KOTTAYAM: Did the government and the film industry remember actor Achankunju, the recipient of the Kerala state film award for best actor in 1980? Whatever be the answer, one of the best villains the Malayalam cinema has ever seen is sinking into oblivion as none is showing interest to pay a befitting tribute to him.
While the film industry will commemorate the evergreen actor Prem Nazir on his death anniversary on Friday, Achankunju, who also shares the same death anniversary date, will remain in oblivion.
Unlike many of his contemporarians, Achankunju, a native of Kottayam, made an entry into the film industry at the age of 49. And, his debut movie ‘Lorry’ had fetched him the coveted state award for best actor. He had been a part and parcel of the industry for seven years since then.
He was an active theatre personality prior to his entry into the field. In fact, he had led a double life as a porter at the Kottayam Town Boat Station during day time and a theatre artist at night. His first professional onstage performance was in 1953 in the play ‘Vidhi’. He had acted in several plays by the KPAC and the Kerala Theatres.
“He had made his entry into the film industry as per the direction of actor and producer Prem Prakash Raju of Century Films and Joy Thomas of Jubilee Films,” his son Sajan recounts. “When ‘Lorry’ was made, script writer Padmarajan was adamant on casting a fresh face for the main character, a street circus performer named Velan. It was Prem Prakash who suggested our father for the role,” Sajan says.
Since then, he had acted in 46 films of eminent directors like Bharathan, Padmarajan, and I V Sasi.
He had played significant roles in the movies Parankimala, Chatta, Thinkalazhcha Nalla Divasam, and Yatra. After his demise in January 16, 1987, not much attempts were made by the government or the industry to recognise or remember his contributions. In 1999, Sajan organised a professional drama competition in his memory.
However, he could not continue it due to the heavy financial burden. Sajan claims that he had sent a letter to the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists recently making several suggestions, but in vain. His wife Achamma, 87, is living with Sajan. He has a daughter named Esamma.