Thiruvananthapuram: Malayalam cinema's much loved actor Thilakan may no longer be alive. But he will be a daily presence in Kerala's homes, for not a day passes without one of his films being telecast on one of the numerous local TV channels.
Thilakan, 74, who passed away Monday after spending a month in hospital, was first a stage actor who started his career in the mid-1950s. He took the Malayalam film industry by storm with his first film, 'Ulkadal' (1979). He has since acted in nearly 300 films in various south Indian languages.
His 'Uustad Hotel' is currently running in theatres in the state. It has done well in the box office, and Thilakan stars with superstar Mammootty's son, Dulqar Salman, in it. Thilakan also appeared recently in 'Indian Rupiah' and 'Spirits,' both directed by Renjith.
Thilakan was born in Ayroor in Pathanamthitta district, Kerala. His father worked on an estate in Idukki district, and that is where he spent his early childhood.
Although much success had come Thilakah's way early as an actor, his personal life was fraught with pain, and he would not divulge much about his home.
His two sons, Shammi and Shobhi, work as dubbing artistes in films. Shammi has also played the role of a villain in some films.
Thilakan is also survived by a daughter, Sophia, in whose house the actor would live while in the state capital.
The state government had borne the hospital expenses of the actor since his hospitalisation nearly a month ago.
Thilakan was not one to avoid controversy. Two years ago, following scathing comments he made against superstars in the Malayalam film industry, the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) showed him the door.
Despite that, Thilakan continued to bag roles and act in films. He also had legions of fans loyal to him.
Recently, during an outdoor shoot in the hilly Idukki district, a large crowd gathered to witness the shooting one early morning.
It was cold and windy, and the scene was one in which Thilakan was bathing. As the director took one take after another, the crowds began to speak angrily, accusing the director of abusing Thilakan and forcing him to bathe in cold water over and over again.
Thilakan pacified the crowd and explained that it was all in a day's work for an actor, and that he was merely a tool in the hands of the director. "Allow him (the director) the freedom to use me," he pleaded with the crowd.
Besides the Padma Shri in 2009, Thilakan has 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 has been awarded by Kerala state film awards on numerous occasions, including for best actor in 'Grammam' (1994) and 'Preumthachan' (1990).
Recalling his relationship with Thilakan, Malayalam actor Mammootty said Monday, "We have had a great relationship, but there were times Thilakan was angry with me. One incident I'll never forget was when I once told him after he recovered from an illness that if I ever saw him drinking again, I'd beat him. Pat came his reply: 'If I'm destined to die of a beating from my son, so be it.' I felt awful afterwards, and apologised, but he laughed it off."