Thilakan, the king of voice modulation and body language that complimented sublime facial expressions to provide immense strength to his characters, has left the list of national award winners incomplete without his name.
Though rugged, his voice, which became popular through radio plays, had thousands of fans. It might be an irony that ‘Mundakkayam Thilakan’, as he was known in his youth, was one of the popular singers at the meetings of the Communist party in the 1950s.
Thilakan was one of those actors who excelled both on stage and screen, in the line of P J Antony, his mentor, Bharath Gopi, Balan K Nair, Murali, Rajan P Dev and N F Varghese.
However, the nation’s highest award for acting, which most of his peers gained, eluded him. Antony had it from ‘Nirmalyam’, Gopi in ‘Kodiyettam’, Balan K Nair in ‘Oppol’, Murali in ‘Neythukaran’ but Thilakan missed it by a whisker in 1991 for his brilliant portrayal of Perumthachan.
Most of the stage artists forgot to abandon the practices they had on stage even after migrating to films. Many continued their exaggerated ways of acting and dialogue delivery. But Thilakan was a rare exception. He was from a breed which had a clear distinction for both his stage and screen acting. In films, he switched to a spontaneous style like a fish taking to water. The finesse of his acting was compelling in many frames.
Thilakan’s eye for minute details primarily came from his stage experience. “While I was assisting Sibi Malayil in ‘Mayamayooram’, he asked me for a grain of black pepper. After slicing it with a blade, he glued it to his face to resemble a mole. This was the result of his homework for the role of a celibate ayurvedic practitioner,” recollects director Sundardass.