Popular Malayalam actor, former MP, Innocent passes away at 75
The actor, a cancer survivor after he was detected with the deadly disease as far back as 2012, had been undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Kochi for the last two-and-half weeks.
Published: 26th March 2023 10:54 PM | Last Updated: 27th March 2023 04:09 PM | A+A A-
KOCHI: Popular Malayalam film actor Innocent, known mostly as a comedian for his unique style and dialogue delivery in a career spanning over four decades and 500 films, died here on Sunday. He was 75. Innocent was also a former member of Lok Sabha from 2014-19, winning the seat from Kerala's Chalakkudy constituency as an independent candidate backed by the Left. He also served as president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) for several years.
The actor, a cancer survivor who was detected with the deadly disease as far back as 2012, had been undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Kochi since March 3 for breathing issues. The death occurred at 10.30 pm on Sunday as a result of organ failure, and lung disease that followed Covid. He is survived by his wife Alice, and son Sonnet.
Innocent's body will be kept at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Kadavanthra in Kochi from 8 am to 11 am on Monday for the public to pay their homage. Later, his body will be brought to his hometown in Irinjalakkuda, where the body will be kept at the Irinjalakkuda Townhall there from 1 pm to 3.30 pm, and later at his residence.
The funeral will be held at the St Thomas Cathedral, Irinjalakkuda at 10 am Tuesday.
ALSO READ | Innocent: A versatile actor who managed the political plot too
Innocent, who carved a style of his own, peaked as an actor from 1985 to the late 1990s, where he played a string of roles as a comedian, character roles, and even a few villain roles for directors like Priyadarshan, Sathyan Anthikkad, Fazil, and Kamal. His performance in blockbuster films like Kilukkam (Priyadarshan, 1991), 'Azhakiya Ravanan' (Kamal, 1996), 'Ramji Rao Speaking' (Siddique-Lal, 1989), 'Nadodikkattu' (Sathyan Anthikad, 1987), and 'Devaasuram' (I V Sasi, 1993) are still talked about, decades after their release.
However, he got his first big recognition in Mazhavil Kavadi, the 1989 film directed by Sathyan Anthikkad, for a serious character as 'Kalarickel Kizhamkamthudiyil Shankarankutty Menon', in a full-fledged role alongside the film's hero Jayaram. The role fetched him the state government's best actor in a supporting role. Reportedly, Innocent struggled during the dubbing of the film when his lip movement would not match the dialogue, and when both lip movement and dialogue come in sync, the emotion would not match up. Finally, Sathyan Anthikkad told him that he would be forced to pray at the Mookambika temple to get Innocent going. To this Innocent, then slowly finding his feet in the industry, retorted, half-jokingly, 'Who asked you to cast me in this role? You could have cast some famous actors in this role.'
"Innocent, along with Oduvil Unnikrishnan and Kuthiravattam Pappu, are actors who have created a style which no one can emulate," Satyan Anthikkad would later say in an interview. "In 'Azhakiya Ravanan', the scene where Innocent appears before a camera for a film shoot is a classic. It's almost impossible for another actor to play that scene," said Sathyan Anthikkad.
ALSO READ | Tributes pour in for Malayalam's comedy king Innocent
Innocent took his first steps in show business by producing a few Malayalam films in the early 1980s, mostly serious offbeat films including award-winning 'Vida Parayum Munpe' (Kerala government's second-best film in 1981, directed by Mohan) and 'Oramakkayi' (Kerala government's second-best film in 1982, directed by Bharathan). 'Lekhayude Maranam Oru Flashback', a 1983 film directed by K G George that is considered a landmark movie and loosely based on the life of actress Shobha, was also produced by Innocent (along with David Kachapally).
After seeing the films he produced failing to ring the cash registers, Innocent decided to seriously involve himself as an actor in Mollywood even as he dumped the producer hat, which left him nearly bankrupt. But, it was in the 1972 film 'Nrithashala' that the veteran made his debut, and in 'Football Champion', the next year, where he uttered dialogue for the film time on the silver screen.
Born Innocent Vareed Thekkethala on February 28, 1948, in Irinjalakuda, then a small village near Thrissur, as the fifth child of his parents, who had eight children, his early life has not been anything to write home about. He studied only till the eighth grade after he found studies very difficult to cope with.
He later tested political waters, contesting and winning the Irinjalakuda municipal council elections as a Revolutionary Socialist Party-backed candidate in 1979. He is also the author of five books including 'Njan Innocent' and 'Cancer Wardile Chiri' (Laughter in the Cancer Ward), where he narrates his experiences while undergoing treatment for throat cancer.
Irinjalakudakku Chuttum won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Humour in 2020.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan, Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and actors Mammootty and Mohanlal are among the people who condoled his passing.
"Mourning the loss of character actor, comedian & one-time Kerala MP Innocent, who has just passed away at age 75. Aside from being a brilliantly inventive & gifted actor, he was a fine human being whom it was a pleasure to interact with in the Lok Sabha. RIP. Om Shanti," tweeted Shashi Tharoor, Senior Congress leader.
Mourning the loss of character actor, comedian & one-time Kerala MP Innocent, who has just passed away at age 75. Aside from being a brilliantly inventive & gifted actor, he was a fine human being whom it was a pleasure to interact with in the Lok Sabha. RIP. Om Shanti. pic.twitter.com/m9mFGI8DwM— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) March 26, 2023
"Innocent was an artist who left an indelible mark in the minds of the audience with his inimitable acting style. A Leftist at heart, Innocent became a candidate in the Lok Sabha election on the request of the LDF. After winning the election, he raised Kerala's demands effectively in Parliament, which the state remembers with gratitude," said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
"Innocent, who made us laugh and also think at the same time for decades, is now a memory. He was a person who fought bravely against a deadly disease and gave courage to the entire society through his actions. Innocent is truly irreplaceable," said Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan
"The void that Innocent has left in Malayalam cinema cannot be filled. The actor, who was like a part of our daily life and came across to us as our next-door neighbour, will now remain immortal in our memories," said Minister for Culture Saji Cherian.
BJP's Khushbu Sundar said, "We have lost a priceless gem."
Devastated!! We have lost a great actor. Moreso a great human being. What a legend he was. With the passing away of #Innocent Sir, we have lost a priceless gem. May his soul rest in peace. Heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and his followers.— KhushbuSundar (@khushsundar) March 26, 2023
Om Shanti pic.twitter.com/l8ZonwMPKu
Actor and producer Prithviraj Sukumaran tweeted, "End of an iconic chapter in cinema history. Rest in peace Legend."