A rebel on screen, and off it
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Acclaimed Malayalam actor Thilakan, who enthralled audiences with his versatile performances over three decades, died Monday morning. The 77-year-old Padma Shri recipient was battling for life at a hospital since he suffered two heart attacks on August 23 .
Thilakan acted in over 250 films and bagged a national award for the best actor in a supporting role for Ritubhedangal in 1988. He was also honoured with nine state awards for his performances as best supporting actor. However, his most scintillating role remains in the 1991 film Perumthachan (the great carpenter), in which he donned the role of the legendary lead.
Born in 1935 in Kottayam, K Surendranath Thilakan made his debut in theatre while he was in intermediate school. He defied an orthodox family to be associated with over a dozen drama troupes, prominent among them the pro-Left Kerala Peoples' Arts Centre and Kalidasa Kalakendram.
Although his first film Periyar was in 1973, the performance that shaped his career came in Ulkadal in 1979. As a supporting actor, Thilakan's roles enhanced the performances of Kerala matinee heavyweights Mohanlal and Mamootty, whom he later fell out with.
The roles that he will probably be most remembered for were the ones where he portrayed a tough maverick. Thilakan was a rebel on screen as well as off it. In 2010, he revolted against the Association of Malayalam Artistes Association (AMMA), calling it a "mafia gang" controlled by super stars.
He was subsequently expelled from the AMMA, and the Film Employees Federation of Kerala issued an unofficial decree to members to keep Thilakan away from projects because of which he lost out on several roles. Unrelenting, he went back to theatre for a while and even did a solo performance in a radio play.
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