FRIDAY REVIEW

Art of living

M.S. Thripunithura.  



K. PRADEEP

M.S. Thripunithura did not let the actor in him overshadow his skills in other fields.

Making the best of what appeared to be drawbacks was what made M.S. Thripunithura special. His life and career was a study in resilience, of turning obstacles to his advantage. This began right from the time he changed his name from Madathipparambil Seshaniyer Venkitraman to M.S., initials that become popular, and tagged on the name of his hometown, Thripunithura, to it. M.S. was a successful mathematics teacher with a passion for theatre. He even got opportunities to act in some amateur and professional plays. Very often this got him into trouble with the school authorities. It was one such altercation after M.S. had taken `sick leave' to don the greasepaint that forced him to quit his job as a teacher. Instead of being disillusioned, M.S. turned this adversity to his advantage. He plunged into acting and soon carved a niche for himself.

Stage experience

Like most actors, M.S. also cut his acting teeth on the stage. And this training was evident in each of the roles he portrayed. In just a few years M.S. had become an integral part of Malayalam professional theatre. His award-winning performance in Poonjar Navadhara's play `Mochanam' helped him gain a firm foothold in films.Making his film debut in `Kadalamma,' M.S. acted in more than 300-odd films. Be it big or small roles as in films like `Oru Minnaminuginte Nurunguvattam,' `Peruthanchan,' His Highness Abdulla,' `Santhwanam,' `Bharatham,' or `Yodha,' M.S. always made his presence felt.With his inimitable, gruff voice and portly figure, M.S. was not the archetypal film star. But his uncanny knack of turning everything to his advantage worked again. That voice and figure soon became much sought after. M.S. did make attempts to cut down his weight. Till a few years back, M.S. used to join a group of youngsters for a game of badminton at the temple compound near his house. It was not that he loved the sport. He did that, as he used to say, as an attempt to reduce weight and keep himself fit.M.S. and his bicycle were inseparable. It was a common sight to see him cycling through the streets of Thripunithura, often stopping to chat with friends and acquaintances. Parking his bicycle close to an Ayurveda pharmacy near Poornathrayeesa Temple, M.S. used to spend long hours animatedly talking to a group of elderly men who regularly gathered there. With a cloth bag filled with vegetables slung around the bicycle handle, M.S. would cycle back home. He certainly did not have the trappings of a film star, untouched by the glamour and glitz of tinsel world. But this cycling, one suspects, must have been part of his fitness regimen, another attempt to keep himself trim.

Flair for story-telling

A true raconteur, MS was unabashedly outspoken. This often rubbed some people the wrong way. But he cared two hoots for them. He was always prepared to stand up for what he believed was right. His firm stance in favour of a scriptwriter against a popular director is a case in point. One of the fallouts of this altercation was that M.S. lost many film offers. But he had the conviction to state that if he lost out on films he would start a catering unit to make a living.Cooking, Sanskrit, astrology and music were some of his favourite subjects, not exactly in that order. His Carnatic concerts, very often with another musician singing along with him, were crowd-pullers. Apart from his rendering of Tyagaraja Ramayanam that he himself set to this form, he regaled audiences by imitating Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar's style and gestures by modulating his voice; bringing alive the spirit in kritis like `Rakshamam saranagadam... ' and `Yogindranaam... 'With his knowledge of Sanskrit and the Puranas, M.S. was much sought-after for religious discourses. His voice, his love to talk, and his skill in spicing up the subjects with humour and instances from daily life might have made his discourses unconventional, but they surely were popular. He studied astrology from Kaimukku Parameswaran Namboodiri and had a clientele that included many of his friends from the world of films and television. Cooking, M.S. used to say, was something he inherited from his grandfather, Veeraraghava Iyer, who cooked for the maharajahs of the erstwhile state of Cochin. No one is born with a wealth of advantages. The beauty of life lies in the ability to transform these flaws to their gain. M.S., above all, will be remembered as a man, as an artiste, who mastered this art.