Kuthiravattam Pappu | An eternal bookmark on simplicity and warmth onscreen

12 years since his Passing.

Kuthiravattam Pappu in Alkoottathil Thaniye (1984)Kuthiravattam Pappu was a magician on screen.

He was always the painfully – hilarious,  empathetic  yet  incalculably shrewd money-lender (Mithunam), or the considerate pimp ( Avaludey Raavukal), or the sleazy, slimy small-time real-estate agent (Vietnam Colony) or the explosive, pompous to the point of stupid, garrulous ‘Club Secretary ‘ in Mazha Peyyunnu, Maddalam Kottunnu, he had so much going on for you onscreen that you followed him almost breathlessly onscreen. He made you feel content ( I know, its a little bizarre, but it was the case for me) as he went about his business, making you well up, mostly with inconsolable laughter, but at some significant junctures with tears too. Kuthiravattam Pappu, you see , could make himself disappear while being present at the same time.

He was never a comedian as far as I see him. To me, he was one of the finest examples of effortless, simplistic emoting conveyed ever in Malayalam Cinema and I rank him amongst the greats in world cinema. He did close to a 1000 movies before he passed away, and the wiry, lean frame was a limitless bundle of sheer talent which sadly never got its full due. He was mostly relegated to the second-rung slapstick comedy routines as he became an integral part of the commercial, mainstream cinema, but he wrung out every single moment allocated to him on the script ( or the absence of it) with his sheer presence on screen. Be it buffoonery, slapstick or the short,intense memorable roles ( a big thanks to Sathyan Anthikkad), Kuthiravattam Pappu came to his own in the late 80’s. There were three directors , I feel, who gave him the due respect and freedom to explore his thresholds as an actor onscreen through their movies – IV Sasi , Sathyan Anthikkad and Shaji Kailas. (yes!)

Kuthiravattam Pappu in Avaludey RaavukalThough Priyadarshan gave him, and thereby us, one of the most memorable 4 minutes in Malayalam cinema, based around a rusty, broken down road-roller, it was these two who gave the due respect to the actor called Kuthiravattam Pappu through their productions. IV Sasi started it with his classic Avaludey Raavukal as the cycle-ricksahwallah cum pimp Damu to Seema’s teenage prostitute in 1978, he also got him, his most memorable role in 1984, in Aalkoottathil Thaniye, the role  of Kutti Narayanan, the self-appointed ‘valet of death’ of the village, a strange character who appoints himself to be the facilitator of passing away to anyone who is in their final hours on earth.

Here is a clipping from the movie, Avaludey Raavukal(1978).

IV Sasi even went a step ahead and picturised a whole song on Kuthiravattam Pappu, in a commercial high-density movie packed with stars, led by the immortal Jayan, something that was unheard of, in those times for a ‘staple comedy actor’ – moniker  that was perceived to be a couple of notches down the priority ladder in Cinema. Sathyan Anthikkad will have to be credited with giving us the ‘real’ face of the actor, which in itself was a misnomer, because the characters that he brought to life through his movies have ALL been memorable. Who can forget the wily,selfish brother-in-law of Balagopalan in TP Balagopalan MA (and of course, the second edition of the Thamarassery Churam story). There wasn’t anyone who could do full justice to the role than Kuthiravattam Pappu, and Sathyan Anthikkad reminisces in his book  about how after he read him the script, Kuthiravattam pappu smiled and said, “This wouldn’t be a problem, I personally know a lot of them.” And if I write this today, here, its because I still haven’t forgotten that role even after 20-odd years.

Here is the second edition of Thamarassery Churam from TP Balagopalan MA.

The one that really shook me up was his role as the foul-mouthed, pissed-drunk, acerbic yet with a heart of gold owner of a run-down motor garage in Veendum Chila Veettu Karyangal again from Sathyan Anthikkad. It was one of the last movies he did and you can see the wiry frame turned gaunt, and the deep pain of weariness on him, but his face shone with the same old creative fire!

Lohithadas created the character with him in mind and insisted that only Pappuettan could do justice to the role. Tired as he was, he did it. Sathyan Anthikkad reminsces that he literally carried Kuthiravattam Pappu up 4 floors to the dubbing theater for the movie’s post-production work as there was no elevator in the building and he was unable to take the stairs.

A clipping from Veendum Chila Veettu Karyangal.

Also Read : Kuthiravattam Pappu and Priyadarshan | Screwball comedy redefined

Also Read : Classic Picks | A Vincent | Bhargavi Nilayam (1964)


25 thoughts on “Kuthiravattam Pappu | An eternal bookmark on simplicity and warmth onscreen

  1. Two other films that come to mind are of two different genres altogether .One was Aaryan in which Pappu played the sort of role mamu koya would play years later in His Highness Abdulla of the smalltime malabari hawking his things in bombay .another one was his role in Manichitrathayu

  2. I wish we had a section for general comments and discussion> Anyway the hunt for “Kottaram Vilkanundu” and “Palattu Koman” has begun again> We went to a few video shops in TVM>> tracked down one video shop owner who wound up in nintey five> we went to his house and got vague info on his manager who is supposed to have kept most of his movies> if someone here has a telephoine direcotry of TVPM city please contact me> these days it is hard to come across a phonebook> am trying to tracjk him down

    1. Dear Sibi,
      Couldn’t quite understand your “section for general comments and discussion” part.By that do you mean, capability for users to start off conversation threads on their own ?That would necessitate having the site hosted independently and having a small team of moderators who continuously keep monitoring every single entry posted on those innumerable threads that would be generated, weeding out racism, smut, bigotry and plain stupid hate. It needs full time involvement. This blog is essentially of a personal nature till now. Then again, am quite sure that discussions and conversations are going on under the relevant headings that in itself have become sources of information. And to search for anything specific, there is always the Search bar, that, according to me does a swell job of finding what you need from the blog. All the best to your hunt for Kottaram Vilkanundu” and “Palattu Koman 🙂 There are a whole lot of fans lokking out for them, including yours truly. As far as looking for a TVM phone directory, there is already one online.

      1. no i meant to say a heading which says something like ” general discussion” just like “about OMC ” or so general comments can be posted there> not that anyone should be able to start a thread> comments like this one which do not fall under any category can be put there> if not the replies to this comment would be hard to track a few days from now> thanks for the directory>>dint know one exusted online

  3. Unforgettable acting and that unmistakeable voice – an actor who endeared himself to Malayalam Cinema goers for decades.
    Just recently I had an opportunity to watch this great performer in a movie – Aaraattu by IV Sasi. What a moving performance, all through the movie!
    He will always be remembered.

    1. Hi Vandana,
      I think that has been mentioned when I spoke of “There were three directors , I feel, who gave him the due respect and freedom to explore his thresholds as an actor onscreen through their movies – IV Sasi , Sathyan Anthikkad and Shaji Kailas. (yes!)“. The intention to elaborate on the movies with the three still remain. Thanks, cinematters

  4. Though my mother-tongue is tamil, me and my wife have learnt the beautiful language Malayalam watching scores of Malayalam movies on TV. For a long long time, have been trying to know the name of this very good, extremely gifted actor, Sri Kuthiravattam Pappu. In my search in google, I bumped in to this wonderful site. The write-up on Sri Pappu is very informative for a novice like me, and I cannot agree more on what you have said that Sri.Pappu has deserved lot more.

    As today is my visit to this site, am yet to go through the site in detail. But this write-up on Sri. Pappu is evidence enough to have me digging for more insightful information on malayalam cinema and the people associated with it. Thank you.

    1. Dear Sairam,
      Thank you for writing in, and for your effusive praise. You are very kind. Kuthiravattam Pappu, like most of his contemporaries performed on sheer love and passion for acting. The returns weren’t a priority, the passion to perform was, and always held the upper hand. After all, how does one try to gauge his performance from the overwhelming sheer numbers of films that is not even recorded completely ? Hope to see both of you more often in these parts.And above all, I have another source to confirm or bounce-off my queries on Tamil films 🙂 Thanks again..cinematters

  5. Beautiful! Another one of his immemorable roles for me was as the velichappadu in “Manichitrathazhu” and the role of the Ammaman in ” Thenmavin Kombathu” Classic they were!

    1. Hi Sangeetha,
      Thank you for passing through. Glad to know that Kuthiravattam Pappu is one of your favorites too. The role of the Velichappadu in Manichitrathazhu was to me a rushed role for him, but then again, his genius lay in making his roles memorable, however miniscule they might be. I have written in detail about his collaboration with Priyadarshan and his brand of screwball comedy here, where I have also paid my tribute to “Chakkutty” from Thenmavin Kombathu. Thanks..cinematters.

  6. Even though I am no where close to commenting about the great works done by Kuthiravattam Pappu, Hats off to Cinematters,who has done profound justice to this legend and his works.

    1. Hi Donia,
      You are very kind with your words 🙂 Its just a collection of thoughts, that needed to be shared on the legend, that came out in this form. Glad that you liked it. Thanks so much for passing through. Hope to see more of you in these parts. Regards..cinematters


    1. Dear Binu,
      This is a moment of pure joy. Delighted to have you here. As I have mentioned earlier, Kuthiravattam Pappu was one of the finest examples of effortless, simplistic emoting conveyed ever in Malayalam Cinema and I rank him amongst the greats in world cinema. How can one ever forget someone like that ? This is absolutely fantastic 🙂 This is also a reminder ( a kick rather) to complete the latter parts of the tribute too.There is also sSomething that has been in my mind for a long time but was apprehensive about (due to a lack of information available) – was to create an online legacy for his work in theatre and movies. With you, now in touch, I guess everything seems suddenly possible. Thanks so much. Will keep in touch.regards..cinematters

      1. Dear Balakrishna Gopinath,
        Inasmuch as I appreciate that headsup/inititative on Facebook, please understand that the article has NOT been authored by any of Sri Kuthiravattam Pappu’s children, though I have been extremely lucky to have the content graciously acknowledged by his youngest son online. I’m sure this message about the Facebook Group would reach him too. I have also sent in a formal request to the group under Old Malayalam Cinema’s pseudonym Manjubhashini, and look forward to discussions and perspectives on the illustrious actor at the group..Regards..Cinematters

  8. I think Kuthiravattam Pappu was given quite a long leash/leeway at extempore, and some of his mouthings was quite spontaneous, and graciously retained and fitted onto the screen. if it was part of the dialogue, then all I can say is that Pappu carried it through brilliantly!

    1. Dear Krishnan,
      The art of the cinema extempore ( mostly made famous in Tamila cinema as the comedian’s soliloqies – all of them do it there), Pappu sometimes extended it to action too. But, I still believe has was never given his due. As he rose up gaining commercial brownie points in the commercial film production domain, so did the producers and directors compete with each other in making him do bizarre and somehow jaw-dropping inanities ( like a helpless simian on Prozac), but I guess he did it all with a quiet dignity, cos he was primarily, an actor. Thank you so much for writing in with your perspectives. Regards..cinematters

  9. Yes agree with you. He was an awesome actor. Relegated to doing comedy, he was in a class of his own. I remember going for awful movies in my childhood knowing they were awful but Pappu was acting in it, made it worthwhile. A time of Pappu, Bhasi, Bahadur, Kunjan, Allummoddan. If Jayan was the muscles, Pappu was the life of the movie. Will miss him and his distinctive wheezy laugh.

    1. Dear Rajesh,
      Long time 🙂 Kuthiravattam Pappu also was a veteran of theater, and he had spent quite some time perfecting his craft before he got his 5 minutes in Bhargavi nilayam. But none can deny the creative brilliance in that wiry frame, which sadly passed on without getting its due recognition. He is one of those actors on whom you just can’t write enough. I intend to write as much as I can on him in the coming months..Thank you for being around.. 🙂 Regards..CM

  10. Thankyou, blogger,

    Pappu deserved this and more…did Pappu and Oduvil have any memorable pics together? I was trying to remember… any memories there?

    1. “Thank you, blogger” LOL.. 🙂 The best I can recall with the two of them together is Peruvannapurathey Visheshangal. The other memorable ones that come to mind are Karimbana, Poochasanyasi and Nagarangelil chennu Raapaarkkam..

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