Every person living in this world will have a name. I have often felt that this vast world is rich with many names, old and new, that we never hear of. Although I have been to many foreign countries, I hear such a special name from a person in our country. I thought it was a nice name to hear, but sometimes I thought that the original name given to the church might be different. Don’t know who this new name is? Son of Iringalakudakaran Thekethala Vareeth and Margalitha, this new generation is the owner of the name of Sakshal Innocent, who created a different kind of comedy that was not seen before in Malayalam cinema.
When I heard this name, I asked my friend and screenwriter John Paul: “Wow, this name is a replacement for Innocent, isn’t it John?”
As John said, with a somewhat broad goose-crested crest: ”That, don’t you know, is the name Innocent was given by his father when he was born. His father suddenly had a divine call that he would be too bad to study and too hard to work with. Dad was very sad when he heard that. Innocent is the name given by the father to make the locals feel that his son is good and innocent.
I laughed at John’s exaggeration. I first heard the name Innocent in 1980 by John Paul. That’s when Innocent started doing small roles. Since then I felt that I wanted to meet this new nominee in person. John Paul already knows filmmakers David Kachapalli and Innocent.
I saw Innocent for the first time in late September 1981 at the Madras house of Murali Movies Ramachandran, the producer of ‘Avla Raavul’. John Paul took me there. At that time I had not seen any movie starring Innocent. When we went there, Ramachandran was accompanied by Mohanan, David Kachapalli and Innocent who is the director of Vidaparham Pravbe. Those who were in the ecstasy of getting a huge hit before Vidapara, which released on Onam. As soon as they saw John Paul, David, Mohan and Innocent hugged John tightly and for a while poured happy words about the movie going well and so on. John Paul remembered that I was not introduced to Innocent right away.
“Hey Denny, you don’t know Innocent.” He is the co-producer of “Party Farewell”
I laughed and shook my head.
Then John went into the heroic story about me.
“Rakta’, written by Evan and directed by Joshi, is now challenging us as an opposition. It is a multi-starrer film starring Nazir sir and Madhusar. He is also doing the next film of this company. Innachan held him tightly without letting go.
Hearing that, Innocent’s face lit up like a full moon.
After a while, John Paul went to where Mohan and David Kachapalli were staying. Innocent Thrissur went into the small details with the flavor of the language. Then what came to my mind was the face of Devasyachan, the grocer in Kalur. I felt that Innocent had a good resemblance to him. Innocent is wearing a singlet and slacks like Devasyachayan wears. And now I feel that it is right to say that there are seven people like one.
We stayed there for some time and after telling jokes and innocent insults, we ate Ramachandran’s cook’s special items of chicken fry and beef stir fry and it was almost four o’clock. With that, my friendship with Innocent was growing.
After leaving that day, I used to call Innocent from time to time. It’s good to hear Innocent talk. Often listening to Innocent’s jokes and fun over the phone, our relationship grew into a close call.
I started writing some characters for Innocent in many of my films so that he could hear his jokes. Most of them were small roles like driver and small boy. Innocent would occasionally call me from Madras, knowing that producers were circling around me when Jubilee’s That Night and Occasion, which I had written for Joshi, became a big hit.
“Eta Dennis, am I here?” was Innocent’s reminder in Thrissur for Chance.
Our friendship continued when he came to Ernakulam to act in Kutinilamakili. Innocent’s presence was in all the movies I wrote later, Katha to be continued, Katha till now, Katha till now, and in these hands. With this, more opportunities started arriving in search of Innocent.
In 1989 P. G. Innocent’s breakthrough came when he played the role of Anappapan in Gajakesariyoga directed by Vishwambharan. The helplessness and distress of the elephant who was struggling to speak Hindi to the elephant who knew only Hindi was very noticeable through Innocent’s natural acting style. And Innocent never had to look back.
Then we started meeting regularly at various locations. At that time, he would not fail to mention Innocent at least once while talking about his eighth grade and wrestling. Not out of frustration at not being able to learn more.
“Although all my elder brothers studied well and became great doctors and officials, no one knows them like I do. Even if I fail the school exam, I will pass the life exam with first class.” Innocent would say with a smile. Laughter was always a mental tonic for him.
Innocent is always a positivity, negativity is always seen as out of focus in him. Therefore, whatever Innocent said, all his colleagues saw it as an Innocentarian result.
After seeing Innocent’s performance in Gajakesari Yog, Siddique Lal was called for his debut film Ramjirao. With the arrival of Ramji Rao, there was an innocent wave. From Innocent, there was no turning back. After Ramjirao, Father Tharakandam in Mimics Parade, for which I wrote the screenplay, Mathaichan in Inchakadan Matthai and Sons and Bhootham in Saksal Sriman Chathunni, came an innocent era in Malayalam cinema. Later, Sathyan Anthikad and Priyadarshan roped Innocent as their lead actor.
Then Ranjith’s Devasuram, Siddique Lal’s Hitler, Kabuliwala, Sathyan Anthikad’s Manasinakare, again some house things, Priyadarshan’s Kilukum and Kakakuil were roles that only Innocent could succeed in.
Years passed like that. Innocent is a celebrity who has built a parallel culture of comedy in Malayalam cinema by starting life as a commoner among ordinary people without displaying any idealistic natya, and maintaining the glory of his language in the Indian Parliament and abroad with his ponchirats of Thrissur language.
It was during this period that Innocent was suddenly diagnosed with cancer. I came to know about Innocent’s illness two years after my leg was amputated. When I came to know that, I felt bad. One day I went to see Innocent at his house in Iringalakuda. When I saw him sitting in an armchair with his chin in his hand, the image and speech of old Innocent came to my mind. I was thinking about the changes in humans due to disease. As soon as he saw me, Innachan said: “Why did you come to see me with this weak leg?” I have nothing now. My everything will not change.
Then his face seemed to me like a crying cloud without eyes. I was next to him and was slowly asking each and every detail. After a while, when Alice was still missing, I asked: “Isn’t Alice here?”
“Alice is in bed, and my illness has now affected her.”
When I heard that too, I was stunned for a moment. He took me to the room where Alice was lying. Alice already knows me. I have been to all the three houses where they lived in Iringalakuda. Alice looked at me indifferently. I had no idea what to say to Alice. After sitting for a long time and chanting small sentences, when I went down the stairs to leave, I remembered what Innocent once said.
“A day without laughter is the most wasted day.”
As I write these lines, Innocent is in a slightly critical stage in the hospital. My mind says nothing will happen to him. I’m sure he’ll send Moopilan away with his spontaneous jokes when Death comes to his ashes in a daze.
(to be continued)