August 2012: Remembering Murali…!
by Elizabeth Menon
It is three years since this charismatic actor bid farewell – 6 August 2012 is Bharat Murali’s third ‘Remembrance Day’! He was not just an actor on the silver screen, but also much more than that; a writer, stage actor, a politician, and the one who took Sangeetha Nataka Academy to new heights as its Chairman, to mention a few of his accolades. People remember him for his inimitable acting, depth of his voice, the books he has written and most of all, his most expressive eyes that could convey volumes with just one look! But for his friends, he was someone who ignited their days with his intelligence and sense of humour – and for his family, he was a loving husband and father!
Murali’s passing left a big void on our silver screens that has not been filled yet, and I doubt if that will ever happen -- I am saying this not forgetting the other talented actors, but the likes of Sathyan or Murali are inimitable and unique. Murali’s Bapputty (Aadharam), Krishnaprasad (Bhoomigeetham), Raghavan (Valayam), Esthappan (Chamayam), Sekharan (Pathram), Lans Naik Nambiar (Chakoram), Hafisali (Neeyethra Dhanya), Ramachandran (Arthana), Sankaranunni (Thaalolam), DK (Lal Salaam), Gopalan Moosaari (Venkalam), Chakkapponthan (Mathilukal), Appa Mesthri (Neythukaaran) or Kari Gurukkal (Puli Janmam) still amaze the audience! It does not make any difference whether he is a hero or a villain in any of his films -- he has this unique quality that makes the audience remember even the name of his character in each film even after many years! Kamal's ‘Bhoomigeetham’ brought us Murali's singing voice and Krishnaprasad! ONV's lyrics attained eternity, when Murali sung ‘Parayoo Nee Hrudayame...’!
Narendraprasad’s ‘Natyagriham’ brought out Murali’s talent on stage – ‘Moonnu Prabhukkanmar, Souparnnika, Sanidassa, Velliyazhcha and Marthandavarma Rakshapetttathengane’ are few of the examples. Murali had this passion for ‘Asan Kavthakal’ and acting, and a never-ending quest to delve into the inner core, that he wrote books about them, ‘Abhnayathinte Rasathanthram and ‘Abhinethavum Asan Kavithayum’, both of which should be made part of University curriculum!
It was Hariharan's 'Panchagni' that brought Murali to our silver screens and he was called 'Panchagni Murali' after the release of the film! He has acted in around 200 films, stage plays and serials, and written six books: ‘Murali muthal Murali Vare, Mrugasalakkatha (Translation of Edward Albee’s Zoo Story’) Vyazhapporul (Sivaram Award), Abhinethavum Asan Kavithayum (Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award), Abhinayathinte Rasathanthram (M.C.Appunni Nambiar Award) and Arangettam’. Many awards came his way -- chosen as the 'Nations Best' for his acting in ‘Neythukaaran’ (2001), received ‘Kerala's Best Actor Award’, four times: Aadharam (1992), Kanakkinavu (1996), Thaalolam (1998), Neythukaaran (2001), and the best supporting actor award, twice: (Amaram (1989), Veeralippattu and Pranayakalam (2007) -- and many other awards followed.
Among Murali’s films, perhaps each of us may have our own favourites but many would agree on ‘Meena Maasathile Suriyan, Aadharam, Valayam, Chamayam, Pathram, Chakoram, Neeyethra Dhanya, Arthana, Thaalolam, Lal Salaam,Venkalam, Mathilukal, Neythukaaran, Puli Janmam’ … the list is endless! And I proudly reveal just a few from the top of my list: ‘Adharam, Arthana, Lal Salam, Dasaratham, Bhoomigeetham, Sakshyam, Neeyethra Dhanya, Panchagni, Garshom, Magrib, Chakoram, Chamayam, Venkalam, Amaram, Pathram, Thalolam, Meenmaasathile Sooriyan, Dhanam, Erattakkuttikalute Achen, The King, Kaarunyam, Valayam, Aardram, Pathram, Mathilukal, Kanakkinavu, Amma Kompathu Achen Varampathu, Gramaphone, Ekaantham, Neythukaran and Pulijanmam’. He had this amazing talent to make the audience feel at home with all his characters – DK, Ramu, Esthappan, Sekharan, Hafisali, Nambiar, Gopi Master, Appa Mesthri, Raghavan or Bapputty more than the others, or truly all of them, perhaps!
He has done something on stage that most actors could only dream about – he transformed himself to Ravanan as a single act in C.N. Sreekantan Nair's ‘Lankalakshmi’! His performance in London, a single act lasting around seventy minutes was so bewitching that he was given a standing ovation. He, on stage, transformed himself into many characters just by mere acting, ‘Raavanan to Vibheeshanan, Angathan, Maalyavaan ... to Meghanaadan’, at lightening speed that the spectators were spellbound -- and a lesson in acting itself!
Murali delved into the inner core of each character he played and I felt that a part of those characters remained in his psyche, refusing to part with him. He has immortalized his characters, and his style of acting and dialogue delivery are inimitable, sleek, subtle and yet, very powerful, laced with tenderness and love when the situation demands.
He believed that religion and Communism could find a common ground – ‘Chandanam’, Kunkumam and ‘Rudraksham’ competed with Communism and the inner turmoil, but he knew it was a loosing battle. Ideology and spiritualism with his high aesthetic values and intellect pushed him in his never-ending quest for inner peace – perhaps, this restless quality in Murali, the angry restlessness and the resigned smile at times, on screen and off it, is what made the common man identify with the great actor and admire him with a special fondness. He is no more, but his spirit and his legacy are with us for eternity! And our thoughts are with his wife, Shylaja; daughter, Karthika, and his mother.
‘Mullappoovu, Kunkumam and Ruudraksham ’ for you, dear friend -- we will miss you always!