Kochi: Popular Malayalam actor and mimicry artist Kalabhavan Abi died on Thursday morning. He was undergoing treatment for low platelet count at a private hospital here. He was 52.
Hailing from Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district, Abi, who began his career as a mimicry artist more than two decades ago, had acted in over 50 films and was closely associated with Malayalam actors Dileep and Harisree Asokan. Abi, like many others who came into stage and films was a part of the famous Kalabhavan troupe, which introduced and popularised mimicry in Kerala. Kalabhavan is a centre for learning performing arts, located in Kochi.
It was during the 1990s that Aby, whose real name was Habeeb Ahamed, took up mimicry. During his stint with troupes like Kalabhavan and Harisree, Aby became a household name and pioneered the trend of producing mimicry cassettes. He was a participant in over 300 audio and video cassettes, including the superhits De Maveli Kombath and Onathinidakku Pootu Kachavadam.
Popular for his mimicking of Mammootty in movies like Inspector Balram, Aby created the character Aminathatha. Such was the popularity of the character that Aby was chosen to reprise Aminathatha in the movie Kireedam Illatha Rajakkanmar (1996).
'Amina Thatha', the fictional role of an elderly Muslim woman, dressed in traditional Kerala Muslim women's attire of a thattam (a flowing clolth that crowns the hair), kuppayam (waist-length blouse, in this case long-sleeved) and kachimundu (a dhoti/sarong), and wearing gold jewellery, made Abi a household name.
Abi's first film was the 1991 Mammootty starrer Nayam Vyakthamakkunnu, after he went on to star in several others, doing mostly comedy tracks, including Mazhavil Koodaram and Mimics Action 500. A good mimic, Abi was well-known for his impressions of several film actors including Amitabh Bachchan and Mammootty. He performed several stage shows in Kerala and in the Persian Gulf countries like UAE.
Abi is also known to have mentored a variety of comedians and impressionists, as well as having played a major role in what is known as the era of Malayalam parody cassettes during the late 90s and early 2000s. The cassettes were big hits of the time, having parodied the lives of workers in the Gulf and common life in Kerala, to hilarious effect.
Celebrities including Dulquer Salmaan condoled the passing away of the actor.
Director Siddique, who started his career as a mimicry artiste with Kalabhavan, remembered Aby as a superstar of mimicry.
"I was a mimicry artiste when I met Abi in Muvattupuzha. He was performing on stage then. We got together in Kalabhavan where we started the trend of making mimicry cassettes. When I switched to movies, I had to quit Kalabhavan. By that time, Aby had grown into a great mimicry artiste with a huge fan following. His works like De Maveli Kombath were instant hits. His untimely death is a huge loss for me," said Siddique.
One of Kalabhavan Abi's last television appearances was in Mazhavil Manorama TV channel's sitcom, 'Prekshakare Avashyamund'. The actor had played Allavicha Majeed on the show.
Here is remembering the comedian with a clip from Cochin Guinnes' comedy show. Watch it here:
He is survived by wife Sunila, and children Ahana, Aleena and Shane Nigam, who is a budding actor.
Shane has acted in critically acclaimed films like 'Kismath' and 'Parava'.
(with inputs from Meera Suresh, Kochi)