagre school fees. There were days when we starved for three days. After all these years, if there is one wish I always have, it is to study. But then it is too late,” says this septuagenarian actor. Inspired by the musical dramas of the time young Padannayil knocked on the doors of many amateur drama troupes in and around Tripunithura for an opportunity. What can you, with no education, do, they asked.
Padannyil chased his dream with patience, perseverance. He developed a thick skin against disappointment and rejection.
“This made me adamant. My only goal was to act in at least one play to prove to the world that I could do it. I found a job, along with a few of my friends, at the Khadi outlet in Tripunithura. The only reason why I joined was the hope to act in a play during the annual day functions of the institution.” That annual day drama, ‘Vivah Dalal’ was Padannayil’s first ever appearance on stage. This was in 1956. His performance was outstanding and was given a special prize for it.
“That was the beginning. Soon, many troupes wanted me to act in their plays and even offered to pay me. In between, I also trained youngsters of the Children’s Society at Kannankulangara. Slowly, I was being drawn to the magic of theatre.”
Despite opposition from his family the young man persisted. He was contracted by one of the top theatre groups Changanasserry Geedha. For more than ten years he was with them. He also worked with other groups like Kollam Tuna, Vaikom Malavika etc. Padannayil’s brand of comedy, his dialogue delivery, always worked wonders with the audience. “I owe everything I’m today to theatre.”
The general grouse about theatre is that it is physically, psychologically, emotionally challenging but the pay not commensurate with that. But Padannayil does not agree with this. “All that I have got, my small house, the land I bought for my children, the shop that I own, are out of the sweat on stage.”
Acting in films was again one of Padannayil’s desires. “Just one film, that was all that I longed for.” He remembers with pain how the unit treated him. He withstood all that. The film, ‘The President’, was never released.
Padannayil’s first break was Rajasenan’s ‘Aniyanbava Chettanbava.’ Since then, in a career spanning around 13 years he has acted in more than 60 films.
He has a string of films awaiting release. Padannayil is also a regular on television comedy serials and has so far starred in more than 100 of them.
Making it as an actor is not about being a star. It is not all about fame and fortune.
Padannayil can still be seen chatting away with his customers in his shop or riding his bicycle through the streets of Tripunithura.
Being an artiste and being the best you can be is what he believes in.