Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Timely advice that changed Thilakan's life

News: Thilakan, one of Malayalam cinema's great actors, died on Monday, September 24, at the age of 77, following a cardiac arrest. He had acted in over 200 films

By Shevlin Sebastian

In 1955, Thilakan joined S.N. College in Kollam. For a college function, he enacted the role of a doctor in a play called, ‘Two plus two is five’, by T.N. Gopinathan.

After the audience left, there was one man who remained in the hall. Thilakan went close and noticed that it was Professor Shivaprasad, the president of the Arts Club. The man said, “You are a good actor, and must join the Arts Club. This year we must do something great together.”

Thereafter, Thilakan got the role of Mark Antony in the play, ‘Julius Caeser’. But he was not confident about whether he could essay such a role. But Shivaprasad urged him to take it, and said, “It is easy to eat a banana, but to have sugarcane juice, you need to squeeze it out of the cane.”

By coincidence, the film, ‘Julius Caeser’ with Marlon Brando as Mark Antony, was showing at Kollam. The Arts Club paid the money so that Thilakan could see every show for three days.

“Marlon Brando was muscular, good-looking, and had a powerful delivery,” said Thilakan, during an interaction with this reporter at the Lal Media office in Kochi three years ago. “How could I match that?”

Fortunately, Thilakan had a photographic memory and remembered every nuance and gesture of Brando’s. Meanwhile, when students came to know that Thilakan had gone to see 'Julius Caeser' for nine shows in a row, they were keen to see the rehearsals. A few of them were planning to boo him.

Thilakan stepped forward and shouted:

‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them,

The good is oft interred with their bones.’

The audience became silent. Soon, they were held spellbound by Thilakan’s acting. When he finished, the students clapped loudly.

But when Thilakan looked at Shivaprasad, the teacher had no expression on his face. Finally, Shivaprasad said, “You have impersonated Marlon Brando. All the people of Kollam have seen his acting. Don’t mimic anybody. You are Thilakan. So, give an original version of Mark Antony.”

It was a life-changing moment. And for the first time in the 90-minute conversation, Thilakan became silent. As he pressed strands of tobacco into the bowl of a black pipe, Thilakan had a far-away look on his face.
After several moments he said, “I have acted in numerous plays and films. Can anyone say I have imitated anybody? Every character has come from within. I became a good actor only because of this great bit of advice.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi) 

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