August 2009: Bharat Murali Bids His Final Good-Bye
by Elizabeth Menon

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Bharat Murali Bids His Final Good-Bye: 

‘Meena Maasathile Suriyan’ Karkkitakathil Asthamichu’!

Malayalees in mourning! The untimely departure of the charismatic actor has left Malayalees in deep shock and sorrow -- inimitable and irreplaceable, whose pen was mightier than his acting and vice-versa -- One who gave so much, and who had so much more to give to Malayalam cinema, drama, literature and the ancient art forms of Kerala ... thus the list goes on!

Murali was admitted to PRS hospital in Trivandrum on Wednesday, 5 August, but in spite of treatment he died on Thursday at 2023 hours. He had returned from South Africa on 30 July, and was planning an 'Indo- African Drama festival next year, when he was taken ill suddenly. His demise was so untimely and sudden that most people found it hard to believe! Murali was Malayalam Cinema's strength, and he had revived the Sangeetha Nataka Academy to new heights since becoming its Chairman in 2006 -- the Drama Festival he organized was first of its kind in India. He had many more dreams and plans: a book on the Ancient Art forms of Kerala, great plans to bring 'Karnnan' and 'Kari Gurukkal' to our stages in the style of 'Lankalakshmi' -- Murali had so much more to give to Kairali and Malayalees! Kaavaalam Narayana Panicker’s dramatization of Asan’s ‘Veenapoovu’ would have been another jewel in the crown – but sadly, that was not to be! He was truly a mine of inexhaustible talents, which may not be fully known even to many of his admirers, as he was very unassuming.

Murali was introduced to the Malayalam screens in Panchagni as a villain, though his debut film was Njattadi, which never saw the light of day! He was an instant success in Kerala, and the Malayalees took him to their heart; Panchagni Murali was a household name after the release of this film. A series of films of high calibre followed his debut appearance and this handsome, charismatic actor brought a new meaning to our screen heroes. It is a well-known fact that he became the craze among the thinking women of Kerala, and a hero to the rest! He made it very clear to his audience that he is one actor who would feel at home, acting as a hero and in any other role that is challenging. He once said, "Our screen heroes are such good characters that may even put God of creation to shame"!

His talent is such that a wide variety of challenging roles live through him to eternity. He has acted in around 200 films, 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’. I feel that University students would benefit if ‘Abhinethavum Asan Kavithayum, Abhinayathinte Rasathanthram and Arangettam’ were made part of their curriculum! Many awards came his way -- chosen as the Nations Best for his acting in Neythukaran (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.

It was amazing how he could recite the works of Changampuzha or Kumaran Asaan from memory, captivating the listener! He had an in depth knowledge of literature, world politics and humanitarian causes. Kamal's Bhoomigeetham brought us Murali's singing voice and Krishnaprasad! (Yesudas and Chithra were the other singers) ONV's lyrics attained eternity, when Murali sung Parayoo Nee Hrudayame ...! Murali's 'Krishnaprasad' in this film is a lesson in acting itself, joining the long line of treasures he has left us: Bapputty (Aadharam), 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), Kari Gurukkal (Puli Janmam) ... the list is endless! 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!

It was Narendraprasad’s Natyagriham that brought out Murali’s talent on stage -- Moonnu Prabhukkanmar Souparnnika, Sanidassa, Velliyazhcha and Marthandavarma Rakshapettthengan are few of the examples. Narendraprasad, Kavi Kadammanitta and Kaavaalam Narayana Panicker were a big part of his early life. Ravanan in C.N. Sreekantan Nair's Lankalakshmi is legendary! 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. Murali’s performance in Lankalakshmi showed me what a real actor should be!

Among his films, Adharam, Arthana, Lal Salam, Dasaratham, Bhoomigeetham, Neeyethra Dhanya, Panchagni, Garshom, Magrib, Chakoram, Chamayam, Meenamaasathile Sooriyan, Venkalam, Amaram, Pathram, Thalolam, Dhanam, Erattakkuttikalute Achen, The King, Kaarunyam, Valayam, Aardram, Pathram, Mathilukal, Kanakkinavu, Amma Kompathu Achen Varampathu, Gramaphone, Ekaantham, Neythukaran and Pulijanmam, top the list of my favourite films! 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!

Murali has immortalized his characters, and his style of acting and dialogue delivery is inimitable, sleek, subtle and yet, very powerful, laced with tenderness and love when the situation demands. He 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 believed that religion and Communism could find a common ground – Chandanam and Rudraksham competing with Communism and the inner turmoil – 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. Kerala has lost a very talented actor and writer -- Malayalees around the globe, including his fans from other languages (Tamil and Telugu) mourn his most sudden and untimely departure, and remember his inimitable style -- the enigmatic, versatile genius is no more, but his legacy will be eternal!

His calibre is such that I would place him next to Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton or Jack Nicholson, perhaps even higher -- but for Malayalees, Murali's place would be next to Sathyan, and that would be the highest of all awards! However, I feel that Murali was not given the recognition that he truly deserved, but then, he never went after awards or super-stardom – he was happy with the love and admiration of his ardent fans and real friends!

Our thoughts are with his family, especially his wife, Shylaja; daughter, Karthika and his mother.

Tears and ‘Mullappoo’ for you, dear friend -- we will miss you always!

"May God hold you in the palm of His hand”

© E Menon August 2009

© E Menon

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