TRIVANDRUM: Popular Malayalam actor Thilakan, considered to be a rebel in Kerala’s mainstream film industry for challenging the reigning superstars, died here early on Sunday aged 77.
The renowned film and stage actor, who has mesmerised audience with his character roles, starred in more than 200 films was put on ventilator in a city hospital where he was admitted after a heart attack on Aug. 23 and his condition deteriorated as vital organs failed to respond.
He suffered another heart attack while on ventilator and lost his life by 3.35 am. His sons Shammy and Shobby were with him at the time of his death. His fans started thronging the hospital since the morning on Monday and when the body was kept at VJT Hall for the public to pay their last respects.
His body was first taken to Shobby’s residence in the city and then to his house where he lived for 20 years with his family.
His wife Saroja, daughters Sofia and Sonia and close relatives and neighbours bid him emotional farewell there.
Leader of opposition VS Achuthanandan, senior ministers and top cultural and political leaders paid homage to inimitable actor.
Sports and Cinema Minister KB Ganesh Kumar laid the wreath on behalf of chief minister Oommen Chandy who is indisposed.
The state government has borne the hospital expenses of the actor since his hospitalisation.
The funeral was held at the electric crematorium in the city wit full state honours at 4 pm.
The chief minister said Thilakan’s death was a “big loss to the world of art” and the void will remain unfilled forever. “He had straddled both the stage and the screen world, and actors like him are rare,” he said.
Surendranath Thilakan began his career in the theatre before playing his first role on screen in 1979.
The actor was part of various drama troupes, including the Kerala Peoples’ Arts Centre that took communism to the masses in the state and Kalidasa Kalakendram.
He received a Padma Shree, one of the top civilian honours from the federal government, in 2009, besides more than a dozen state and national awards since 1982.
Well known as a character actor, Thilakan’s films included Nirmalyam, Ekantham and Keeridam and he acted in several films with top stars Mohanlal and Mammootty and the youngsters alike.
He was was also a well known voice in radio plays.
“We had a special relationship. He acted as my dad in many films and my family had a rare honour when he played the role of my son Dulkhair’s father in Ustad Hotel,” said Mammootty.
“He will be in the hearts of the filmgoers as long as the art of cinema is alive.”
The last movie he starred in was Ustad Hotel, which is still running to the packed houses, while two others were in the making.
He was indisposed with cardiac problems while shooting his new film Ardhanareeshwaran at Shornur.
Two years ago, following scathing comments he made against the superstars, the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes showed him the door but he remained unrepentant and continued to bag good roles in award-winning popular movies like Ranjith’s Indian Rupee. Although much success had come Thilakah’s way early as an actor, his personal life was fraught with pain.
His father worked on an estate in Idukki when he was leaving home and he was not talking to his mother for 35 years.
“Not as an actor but he was known to me as a person since he started acting on stage. He’s brave and he mesmerised us with the art of acting characterised with subtlety,” said Jnanpith laureate ONV Kurup.
He entered the filmdom in 1979 with a minor role in KG George’s Ulkadal.
He won national awards in 1988 for best supporting actor in the film Hrithubhedam and a special jury award in 2007 for his role in Ekantham.
“He was a powerful and great actor and his contribution to the field of film would be long remembered. He was a symbol of masculinity and it is a big loss for Malayalam film industry,” said Shashi Tharoor MP who shared the grief of the bereaved family and condoles his family.