The late Malayalam film actor, Thilakan, has been on my mind lately. Further proof of this arrived in the form of a slideshow of notable deaths in the past year. The list included Chinua Achebe, the great Nigerian writer (above, left), and the first thing I noticed was how similar he and Thilakan looked.
I'm not entirely sure why Thilakan was occupying my thoughts; perhaps watching a couple of his films over the holidays had something to do with it.
One of them in particular, Manjadikuru, (2008) is a little gem. It is an enchanting child’s-eye view of Kerala in the late 1970s, seemingly a world away from the modern-day, marketing executives' dream it has now become. It is a beautifully crafted piece of cinema, and captures a child's sense of wonder and innocence better than almost any other film I have seen. The fact that it is set in the version of Kerala not far removed from my own childhood memories, only made it all the more beautiful.
Films like Manjadikuru affect you on many different levels. To watch it is to feel like you are being seized by the hand and dragged willingly back into the part of yourself that you thought had died long ago, only to find that it is in fact alive and well.
In the film, Thilakan's character is dead from pretty much the first scene (no spoiler alert required- the film revolves around the events following his death) but is always lurking in the background, occasionally making ghost-like appearances at unexpected moments. Every time he does, his expressive face fills the scene and is a reminder of what an amazing actor he was, right up until his death in 2012.
He may not be around any longer, but as someone who has starred in most of my favourite films (admittedly, most of them featured Mohanlal as well), he will always be lurking somewhere in the shadows of my memory as well.