A genuine artiste who carved a niche for himself

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KR Rejeesh

Innocent belongs to the category of rare actors, who can easily bring off expressions on the faces of viewers with subtle movement of their body language on screen. The typical glance and facial expressions of Innocent had the eloquence of lengthy dialogues. As a versatile artiste, it was fortunate that he was never confined to the ‘comedian’ cocoon. Innocent created his own hilarious realm in films with his inimitable style and his flexibility to transform to a serious character was a treat to watch. In fact, he blazed a trail by himself in presenting comedy by exploiting the possibilities of his own regional dialect.

Innocent amplified the sheen of his characters through improvisation, and with his remarkable timing in performance, he elevated the comic milieu of several scenes. His spontaneous sense of humour both off-screen and onscreen was his strength as an artiste. Pigeonholing an actor like him as a comedian is unjustifiable especially his roles in ‘Keli,’ ‘Mazhavilkkavadi,’ ‘Patham Nilayile Theevandi,’ ‘Maalayogam,’ ‘Devasuram,’ ‘Gajakesariyogam’ and ‘Ravana Prabhu’ etc. have showcased his outstanding acting prowess.    

His unique combination with KPAC Lalitha, Jagathy, Jagadeesh, Siddique, Mukesh, Sankaradi and Oduvil Unnikrishnan et.al. in various movies in the late 80s and then in the 90s is an integral part of the nostalgia of those who was born during that era. Can we even imagine about a replacement for Innocent in films like ‘Godfather’, ‘Midhunam,’ ‘Kilukkam’, ‘Manichithrathaazhu,’ ‘Ramji Rao Speaking,’ ‘Mannar Mathai Speaking,’ and ‘Sandesham’? 

Innocent successfully explored his acting barriers through the films of directors Sathyan Anthikkad, Mohan, Fazil, Sibi Malayil and Priyadarshan by unleashing his natural style coalesced with Thrissur slang. He was introduced to Hindi Cinema by director Priyadarshan largely owing to the actor’s amazing timing in performing comedy.   

Characters having cues of malicious intent were safe in his hands (‘Keli,’ ‘Malayogam,’ ‘Mazhavilkkavadi,’ and ‘Ponmuttayidunna Tharaavu’) and we can’t entirely write off such characters as villains. Even with negative shades in them, Innocent spiced up those characters with his typical style of dialogue delivery to bring a smile on our face as we prepare to curse the wicked character, who stands between the hero and heroine. 

Innocent’s another heart-warming performance was in the 2009 film ‘Patham Nilayile Theevandi,’ which fetched him Film Critics Award. He won the State Best Supporting Actor Award for ‘Mazhavilkkavadi’ in 1989. As a producer, his best known films are ‘Ormakkayi,’ ‘Ilakkangal,’ ‘Vida Parayum Munpe’ and ‘Oru Kadha Oru Nunakadha’.  

Started out as an actor in 1972 in the film ‘Nrithasala,’ Innocent has acted in more than 750 films. The 75-year-old actor’s other notable performances are in movies such as ‘Chilambu,’ ‘Nadodikkaattu,’ ‘Dr Pasupathy,’ and ‘Mimics Parade’ etc.

Innocent served as the president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) from 2000 to 2018.  Innocent was elected to Lok Sabha from Chalakudy in 2014.  But he failed to defend his seat in 2019.

The passing of Innocent not only nudges us to recall his best roles but reminds us of an extraordinary human being who bravely and confidently confronted cancer. He permeated that confidence to many hapless fellow-beings through his books and by sharing his experience to them that survival is hardly a pipe dream. Indeed, he was a real innocent soul for many.      

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