`I believe I succeeded as an actor because I never was a star'
Actor Madhu says sheer chance coupled with his perseverance and talent helped him establish himself as an actor in Malayalam cinema. He shares his thoughts with P.K. Ajith Kumar
Chance may have played a big role in Madhu's life, but it was talent and determination that helped him play varied roles in Malayalam cinema over the last four decades. If the Sangeet Nataka Akademi had not set up the National School of Drama in Delhi (NSD) in 1959, he would have continued as a lecturer in Hindi at Scott Christian College, Nagercoil. "And if I had not come across a newspaper advertisement inviting applications for admission to the NSD's first batch, I would not have become an actor," Madhu told The Hindu in Kozhikode recently. He was in the city to attend All India Radio's Onam celebrations.
While studying at the NSD, he chanced to meet director Ramu Kariat, the man who would play an important role in his career. "Ramu had come to Delhi to receive the award for Mudiyanaya Puthran and the Malayali Association was giving a reception to Ramu and artistes of the film," he recalls. "I was travelling on a bus to Talkatora to watch a drama festival when I got to know of this function. When I met Ramu, he told me that in his next film, Moodupadam, Sathyan was playing the hero, but there was a role for a youngster and asked me if I would be interested. I told him that I needed three months to complete my course at NSD. He said he would start his film only a few months later."
Then chance saw to it that Madhu made his debut before Moodupadam. "Ramu had asked me to go to Madras and meet R.S. Prabu at Chandratara studio for a make-test. I was taken to the set of Ninamaninja Kalpadukal, directed by N.N. Pisharady and produced by Sobhana Parameswaran Nair. The following day, Parameswaran Nair asked me if I would like to do a role in the film." A few films later, with A. Vincent's directorial debut, Bhargavi Nilayam, Madhu established himself as an actor. "It was not easy those days for a man with a face and figure like mine to be accepted as an actor," he says. "Nazeer and Sathyan were already big stars. I believe I succeeded as an actor all these years because I never was a star; no man has ever gone to see a film just to see me. Maybe that's why I never really had a fall in my career."
One interesting aspect about Madhu is that he has acted in some of the landmark films in Malayalam Chemmeen, Swayamvaram and Olavum Theeravum, for instance. "I had read Thakazhi's novel many times before I acted in Chemmeen and `Pareekkutty' was a character close to my heart. I had known Adoor Gopalakrishnan even before Swayamvaram; I was impressed with his sincerity even while he was directing his first film."
Madhu himself turned director in 1969 with Priya, in which he also played the first anti-hero of Malayalam cinema. "In our films those days, there were only heroes and villains and I wanted to change that tradition. I also cast Adoor Bhasi as the hero. The industry had made him a buffoon, but I knew his true potential as an actor."
He went on to direct 14 films, among which he rates Theekkanal as the most challenging. "It was a big hit, without even a single song or stunt."
He also established Uma Studio and has produced several films, including Asthamayam, Njan Ekananu and Archana Teacher.
"There have been many good roles, in films like Bhargavi Nilayam, Chemmeen, Kallichellamma, Olavum Theeravum, Swayamvaram, Ummachu, Orikkalkoodi, Hrudyam Oru Kshethram, Itha Oru Manushyan, Itha Ivide Vare, Abhijathyam, Theekkanal, Idvazhiyile Poocha Mindapoocha, Manyasree Viswamithran, Pinnilavu, Ottayadippathakal, and Kudumbasametham.