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.
Throughout 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.
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.
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.