KOCHI: If expressing navrasas in their true essence and in own unique style is the criteria, Nedumudi Venu is one of the most versatile actors that Indian cinema has ever witnessed. No two of his characters were alike. Be it the devious Chellappanasari in Thakara, the terminally-ill Xavier of Vida Parayum Munpe, the shrewd and cunning Pavithran in Kallan Pavithran, the ageing loving husband Ravunni of Minnaminunginte Nurunguvettam or the cold-blooded killer Warrier in Ee Thanutha Veluppankalathu, his talent was on display in every role he played on screen.
His career spanning nearly five decades stands testimony to his rich talent. He donned roles in more than 500 movies and presented a large number of unforgettable characters, which won him three national and six state awards in his illustrious career. Nedumudi Venu, who passed away at a hospital Thiruvananthapuram on Monday at the age of 73, leaves behind a legacy that will be etched in gold in the annals of Malayalam cinema.
Born as Venugopal at Nedumudi in Alappuzha to P K Kesavan Nair and P Kunjikkuttiyamma in 1948, he completed his schooling at NSS Higher Secondary School and St Mary’s Higher Secondary School, Champakkulam. He had shown immense talent in traditional art forms during his school and college days. He completed his graduation from SD College, Alappuzha, and later joined Kala Kaumudi magazine as a journalist. He shifted to Thiruvananthapuram where he joined the group of gifted artists including Aravindan, Padmarajan and Bharath Gopi. A versatile singer who gave a new raw touch to the traditional folk songs, especially those written by his guru, the late Kavalam Narayana Panicker, Nedumudi was also a talented mridangam player.
He started his acting career as a theatre artist through the dramas written by Kavalam. He made his movie debut by portraying a small role in Oru Sundariyude Kadha (1972). However, it was through Aravindan’s Thambu (1978) that he made a proper entry into filmdom. It was his acquaintance with director and artist Bharathan that proved a turning point in his career. Bharathan offered him a role in Aravam (1978), in which he portrayed the character of Maruthu to perfection, thereby becoming one of the leading character actors in the industry. Spontaneous acting, exceptional voice modulation and his calibre in portraying comedy and serious roles effortlessly helped Nedumudi get back-to-back projects. He soon became an inevitable presence in movies crafted by masters of the golden age of Malayalam cinema (the 1980s).
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Gifted as he was, he was able to lift a whole scene and the movie even if he was playing only a cameo. Film buffs can’t forget the melancholic Sidhan in Sarvakalasala and his haunting song ‘Athiru kakkkum mala onnu’ (sung by the actor himself). Likewise is the role of a priest in Mithunam. He appears only close to the climax but the natural talent of Nedumudi elevated the whole scene to new comic heights. Nedumudi was also a part of Tamil director Shankar’s mega-hit movie, Indian (1996), in which he handled the role of CBI officer Krishnasamy.
“Though he had won three national awards, the sad part was that none of them was for the best actor. He truly deserved that because he was one of the best actors that the world has seen,” said writer Bipin Chandran, who created the character Denver Asan for Nedumudi in Best Actor (2010).
‘One of biggest losses for Malayalam industry’
“After starting out in theatre, he went on to conquer the peaks of method-acting in films. His demise is one of the biggest losses for the Malayalam industry. Personally, it’s a painful loss for me,” said actor Mohanlal. Nedumudi was also lucky enough to work with generations of Malayalam cinema.
He acted or was associated with late Sukumaran and his son Prithviraj, Mohanlal and his son Pranav, Sreenivasan and his son Vineeth Sreenivasan, joined hands with director Fazil and later with his son Fahad Faasil, to name a few.
“Farewell Venu uncle! Your body of work and your expertise over the craft will forever be research material for generations to come! Rest in peace legend!,” said actor Prithviraj in his condolence message.
Before getting hospitalised on Sunday, Venu had completed his role in Mammootty- starrer Puzhu. He was in Kochi in the last week of September and was seen on the sets of the movie directed by Ratheena. Two other movies — Marakkar - Ara - bikkadalinte Simham ’ and Aarattu’ both with Mohanlal, are ready for release.