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An undying passion for theatre

J.S. Bablu
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back home:Actor Thilakan, accompanied by his son Shammi Thilakan, during a press conference announcing his return to theatre in Alappuzha in July 2010.
back home:Actor Thilakan, accompanied by his son Shammi Thilakan, during a press conference announcing his return to theatre in Alappuzha in July 2010.

When taking a forced break from films after the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) expelled him in 2010, Thilakan did not stop acting. He returned to stage, his first love.

The actor played the hero in Itho Daivathinte Swantham Nadu? (Is this God’s Own Country?) of Ambalappuzha Aksharajwala. He was the chairman of the theatre group and C. Radhakrishnan, working chairman of the Malayalam Cine Technicians’ Association (MACTA), the managing director.

Thilakan used the play as a sharp weapon to attack AMMA. He used to stay in room number 110 of Sree Krishna Towers in Ambalappuzha when visiting for work related to the play. Thilakan gave life to the character of Surya Narayanan, and the play used to run to packed halls.

“There would be a round of applause from the audience as Thilakan entered the stage. Imagine a man of his age, his role filling the stage for an hour and 45 minutes of the play of two hours and 15 minutes. His enthusiasm and commitment were amazing. He enacted the role on 104 stages across the State, playing even at two stages a day,” Mr. Radhakrishnan remembered. As Thilakan collapsed on stage at Chirayinkeezh in Thiruvananthapuram, the doctor advised rest for a week.

“So I called up the organisers to cancel the programme scheduled for next day. But the next morning, ‘Thilakanchettan’ called me, and asked where was the programme that day. When I told him it was cancelled, he became angry, and said that he would reach the venue at Punalur at 4 p.m. for the show beginning 7 p.m. Then he acted, ignoring the doctor’s advice. That was his love for theatre,” Mr. Radhakrishnan said.

He recalled the multifaceted genius of the great actor, who even pointed out nuances of music to Ramesh Narayan, composer, and K.S. Chitra, singer, during the recording of songs for the play. Thilakan himself suggested the name of the theatre group and designed the logo.

His last call to Mr. Radhakrishnan was when he was shifted from a hospital in Ottappalam to another in Thiruvananthapuram, where he passed away. Thilakan told him not to worry about his health, and asked him to tell Vinayan, film director, that he would soon arrive for the dubbing of the film Dracula .

Those were his final words, Mr. Radhakrishnan recalled as he waited for Mr. Vinayan for their journey to Thiruvananthapuram on Monday to pay tributes to the great actor.

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