Veteran Malayalam actor Thilakan died at a private hospital here early Monday. He was 74.

He had acted in nearly 300 films in south Indian languages, mostly Malayalam.

The actor, who died at 3 a.m., was in critical condition after suffering two heart attacks.

Beginning his career on stage in the 1950s, Thilakan became famous with his very first film, “Ulkadal” (1979). His latest film, “Ustad Hotel”, is still running in theatres.

The state government has borne the hospital expenses of the actor since his hospitalisation a month ago. Thilakan is survived by two sons and a daughter.

Before the cremation, the actor’s body was kept at VJT Hall here for fans to pay their last respects.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said Thilakan had straddled both the stage and the screen world, and actors like him were rare.

“The void he leaves cannot be filled,” he said.

Leader of opposition V.S. Achuthanandan said Thilakan was a close friend of the communist movement, and one willing to fight battles for the industry single-handedly.

“He stood tall in the field of theatre and cinema and his passing away is an irreparable loss to the social and cultural fabric of the state,” he said.

Thilakan was born in Ayroor in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district. His father worked on an estate in Idukki.

Although much success had come Thilakah’s way early as an actor, his personal life was fraught with pain.

His sons, Shammi and Shobhi, work as dubbing artistes in films.

Thilakan was not one to avoid controversy. Two years ago, following scathing comments he made against Malayalam superstars, the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes showed him the door.

Despite that, the actor continued to bag roles. He also had legions of fans loyal to him.

Recalling Thilakan, Malayalam superstar Mammootty said: “We have had a great relationship, but there were times Thilakan was angry with me.

“One incident I’ll never forget was when I once told him after he recovered from an illness that if I ever saw him drinking again, I’d beat him. Pat came his reply: ‘If I’m destined to die of a beating from my son, so be it.’

“I felt awful afterwards, and apologised, but he laughed it off.”

Besides the Padma Shri in 2009, Thilakan has won national awards in 1988 for best supporting actor in the film “Hrithubhedam” and a special jury award in 2007 for his role in “Ekantham”.

He was honoured with Kerala state film awards on numerous occasions, including for best actor in “Grammam” (1994) and “Preumthachan” (1990).


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