Remembering Jayan, the Machismo of Malayalam Cinema

Another Anniversary, but the Spirit remains, indomitable, eternal.

Its been 30 years since Master Chief Petty Officer Krishnan Nair of the Indian Navy or Jayan as we know him left for his celestial action gig. Jayan was the first phenomenon of Malayalam Cinema, as far as I am concerned. Not Sathyan, not Prem Nazir. Jayan brought machismo into vogue and the spotlight in Malayalam Cinema. And even the timing was perfect – he ruled for the full four years  with 150-odd films through the the kitschy, loud, brazen 80’s and went out on a blaze of glory. What else can a consummate artiste wish for? Jayan was our own Chuck Norris, and we even gave him the very same factoids that we bestowed on Chuck Norris and now Rajnikanth, but with a strong Malayali flavor. There was also one subtle difference – you had to watch atleast one Jayan movie to understand its ‘full implications.” Jayan , after his stint in the Indian Navy got associated with Jose Prakash during the former’s business venture at Ernakulam, and is said that it was him who suggested the screen moniker Jayan.

Jayan in KannappanunniThroughout all the movies that he acted, regardless of whether it was the plastic costume dramas that  passed under the guise of Vadakkan Pattukal from Udaya Studios, or the testosterone-oozing Machismo roles that revolved around his charisma, Jayan was a statement of whatever the existing heroes were scared of doing onscreen. He started off as the  machismo villian, graduating to supporting roles, and  “could sleep around the first half of the movie and seamlessly move on to be the hero in the next second without batting an eyelid” – the audience would sigh in contentment. Jayan could be anything on screen  and you wouldn’t mind, because he was, you see, Jayan !

With Thacholi Ambu (1978) he was being recognised as ‘hero material’ and if you watched the movie, you know that the rest of the crew paled around his sheer screen presence. And from there on, in a matter of 4 years, he left hsi indelible mark in Malayalam mainstream cinema, as that of an Action hero, who could just be, well anything he wanted to be onscreen and get away with it, including the audacious stunts he performed without any stand-ins, which nearly cost his life once, during Aana Pachan (1978) Ariyappedatha Rahasyam (1981)thank you ‘dear friend‘ for that correction ! where he feigned being gored by the elephant which the elephant didn’t take too kindly and came close to repeating it for real. Sadly, he wasn’t so lucky the second time around where  he upped the stakes on a windy, searing hot afternoon at the wastelands of Sholavaram, as the crew filmed the climax of Kolilakkam(1982), crashing down with the helicopter that he was trying to vault upto, from a moving motorbike! The saddest part was the Director had canned the shot at the second time around, but Jayan wasn’t satisfied and went for Take 3 !

The historical query of “Where were you when JFK was shot?” doesn’t come anywhere near the equivalent one in Kerala, of, “Where were you when you heard about Jayan’s death?” and a generation would rattle off details without even pausing to think. THAT was Jayan’s charisma. From villian to supporting actor ( what an amusing phrase) to hero, Jayan seems to have seen them all in the shortest time possible. Between 1980-82, he was delivering box-office blockbusters, one after the other, most of the characters mostly old arrack in new kitchy bottles.

Jayan in Angaadi
Courtesy :

He made six-packs a fashion statement even before Salman Khan saw the insides of a gym, and could flaunt bell-bottoms that would make Elvis looking for a place to hide.

In all the reams that have been written about Jayan, there are two omissions that I find glaring – his natural adeptness at humor, with a dash of mischief and his capacity for Natural Emoting when allowed – not the contrived, teeth-gnashing that his directors made him do to keep up the tempo !If you have watched Karimbana (1980), you will know what I’m talking about. He was emoting his heart out, being the character and not Jayan, for once on celluloid.

He pirouetted, jived, two-stepped with his favorite co-star Seema for the maximum number of productions ( who can forget the evergreen Kannum Kannum), stole innumerable diamonds for Jose Prakash ( a celluloid karma perhaps for discovering the star in him, perhaps?) and walked through it all, at times with a Lee Enfield .303 in his hand at times, at times bare chested but most of the times with a brazen confidence and screen presence that made the rest wilt under the heat.

Jayan in Kolilakkam

RIP Jayan, and rest assured, as long as Malayalam Cinema is around, you will be around.

Two resources online for Jayan that I have come across in my trawling.

1. Manorama Online’s micro-site on Jayan, you can access it here.

2. His purportedly Official Website – a collection of a lot of photographs and nothing else. You can access it here.

The eternal Kannum Kannum Thammil Thammil.

Next : Jayan on Film | My Favorites

48 thoughts on “Remembering Jayan, the Machismo of Malayalam Cinema

  1. Remembering me. that ‘dear friend’ 🙂 . yes

    My Evergreen Hero Jayan. “Sahasikatha yudayum Porushathinteyum pratheekam. Khana Gaambheeryamulla Shabdam” . Also a super Action hero ever seen. There had an interesting incident with Rajanikanth during stunt shoot of ‘Garjanam’ that will explain next time.

    He is the Only actor who became an emperor in the film field in very short time.Starting almost like a guest role in Sapamoksham, Panchami etc in 1976 and contd. by villan roles. Only he seemed as a supporting actor in 1978. And Sarapancharam in 1979 was his first remarkable movie. Actually from 1979-1980 nov. I think only with in One and a half years through the field he became thrilling&loving star of we people.
    Still he is being alive in the heart of malayalees with all generations .

  2. It is known that the last moments of shri Jayan, right from the transportation of his body from Chennai to Thiruvananthapuram on 17-11-1980 and subsequent laying at Institution of Engineers Hall, Thiruvananthapuram and his last funeral journey to Kollam were filmed by Shri K.R. Mohanan for Films Division, Cameraman Thara for Arifa Enterprises and Cameraman Ramachandramenon for Hemnag Productions. Can ‘Jayan KalaSaamskaarika Vedi” get that film for screening at Shri Jayan’s next death anniversary in 2016 ?

    1. This is great news, Venugopal, thank you ! Why not contact Sreekumaran Thampi, who has instituted the RaagaMaalika Award in his name and is a regular annual event to take this forward ? All the very best. -cinematters

  3. can anybody find out the last rites and funeral scenes containing the transportation of Jayan’s body from Madras to Thiruvananthapuram and the laying of body at Institution of Engineers Hall, Thiruvananthapuram on 17th November, 1980 ? It is known that the event was filmed by cameraman Thara for Arifa Enterprises, Cameraman Ramachandramenon for Hemnag Productions and by shri K.R. Mohanan for Films Division, Govt of India.

  4. another anniversary time is around, remembering the one and only charismatic evergreen thunderbolt action hero of malayalam cinema. As long as malayalam cinema exists, the great loss will always be felt.

  5. some time before i heard about the preparations for making a film named “avataaram” in which a digitally created Jayan is the hero along with other stars of the current malayalam filmdom. has the shooting began? or is the project cancelled?

  6. oh! remembering the dare devil, dashing, thunderbolting evergreen action hyper star of malayalam cinema. JAYAN! the name itself means ‘invincible’ which gives us the feeling of thrill and adventure. dear samuel george, can i get a DVD of your documentary on Jayan ?

  7. I still watch Jayan’s movies whenever time permits or i get an opportunity to do so. I am sure if they were brought to the big screen (atleast the notable ones), there would be a big audience for them even today. He had a unique voice, so to speak and a decent physique! Hats off to Jayan!

    1. Dear Pramod,
      I am finally releasing the documentary close to his anniversary via youtube. Since the interviews are long I am going to release it part by part. You can get a detailed insight into how the accident happened, and how it could have been avoided. I even took the pain of hiring a helecopter, same model used for the shooting, and learned first hand why the accident happened. It could have been avoided, and also there were major safety breaches too!!! It is amazing that the pilot managed to keep the copter in flight and shot the entire sequences. The accident happened in the fourth retake, I guess Jayan just enjoyed the thrill of climbing up and doing those herioic stuff….The helicopter is so light that if is mounted on a set of wheels even a 10 year old can move it. I flew in that helicopter for many minutes and got a better understanding of the accident. Also my respect to the great hero was multiplied. I couldn’t even stay on the pads, let alone climbing up on it in flight…The guy was something!!!! Once in a century kind of incarnation he was!!!
      I will announce the release in this forum before anywhere. This is one forum I keenly follow. Great work Cinematters, we need more people like you coming forward!!! And thanks for keeping Jayan’s memory alive. Some of you guys were not even born when he lived and died!!! I had the great privilege to meet him and shake hands and I consider it one of the highlights of my life!!! Even 33 years later I get teary eyed remembering of 16th Nov, 1980!!

      1. @ George Samuel
        its a great job you are doing. please also try to show the documentary to the general public. seeing on youtube is one thing…but seeing it on screen with other Jayan fans who share the sentiments of the loss is another thing.

          finally i contacted a number one jayan fan…who not only is the number one fan by passion, but also religiously collects Jayan memorabilia. He is Advocate Krishnakumar from Kozhikkode whose book JAYAN: ABHRALOKATHINTE ITHIHASA NAYAKAN is recently published by Olive books,. I am planning to buy this book. I also contacted the author who can be reached at 9387469125

          1. I purchased the book today itself- (Rs. 350/-) and its worth it. Its a well studied well researched book and easily the best among the various works written about Jayan. And at 450 pages- it is a damn good read.

          2. Sure- you can expect a review. I am reading the book and it is quite a good study- bearing in mind the fact that the author had to sieve through hearsay, rumors etc. the authro portrays a larger than life image of Jayan……but then again, Jayan truly IS larger than life.

      2. Dear George,

        Great to hear from you again, and even fabulous is the news that you have shared. Are we looking at a November 16th release of the videos, possibly? Really look forward to the interviews and the documentary ! This is going to be exciting ! 🙂 Regards, cinematters.

      3. dear samuel sir
        thank you for your great reply.
        best wishes of your documentary about the great actor jayan.
        same like you iwas in a travel to find the reason of his death. and now standing on a completion of my work and create a new book name is ormayil oru kolilakkam.

        my email id is hope reply from you.

        some people says that the incident was a murder .but really it was a accident .the reason is without the safety measures.

        sir when your doc will release ,i cant find any cd from the libraries.
        hope more from you samuel sir

      4. dear geroge,

        Hi this is chandrika nair from mumbai one of the fan of late actor jayan .To be frank
        still my heart says he is reborn .I still watch his movie I cannot replace him with
        any other hero why god took him away ?

  8. Jayan was the macho man of the malayalam film industry and the movie bosees of his time focussed on his machoman persona only rather than his acting abilities. All said and done, he was a person who was disciplined and dedicated to his craft as a true professional and his untimely death (allegedly due to his quest for perfection!!!) left a huge void in the malayalam film industry which remains so till date. My salutations to the man!

  9. Silence is more talkative… words about Jayan…this loss is forever..My interest in action films met with a nosedive since 1980…I see international movies,but always think of Jayan in the Hero’s place and would have been better if Jayan performed that particular role..he was blessed with capturing voice,action oriented movements (which cannot be rendered by anybody else),dancing skills which he displayed in movies,especially in Kolilakkam and Garjanam..A billion words are not enough to say about Jayan…

  10. Re-re-re-read the post about Jayan before making an online purchase of JAYAN: JEEVITHAVUM CINIMAYUM by PT Varghese (Published by lal Books). Has anyone over here read JAYANTE KATHA by Joshi George or the 1981 bestsellers JAYAN AMERICAYIL and JAYANATE MARANAM KOLAPATHAKAMO two books which capitalized on his death. would love to read ’em

    1. Dear Narayan,
      I remember reading both of them and even recall the cover jacket of Jayan Americayil, with the famous publicity shot of Kolilakkam with the Statue of Liberty in the background 🙂 I’m sure die-hard fans of his will have a copy with them. Remember reading about Rajan, who is a Section Engineer with Railways at TVM who even has a statue of his made in his courtyard.I think from Pallikkathodu.Will confirm.He has a huge library on Jayan, I recall reading. Do share if you manage to get in touch with him.

      1. first time i am hearing about Rajan. lets invite him to OMC. could you rake your mind- who was gthe author of these conspiracy theory books.

        1. Dear Narayan,
          I am hoping that you would find time for this ( evil smirk ) as in getting to meet him at TVM, getting hold of the books, maybe take copies and also write about it here :).thanks, cinematters

  11. A Real man who is stylish and blessed with potential and caliber of international level..nobody to replace him…who has the guts to do the daredevil performance like him…

  12. Malayalathinte Anaswaranaya ‘Jayan’ Ennum keraleeyarude hrudayathill jeevikkunnu. Krishna Chari, Chennai.

    1. Hi,
      He was unmarried at the time of his untimely death, but there were rumor mills churning about how close he was to finalising his engagement with his lady love, whom the media thankfully gave a wide birth and never dragged into the frenzy that followed post his demise. Then again, we should be celebrating his movies, shouldn’t we? 🙂 Thanks so much for writing in..regards..CM

  13. Wow, and to think I missed this post the first time around! Maybe it was better he died when he did? He is forever enshrined as the dashing young hero, who epitomised masculinity on screen. I was too young to have a crush on him 🙂 but that didn’t prevent me from avidly watching all his movies when they came on re-runs. I’m not too sure of his capabilities as an actor – maybe because there really weren’t any films that challenged him as an actor, or maybe (with even more truth) he got typecast as the ‘action hero’ and therefore didn’t get any other role; but he definitely had charisma, a screen presence that made you forget everyone else when he appeared in front of the camera.

    I remember a very soft role of his – with Shobha – in Ormakal Marikkumo? Seema and he made a fantastic screen pair.

    1. Hi Anu,
      7 years of prolific activity, and gone in a blaze of glory. Maybe the epithet of Evergreen Hero suits him better. As Madhu so rightly ointed out, ” To every Malayali, he will always be the young, dashing Action Hero. Its impossible to see him any other away. Even Destiny ensured that.” How true. His Death Anniversary falls the coming week, and I am just about putting together my lil tribute. 🙂 Yes, Ormakal Marikkumo was one of his ‘soft’ roles, and also, have you watched Etho Oru Swapnam, one of his earlier movies ? That would be enough to assess his calibre as an Actor, as far as I’m concerned. Sadly, he never did any thing close to that ever. .Thanks..cinematters

      1. there were many such soft roles of Jayan in IVIDE KAATTINU SUGANDHAM, ANUPALLAVI (the only film where Jayan showed his comedy talent), ABHINIVESAM, SAAYOOJYAM, ORU RAGAM PALA THAALAM, etc

  14. He is a Real Hero in Malayalam Film Industry. No other Malayalam Film actors is compared with jayan, because he is “Different”. What I say about him, I don’t know, he is a one of a “phenomenan” in Malayalam Films.

    We help to New Generation for understanding more things about Jayan, that’s our duty, because “Jayan orikalum marikila, anum malayalikalude ormayil jayan jeevekium” .

    1. Dear Adarsh,
      Thank you for writing in about your outlook on Jayan. I completely agree with your view on Jayan being one of a kind in Malayalam films. And this is a small step in a much needed effort to compile and preserve his legacy for posterity. Thanks so much once again,…regards..Cinematters

  15. I’ve learned something more about Jayan from your post. He did go out in a blaze of glory.

    Let me also state that I love the way you write, makes for an interesting reading…


    1. Dear Sunny,
      Thank you for those kind words. He really did go out in a blaze of glory as yo said, and on hindsight, it was kind of befitting for someone who walked in that magical middleground where hard action met grace and charisma. What Madhu mentioned in an interview was absolutely true, he would ALWAYS remain that dashing young hero till kingdom come for all those who have watched his movies. Thanks again..Regards..CM 🙂

    1. Hi Zaira,
      Thats so true, the pairing had blurred the lines between reality and ‘reelity’ that most ost of the conspiracy theories that revolved around jayan’s accident involved her real-life husband IV Sasi too ! Few knew that It was him who stood in place of her brother during the Wedding rituals, including holding the umbrella for the just-married couple out of the temple sanctorum. Thanks…CM

  16. If you were from Gods own country, two important things happened in India that concerned you at the cusp of the 80’s. On a very sad and balmy afternoon in November, in 1980, Jayan slowly walked out of this life in a clutch of events that could have at best matched his on-screen persona. The Asiad in New Delhi bringing the magic of color TV broadcast and thereby cinema for the first time in India into your living room two years later in 1982. Though two years apart, it somehow in a very crazy way brought together an appropriate testimony to the fact that life is an ocean – smooth, pleasant and optimally windy one day and raucously murderous on another. ( I know, I know, but I hope you can somehow understand the big picture of it)

    Jayan was my first super-hero. And that’s how he will eternally remain – young, full of verve and the proverbial snook at anything that dared to be conservative in his presence. If there was a rebel and a violent one at that, it was Jayan who set the mould. And anything that is written about him will always have an underlying sense of power – precisely what Jayan would have wanted and therefore inspired. Everything about him was trademarked and, sadly today, even merchandised into derisive mimicry that people guffaw about so easily.

    Somewhere, in some parallel universe, he probably reigns at a ripe age of 71. For me, he will remain the sepia-toned youngster who brought style and panache to an otherwise boring landscape of action-hero detritus that just remained very wannabe.

  17. I don’t know whether to tag him the uncrowned emperor or mookkilla rajyathe muri mookan rajavu comparing with the action heroes from else where. Anyways he entertained us to the hilt while he was at it.

    1. Dear Prince,
      THAT was what made him stand out, pure unadulterated entertainment – he served a purpose on screen which the other ‘lead actors’ found terrifying, that of being the loud, brazen, all cylinders firing action man. With that, the limits you had were the limits you set for yourself. That was Jayan…CM

    2. Dear Prince,
      Jayan reigned supreme when there were no CGI or Fx to create any effects as we see today. He was really committed to his craft and he was about entertaining cine goers like you and me. I think he mentioned that on one of his interviews close to his death. The fact is he was never utilized properly by the directors of those days, his commercial clout made him the toast of the industry. Action movies after action movies were being planned exploiting his physique and popularity. He had tremendous acting talents, some of his early movies will attest to the fact, Sarapancharam, Etho Oru Sapnam are some examples. I am the person who is doing a documentary on his life, which have finished shooting recently, and it was a great journey for me to learn about an amazing individual who once was the back bone of Malayalam industry, however short period that was. It is amazing that even after 3 decades his colleagues and friends talk about him as if he was alive!!! There were other actors too who passed away later, whom are hardly being ever mentioned. Probably his death and the profound shock that has left on the millions of his fans at that time contributed to his continuing popularity. I can tell you one thing I met him in person, few days before his untimely demise, and the memory is still fresh in my mind….such was the charisma of the person that Jayan was!!!

      1. Dear George,
        This is an absolute pleasure 🙂 Just the one that I wished I could get in touch with, specially on the even of Jayan’s Anniversary. Wanted to check with you whether the documentary is finally done and whether it would be released tomorrow at the commemoration meeting at VJT Hall ? Is there a DVD release planned, and if so, where could I get hold of a legal copy ? The teaser looked very promising, and I am very much looking forward to it. All the very best in you endeavors.. I’m sure Prince will respond with his thoughts on Jayan soon 🙂 Thanks again for passing through and writing in..regards..cinematters

        PS: While we are at it, could you please impress upon the admin team at on the immediacy of a complete overhaul of that website, and most importantly, a spell check , starting from “SPREAD THE WORLD” on the Homepage? Thanks.

      2. george samuel sir really encouraging your great love to jayan the big actor who prove his ability in the international standard.but how he died ? ican find only one reason no safety allowed him in the shooting location in sholavaram.why?
        and he was travelling in a motorbike sukumaran was driving but i think that was dangerous any deviation in the move he fell down and affect big injury.why they not provide a helmet use a helmet they can sukumaran is giving helmet to jayan in the riding ?

What do you think ?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.