Ustad Thilakan

“Povandorku eppayaalum poye pattu” 

When Thilakan Sir’s deep voice said these words I’d written, I never thought it would be so soon. The gentle affectionate yet philosophical Uppuppa which could only be him. When Anwar Rasheed told me that Thilakan Sir would be Karimka in Ustad Hotel, I started to work further on the character. It was a real pleasure because he was an actor who explored nuances and hints. The last time I spoke to him was to wish him on the 50th day of Ustad Hotel. When I congratulated him, his words were “I should thank you for writing such a character”. Once again he surprised me. But that is what he has always been – full of surprises right from the first time I met him.

The first time was for Manjadikuru – I wanted the film to have an elderly couple who everyone would relate to as grandparents – who better than Thilakan & Kaviyoor Ponamma? But I was a bit nervous about requesting Thilakan Sir to take up this role. Why? Because the whole film was about what happens when the grandfather dies. Yes, he had to play a dead person who is only seen as a spirit. Not a word of dialogue. 4-5 scenes. How does a newcomer offer such a role to a thespian like Thilakan and expect him to do it?

Nevertheless I was as optimistic as only first time filmmakers can be. When I arrived where he was staying, I was led to his room. My predicament only worsened when I saw him found him lying in bed propped up on his elbows. He apologized for not being able to sit up explaining that his deteriorating physical condition. Gathering courage I explained about the film I wanted to make and how much it would mean to us if he was part of our film. He heard the story and listened to his role carefully. What continued was an exchange of questions and answers about cinema and the craft of acting. Half an hour later, he told me that he would do the film. I was elated but also worried. I managed to ask him how his physical condition would permit him to shoot. He brushed it off saying “Oh don’t worry, its not the first time… when it gets this bad, I get an intensive Ayurvedic treatment done and that usually fixes me for some time.” Reassured, I gifted him a few seeds of Manjadikuru. Much later a common friend told me that he called it the most unique ‘advance’ he had got.

He arrived on the sets of Manjadikuru and was so cooperative and eager to do his best even in the simplest shots. Everyone who had heard of the terror tales about him was surprised. We were facing facing incessant rains so in the few days he was with us, we missed out on an important sequence. I knew it would be unfair to ask him to stay another day as he had other commitments. So I kept quiet. When he was leaving I took a break from work to say a quick goodbye. He leaned out of his car window and said “let me know when you schedule the river”. I was surprised that he remembered the river scene in the script that was yet to be shot. Some days later I called him to inform the scheduled date for the river scene. He said “I’ll be there.”

Thilakan Sir drove himself from Thiruvananthapuram to Ottapalam for that single shot.

He may be no more but there are so many characters he has immortalized. He was an actor who knew about lenses, lights, technical matters with tremendous understanding of psychology and fluidity of demeanour. He knew his craft too well.

His characters will continue to move us and inspire us as we go through time. Yesterday was the 100th day of Ustad Hotel. I will only repeat here what I said to him in that last conversation, “to have you as Karimka is an honour to us.”

Respect.

 

27 thoughts on “Ustad Thilakan

  1. I am a lost Keralite and never understood why the most amazing movies never got a national adulation. This movie and especially the scenes on the beach between Tikalan and Dulquer over a Sulaimani were probably the best written and acted scenes in a long time. The twist in the tale and the artistic quality to those scenes were so powerful, that Tilakan would be etched in my mind as is on those scenes. I watched it again tonight after a long time and it still brings an wave of emotion. It is truly timeless . Respect and a big Thank you.

  2. Hi Anjali,
    There were 3 movies that moved me to tears – watching Thilakan’s performance – Moonnaampakkam, Kireedam and Ustad Hotel. Thank you for etching a character in all our hearts and minds for years to come

  3. I need to personally thank you for the film Ustad Hotel . A part of this story is a part of my own life. The story of starvation. Although it was an extremely short period, it taught me one of the biggest lessons in life. My biggest lesson in life will always be one single person. A humble woman from the slums in Pune, who offered me what little she had!!! The portrayal of the compassionate touched the very chords, that were dormant. I do hope, that people who see this excellent film stop for a moment and think of their fellow human beings, especially little innocent children, who suffer. Once again thank you for that film. No award is big enough to honour this.

  4. sorry 2 say i am stating this message 2 jagathy sirskumar, i don’t know his fb account?????????????? 4 my own sake r u the real anjai director? if u r the real…….
    hope he recover better than Chaplin & bhaduur bhasi????????????? WANT A WOMENS REPLAY???????????????

  5. hmm.. It’s a huge void.. Was completely amazed watchin ustad hotel. He dominated every1..
    Hope good, read brilliant, character artists like him come over & over again..

  6. I, for one, was surprised when I saw how short the sequence Thilakan sir had in Manjadikkuru. But even such a short sequence got elated by his mere presence. Never thought death could look so graceful.

    For all the characters that Thilakan sir played over his 4 decade career,
    It’s been a pleasure sir. RIP.

  7. this comment has nothing to do with the article above…. but still this is my wish when i read somewhere that manju warier is ready to act if she gets a role which was on par with what she used to get… I feel right now among writers you are the one who can give such a character to her… pls do a film with her…🙂

  8. That’s a nice and moving tribute Anjali. I think with the passing of Murali and now Thilakan, the era of “method actors” has now officially come to an end. And that is a sad reality!

    Hopefully Mr Thilakan’s prolific body of work will be studied by future actors and given the due share of recognition and preservation. I am afraid that his immense contribution to the medium will be underplayed due to petty rivalry and bickering among his contemporaries! I hope I am proven wrong there…

    RIP

  9. Nobody can’t fill up the gap of great Thilakan sir, he is the grandfather of Malayalam filim industry. Anjali madam ur blog is excellent about thilakan

  10. He is an actor who is at par with Morgan Freeman and jack Nickolsan or even better… He is a great actor who is highly misunderstood by many…. My non-keralite friends used to ask me who is your best actor. I used to reply Thilakan sir.They used to ask who it is …I used to reply go and watch Perunthachan,Namukku parkan munthirithopukal,Mookilla Rajyathu ,Kireedom and now ustad Hotel and you will know how versatile he is . One among those watched perunthachan and called me and told that he was enthralled by his marvellous acting….

    മനസ്സില്‍ തിലകന്‍ സാര്നെ സങ്കല്പിച്ചു തിരക്കഥകള്‍ എഴുതുന്ന സുഹൃത്തുകളെ നിങ്ങള്‍ ആ വിടവ് ഇനി എന്ത് കൊണ്ട് നികത്തും എന്നെനിക്ക് അറിയില്ല

  11. thank anjali.. for creating such a good character to in his last time.. otherwise the last memories will be his issues with the “amma” and all,.. and renjith in indian rupee also did a great job…this two roles are equally good as the famous roles done by that legendary actor ! salutes

  12. Hi A good tribute to the Doyen of Malayalam cinema who stands as a towering personality in his niche roles which only Tilakan can perform. I recently saw one of his film where he acted in a double role as a Policeman and a thief. That was two distinct and opposite dimensions of his acting personality. Hope Ustad hotel was a commercial success. It was a good film with a different treatment and can be counted as one of the best films which brings back quality into Malayalam cinema. Best wishes VenugopalDate: Sun, 7 Oct 2012 10:48:14 +0000 To: konatvenu@hotmail.com

  13. It’s always happy to see you recognizing great talents like Jagathy and Thilakan. Most of our old-yet -gold standard actors just require a good script and flexible directors. Individually, they are unique and cannot work with all directors. We really appreciate your patience and commitment in showcasing these veterans to the current audience.

    Your approach of writing the script to suite the actor is amazing. I know that we may use this option for the well-known or lead artists. But, hardly used to exploit and showcase the talents like Thilakan or Jagathy.

    Kudos and all the best

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