Its hard to put in oh-so-finite-words and figures when it comes to someone like Prof. Narendra Prasad. he was one of those few divinely talented ones who had known, learned and mastered every nuance of art and performing arts before letting it translate on to the silver screen. From the illustrious expanses of his progressive and path-breaking theater group Natyagriham to the silver screen was an easy transition for the Professor, as the calibre and talent associated with it would go to earn the State its finest honors in Cinema in the coming years, be it Bharat Murali, Gopakumar or Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri for starters.
The entire range of roles that Prof Narendra Prasad brought to life on screen, for me, there were 3 broad categories that they fell in, and I would only blame the lopsided, strait-jacketed vision of our assembly line scriptwriters and rabid producers who keep insisting for the same roles to be recreated over and over again, just become one characterisation got popular. There were his Brilliant Portrayals, the Commercial Staples and his Wonderful Humor sketches. But there is a striking, shimmering strand of pure gold that runs through his best characters, be it popular or off -the -mainstream ones, that of Simmering Menace cloaked in a Smile. That is the best way how I could describe it. If you have a better expression, I’m all ears for your perspective.
Regardless of whether it was the brazen, yet hugely likable humor of Chettan Bava, the chilling eyes catching up with the heartless smile of GP in Thalasthanam, the manic energy of Swami Amoorthananda in Ekalavyan(1993), the baron-turned-beggar’s helplessness of Padmanabha kaimal in Aayirappara(1993), the feudal arrogance of Kolappulli Appan in Aaram Thamburan (1997), or the betrayed revolutionary’s suicidal bitterness in Peruvazhiyile Kariyilakal (1983?) ( Telefilm) – the Professor amazed us all. But there is one role that I rank way above all of this, as Devaduttan Chemmadirippad in Jayraj’s Paithrukam, a character created by Kaloor Dennis and George Vettam, made eternal by the Professor. As the sagely, helpless, timid, yet standing strong on the bedrock of tradition and personal faith against the logical,scientific, atheistic and rational philosophy of his dearest son – Paithrukam is a movie that should be there on your living room DVD shelf. Else, I would say, you are just missing an important piece of Malayalam Cinema.
Here is Kolappulli Appan butting heads with the New Squire in Town in Aaram Thampuran.