Madhu spoke to The Hindu about his remarkably long innings in Malayalam cinema, on the eve of his 80th birthday.
You have played hundreds of roles over half-a-century. How do you look back at those characters?
Playing the novelist in Bhargavi Nilayam was the biggest challenge as an actor. The film depended a great deal on how I interpreted my character, whose actions were required to create the illusions in the film. It easily could have become theatre if one was not careful. I enjoyed my roles in Priya, Ummachu, Theekkanal, Itha Ivide Vare, Itha Oru Manushyan, Orikkal Koodi and Kudumbasametham as well. Pareekkutty in Chemmeen has been one of my most popular roles, but it was not a big challenge. It was a sweet character that could have been done by any reasonably good-looking man with average acting skills.
You have proved yourself as a director. Do you feel you should have directed more films?
From direction I moved on to production. It was a role I enjoyed very much. I was a real producer who, like cinematographer or music director, was very much part of filmmaking, a man who looked after everything, unlike today when a producer is just a financier.
You have played the leading man to a host of talented and beautiful women in Malayalam cinema. Sheela, Sharada, Jayabharathi, Vidhubala, Srividya…
It was great working with all of them. But, no favourites.
You have enacted some of the most melodious songs ever in Malayalam cinema…
Yes, I was privileged to be part of so many great songs. I enjoyed acting in all those song sequences.
You introduced Shyam to Malayalam cinema and he went on to become one of our most prolific composers.
I was looking for a new composer for Manyasree Viswamithran , which I was directing, and Sheela told me about a violinist called Shyam. She said he was very talented and I decided to try him.
Many of your films, including the ones you directed, were based on published works.
When Malayalam film industry was taking baby steps, we had a treasure trove of literature. Those writers did not write for films, but they were ideal for our directors. From the 1980s, scripts began to be written for stars. That was not the case in the times of Nazir, Sathyan and me.
You have acted with generations of actors. Among the new crop, anyone you are impressed with?
Fahad Fazil and Dulquer Salman are talented. I saw a few of their films and they have both impressed me.