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Surendranatha Thilakan (THILAKAN)

Surendranatha Thilakan (15 July 1935 – 24 September 2012), known mononymously as Thilakan, was an Indian film and stage actor who had starred in over 200 Malayalam films in a career spanning over four decades (1972-2012).

thilakanThilakan is regarded as one of the finest actors in Indian cinema, and popularly mentioned as the Perumthachan (master craftsman) of Malayalam Cinema. He is known for his excellence in character, antagonist, and protagonist roles. He has won 3 National Film Awards and 9 Kerala State Film Awards. The Government of India awarded him with the Padma Shri in 2009 for his contributions towards the arts.

Thilakan died on 24 September 2012, following a cardiac arrest at a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram.


He started his career in acting as a theatre artiste when he ventured into full-time acting in theatre after leaving intermediate college mid-way in the year 1956. It was during his years in theatre that he honed his skills in acting. During this period he and a few friends formed a drama troupe in Mundakayam, where his father was working as an estate supervisor, and the troupe was called the Mundakayam Nataka Samithy.

He worked with Kerala People’s Arts Club till 1966, followed by stints in Kalidasa Kala Kendra, Changanacherry Geetha, and P. J. Antony’s troupe. He also performed in several radio plays presented by All India Radio. Thilakan completed fifty years in acting.


Despite his long association with theatre, Thilakan became a household name only after his foray into Malayalam cinema. He began his career in cinema with a role in P.J.Anthony directed Malayalam movie ‘Periyar’ (1973). He then worked in ‘Gandharvakshetram’. However the role in the film Ulkadal (1979) was the first noticed. His first role as a lead character was as Kallu Varkey, a drunkard in Kolangal (1981). Thilakan established himself as an actor after he got his first State Award in 1981 for his role in Yavanika.

In 1988, he received the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Rithubhedam. Again in 1994, and in 1998, he won State awards for Santhanagopalam and Gamanam. He was strongly favoured to get another National Film Award for Best Actor for his performance in the movie Perumthachan. As noted in the rediff interview, the award was steered away from him to Amitabh Bachchan due to strong lobbying, as Amitabh announced his retirement that year. The film Kireedam was a milestone in his career; in this film he portrayed a helpless policeman silently watching the fate of his son, played by Mohanlal, who was made into a rowdy by society. Some of Thilakan’s other notable films are Sphadikam, Moonnam Pakkam, Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal, Mookkilla Rajyathu, Chenkol, Randam Bhavam, Kaattu Kuthira and Yavanika.

He has also acted in other South Indian languages, such as Tamil.

Thilakan has portrayed a range of characters. The most popular roles have been with Mohanlal when they portrayed a father-son duo. These included Kireedam, Sphadikam, Narasimham, Evidam Swargamanu, Pavithram and Chenkol. He has also played father roles to other popular actors, including with Mammootty in Sangham, The Truth, No. 1 Snehatheeram Banglore North and Pallavur Devanarayanan, with Jayaram in Veendum Chila Veettu Karyangal and Sandesam, with Dileep in Meenathil Thaalikettu, with Kunchacko Boban in Aniyathi Pravu and with Prithviraj in Sathyam. He has also played many negative roles.

His roles of underworld don in Randam Bhavam, Karma and Kaalal Pada were memorable. He has played comical roles in films like Nadodikkattu and Pattanapravesham (as a coward underworld don), Mookkilla Rajyathu (as a break-out from a mental hospital), Kuttettan (as a pimp) and Naaduvazhikal (as a good-for-nothing, vain person). He has played lead roles in many movies including Ekantham, Perumthachan, Santhanagopalam, Kaattukuthira, My Dear Muthachan, Mukhamudra (double role), etc.

Thilakan fell ill at the beginning of the 2000s and was hospitalised for a long time. After recovering he slowly returned to acting. He subsequently made a series of statements in interviews criticising prominent figures of the Malayalam film industry.

In 2007, he acted in Ekantham, for which he received a special mention from the jury. Even the film technicians’ guild, MACTA, made an exception recently and honoured him, though he is not a technician.

Personal life

Thilakan was the second of the six children of Palapurath T.S. Keshavan and Deevayani. Thilakan was born in Plankamon, Ayroor Panchayat in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. Thilakan lived in Plankamon until he started acting in movies with which he moved to Ernakulam. The house where he was born, brought up and lived most of this life before getting into movies, is at Plankamon junction next to Velliyara school.Thilakan is married to Santha who was her co-actor in melodrama. Thilakan & Santha is blessed with three children Shaji Thilakan, Shammi Thilakan & Shoby Thilakan.Later he is married to his co-artist Leela.Both are blessed with a son Shaji Thilakan and two daughters Dr.Sonia Thilakan & Sophia Ajith.


Thilakan was admitted to a hospital in Thrissur on 1 August 2012 after he collapsed during the shooting of the film “Scene 1 Nammude Veedu”. He was then shifted to KIMS Hospital, Trivandrum and was in critical condition after suffering two heart attacks. Besides having cardiac problems, Thilakan was suffering from pneumonia. The actor had been put in a ventilator since then. Thilakan died[17] on 24 September 2012 at 3:35 IST from complications resulting from his health problems. His condition was getting worse day by day. Thilakan is survived by his sons Shaji Thilakan, Shammi Thilakan, Shibu Thilakan, Shobi Thilakan and daughters Sonia Thilakan and Sophia Thilakan.


Civilian Awards
2009 – Padma Shri

National Film Awards

1987 – Best Supporting Actor – Hrithubhedam
2006 – Special Jury Award (Actor) – Eakantham
2012 – Special Mention (Actor) – Ustad Hotel (Posthumously)

Kerala State Film Awards

1982 – Second Best Actor – Yavanika
1985 – Second Best Actor – Yathra
1986 – Second Best Actor – Panchagni
1987 – Second Best Actor – Thaniyavarthanam
1988 – Second Best Actor – Mukthi, Dhwani
1989 – Special Jury Award – Various films
1990 – Best Actor – Perumthachan
1994 – Best Actor – Gamanam, Santhanagopalam
1998 – Second Best Actor – Kaattathoru Pen Poovu

South Indian International Movie Awards

2013 – Nominated—Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Ustad Hotel

Filmfare Awards South

2005 – Lifetime Achievement Award
2011- Best Supporting Actor Male (Indian Rupee)
1990-Best actor-Perumthachan

Asianet Film Awards

2001 – Lifetime Achievement Award

Other awards

2002 – Bahadoor Award for his contributions to Malayalam cinema
2005 – Chalachithra Ratna/Lifetime Achievement Award by Kerala Film Critics Association
2008 – Annual Malayalam Movie Award (Dubai) for Lifetime Achievement
2010 – Bharath Gopi Award
2011 – Vayalar Ramavarma Chalachithra – Madhyama Awards’ Chalachithra Ratna Award for Lifetime Achievement

Courtesy : WIKIPEDIA

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