Celebrating Hundred Years of Charisma: Actor Sathyan's 100th Birthday!
by Elizabeth Menon
Celebrating Hundred Years of Charisma: Centenary Celebration of Sathyan's Birthday!
Centenary Celebration of Sathyan: Sathyan would have been 100 years old on 9 November 2012 (Born on 9 November 1912) and it is rather difficult to picture the ruggedly handsome hero of Malayalam Cinema as that old! He is in our thoughts everyday, and every time we see a Malayalam film we think of his inimitable acting and how the others are lacking! It is time for the 'Centenary birthday Celebration' of our beloved Sathyan, the 'Uncrowned Emperor of Malayalam Cinema', and I still think of him with tears in my eyes! The charismatic actor succumbed to Multiple Myeloma on 15 June 1971 -- Malayalees still miss him with great admiration and fondness. The word 'Sathyan' is synonym for 'Best acting and Charisma’, and any of his films would be a lesson in acting! He has left us, but Pappu, Palani, Thampy, Sudheendran, Rajan, Prof.Sreeni, Chellappan, Raghu and many others like them are with us through his films, showing the greatness of his acting -- he could say volumes with just one look or one word – and we celebrate the charisma and the exemplary acting that is only comparable to the best 'Film Institute' in the world! Sathyan Foundation Award will be presented to Actor Madhu at a function today in Trivandrum, as part of the Sathyan Centenary Celebration!
It did not make any difference what role he played; he would still have the whole film in the palm of his hands, and the audience too, which still holds ground even after 41 years of his passing – the other actors even now fade away when compared to his magnetism and impeccable acting! Sathyan’s ‘Pappu’ in 'Otayil Niinu' is far superior to any Film Institute! If anyone has the desire to know what real acting is, all one has to do is watch Sathyan and listen to every word he says -- even the simple words that Pappu tells his adopted daughter in ‘Otayil Ninnu’, "Kunje...,, Avan Nallavanaanu, Pakshenki Nee iniyavite pokaruthu... Ngooooom", becomes a classic magical delivery that one could only marvel at, and that 'Ngoooom ...' has so much of weight, when Sathyan says it!
He was born Sathyaneshan Nadar on 9 November 1912, as the eldest son of Manuel and Emily, in Thrikkannapuram in Southern Travancore. Sathyan worked in St Joseph’s School in Trivandrum for a while and then joined the Secretariat. He served in the Army as a Commissioned Officer and was stationed at Malaya (Malaysia) during World War 11, following which he joined the Travancore State Police. Acting was always his first love and this made him resign from the Police, to pursue his acting career -- he decided to shorten his name to ‘Sathyan’ after joining the film industry. ‘Thyaagaseema’ was his first film, but it didn’t see the light of day! ‘Aathmasakhi’ was released in 1952, and then in 1954, P Bhaskaran’s ‘Neelakkuyil’ won the National Award, Silver Lotus Award, which raised Sathyan to stardom.
Then came Thakazhi’s ‘Chemmeen’ that won the President's Golden Lotus Award in 1965, and Palani was born! But Sathyan did not get the best actor award for the year, in spite of his exemplary acting as Palani. And then on, it was an odyssey for Sathyan with, ‘Ashwamedham’, Atimakal, Thacholi Othenan, Cross Belt, Viyarppinte Vila,Vivaahitha, Chettathy, Dathuputhran, Unniyaarcha, Otayil Ninnu, Mitumitukki, Kayamkulam Kochunni, Yakshi, Vaazhve Maayam, Kadalppaalam, Mooladhanam, Kaattuthulasi,Vaazhve Maayam, Ashwamedham, Naayaru Pidicha Pulivaalu, Thommante Makkal, Naadan Pennu, Velutha Kathreena, Mutiyanaaya Puthran, Thriveni, Aadyakiranangal, Bhaarya, Kara Kaanakkadal (Posthumous Best Actor Award) Oru Penninte Katha, Naadan Pennu, Pakalkkinavu, Kadathukaaran, Anubhavangal Paalichakal, Chattampikkavala and many more films, around 150 Malayalam films and two Tamil films -- 'Anubhavangal Paalichakal' was his last film!
He had this talent, to bring out the best in the other actors -- Sathyan and Ragini in ‘Bhaarya’ and Unniyaarcha, Usha Kumari and Sharada in ‘Kaattuthulasi’, Srividya in ‘Chattambikkavala’, are few of the examples. Sheela has given her best performances when she acted with Sathyan - Atimakal, Ashwamedham, Vaazhve Maayam, Kaattuthulasi, Velutha Kathreena, Naadan Pennu are such examples -- Sathyan and Sheela could set the silver screen on fire! I remember a scene from 'Velutha Kathreena', when they both are frolicking around during the harvest season while singing Sreekumaran Thampi's most explicit words, 'Makaram Poyittum Maanam Thelingittum Maarathe kulirottum poyille...'! And here Sathyan shows us that he is a great fantasist too -- one of the most erotic scenes, even surpassing ‘Poykayil’ from ‘Raajashilppi’ and 'Chandanalepasugandham' from 'Oru Vatakkan Veeragaatha'! The chemistry between Sathyan and Sheela in ‘Vaazhve Maayam’ is classic and they both have given their best! How can one forget ‘Pakalkkinaavu’, Mitumitukki and Thriveni’ with Sharada, ‘Mutiyanaaya Puthran and Chettathy’ with Ambika, ‘Bhaarya’ and Unniyaarcha’ with Ragini, ‘Vivaahitha’ with Padmini … thus the list goes on and on! Sathyan and Srividya riding in a car, singing ‘Mayilppeeli Mizhikalil’ is unforgettable in Muttathu Varkkey’s ‘Chattampikkavala’ – Sathyan at his most handsome, even Srividya’s beautiful eyes (Mayyilppeeli mizhikal) finding it very hard to keep up! Srividya once said that it was Sathyan who told her to use her most beautiful eyes to show emotion and Sheela also stated that the best acting emerges from an actor while acting with Sathyan – and the Malayaalees are blessed to have witnessed it!
Sathyan received the first Kerala State Best Actor Award in 1969 for his double role in ‘Katalppaalam, and the second Best Actor Award was bestowed on him posthumously in 1971, for his magnificent performance in ‘Karakaanakkatal’. It is a generally accepted fact that Sathyan should have received the National Award for his performance in Chemmeen, Otayil Ninnu, Katalppaalam, Anubhavangal Paalichakal and Atimakal, to mention a few! He may not have received many awards, but Malayalees have honoured him with their ‘Best Actor Award’ for most of his films – the first Kerala State Award was started only in 1969, and Sathyan died on 15 June 1971, and therefore, it could be argued that time was against him, but he had the ‘People’s Award’ every time!
When I think of Sathyan, I think of my father too -- they joined Kerala Police, Travancore State Police then, on the same day and were roommates at the Police Training School in Trivandrum. Sathyan started his acting career after resigning from the Police. I was only 4 or 5 years old when he came home with my father, but I still remember him singing a song while I sat on his lap -- I can only remember one line from that song, "Ormma venam ormma venam oro Nimishavume...” and I shall treasure those moments forever! I still remember feeling so proud every time my father took us for Sathyan's films as soon as they were released! I am sure the two friends are together now in a better place, talking about Police, Cinema, the Army, and of course their children!
I would say, God broke the mould after creating Sathyan, His perfect creation for the acting world, so that there would never be another actor like him born to this world! Four decades on, they are all still trying hard to emulate that smile, delivery of dialogues, just that look, or that 'Sathyan Special' heavy weight, "Ngooooom...”, but Sathyan is still an invincible enigma! There is one song that haunts me, and it is of course, “Pravvachakanmaare Parayuu Prabhathamakaleyaano..” – the larger than life actor showing a sea of controlled emotions without even uttering a word is sheer heaven and the ultimate lesson in acting – and the celestial voice of Yesudas takes one to another world and 'Akale Akale, Daivamevite, Chalanam Chalanam, Pakalkkinaavin and vellichilanka come to mind too, among many others! 'Kayamkulam Kochunni' gives a powerful performance, quite different from any of his other films, and Malayalees took to his handsome rugged looks -- Sathyan as the handsome Kayamkulam Kochunni was an answer to the very few critics who dared to comment on his looks -- but to me and many others, Sathyan is always the ruggedly handsome hero, who couldn't be replaced! The great film directors and writers such as, P Bhaskaran, M.Krishnan Nair, Vincent, K S Sethmadhavan, Sasikumar, Kunchako and Thakazhi, only had supreme comments about his unrivaled acting ability, and Thakazhi famously told him that there was never any need to tell him how to act even in the most sensitive and powerful scenes!
Sathyan never looked like he was acting in any of his films -- he just lived the part so much that people remember each character by name even after all these years -- only Bharat Murali came close, but he too was taken from us much before his time! Jack Nicholson is the only other actor whom I would compare to Sathyan, but Sathyan reigns supreme, now and forever! Jessy, his beautiful wife passed away and my thoughts are with their three sons, Prakash, Satish and Jeevan.
We still miss him as we celebrate the 'Hundred glorious years of Sathyan! I only hope that those who try to imitate Sathyan in the pretext of art due to sheer ignorance on their part, as he is inimitable, would refrain from making a mockery out of someone who was and always will be the backbone of Malayalam Cinema!