Prof. Narendra Prasad’s film roles | My favourites | Two

It’s been 8 years since the Professor left us. His anniversary falls on 3rd November.

Prof Narendra Prasad in  Pavithram
Prof Narendra Prasad in Pavithram

The Professor seems to have been given a raw deal, though it was, according to me, the most prolific phase of his career. As he had carved a niche for himself in the ‘pantheon of villains in Malayalam cinema’ with his unique portrayal of roles that dispensed menace with a cold, calculated sneer, the producers were falling over themselves in getting him roles that looked straight off the factory conveyor belt. Everything looked, smelt, felt the same. Only some didn’t have his signature beard for company. The steely menace was milked dry for all it was worth. His mannerisms were all too familiar, and got even predictive. But even then, the patriarch from classical theater was never one to be cowed down. He went at times over-the-top, stamping even those roles with an individuality that could never be expected from anyone else. These are the ones that have stayed back with me, a delightful variety of roles that explored a new facet of the accomplished actor, even proving that he was equally at home making us smile.

Aayirappara (1993)

Prof Narendra Prasad in Aayirappara Aayirappara , directed by Venu Nagavalli was also historic for the fact that it brought back the legendary Nagavally RS Kurup, veteran script writer and story teller of old Malayalam cinema back to his craft, one last time. It was the only time I guess the father and son came together to craft a movie for the first and last time. Prof. Narendra Prasad played Padmanabha Kaimal, the forlorn, genial, hapless, naive squire of the disintegrating, decaying farmlands, with Pappy, his Man Friday and shadow ( another brilliant role by Madhu ) at his side, supporting him as he flounders in his life’s journey. The professor excelled at the role, conveying the right mixture of despair, helplessness and dependency, and at one point, blames himself for the loss of his most trusted and dear friend’s untimely death, for a cause that had, by then, got muddied beyond comprehension. He gets lucky when everything seems to be slowly engulfed by darkness, in the form of Shauri, Pappy’s son ( Mammootty), who takes it upon himself to protect and serve the squire, just like his father did, but this time, he has his youthful demeanor to cut through the haze, and at times, sheer brawn to supplement it.

Yaathrayaayi from the movie, lyrics by Kavalam, music by Raveendran Master.

Vardhakya Puranam (1994)

Prof Narendra Prasad in Vardhakya Puranam

I think director Rajasenen ought to be credited with giving Prof Narendra Prasad three of his most memorable roles in his career, that too in 3 consecutive years. It started with Meleparambil Aanveedu in 1993, Vardhakaya puranam in 1994 and Aniyan Bawa Chettan Bawa in 1995. The professor played Mahendran Thampi, one amongst the ‘governement-officials-just-retired-yet bosom buddies’ trio who want to celebrate life, post retirement in all its glory and perceived freedom. It is he who coerces everyone to stick with his ‘once-promptly-dismissed’ idea of starting a theater company, to which all of them finally agree to channel their retirement funds. I think there is a Mahendran Thampi in all of us, and maybe more in our immediate elders, our parents’ generation, I mean, a part which really, really wanted to pursue those things that were still close to their heart since the prime of their lives, but was kept under lock and key for far more ‘domestic requirements’. Maye, in our case, the degree and the choice might differ. Rajasenan succeeds in bringing out this mischievous, almost child-like humor and delightful naivete in all the three friends, the other two being Jagathy Sreekumar and Janardhanan.This movie is one close to my heart.

A clipping from the movie.

Sukrutham (1994)

Prof Narendra Prasad in Sukrutham

Sukrutham is one of those unforgettable, unbearable, excruciatingly painful movie experiences, ever, for me in world cinema. The main protagonist of this movie, for me, is the faceless entity called Death itself ( amazing, isn’t it, to craft a feature film on a faceless, intangible entity), with a host of characters circling around it in a deathly cadence, their mutual forces of attraction seemingly waning all the while. Mammootty seems to be leading the parade as the cancer-ravaged journalist Ravishankar. Prof Narendra Prasad played the doctor who provides a holistic approach to terminal diseases and through his method rejuvenates the entire body, from its microscopic level to rise and fight against the invaders. The professor’s character, to me, is the one, who, in an almost perverse way actually hastens the ‘ending’ of one of his best patients, the way MT portrays Death, in many levels. As he hastens the death and destruction of the cancerous cells of Ravishankar’s body, healing him and sending him on his way to open another chapter in productive living, he is also hastening the death of his closest bonds that that matter to him, as all of them have willfully broken them in the face of the impending ‘Finality.’

The Doctor enters Ravishankar’s universe. Starts from 6:00

Aniyan Bava Chettan Bava (1995)

Prof Narendra Prasad in Aniyan Bawa Chettan Bawa

The final in his Trilogy of Remarkable Roles by Rajasenan, tailor- made for Prof Narendra Prasad. Along with another veteran of the theater, Rajan P Dev, who was the ‘louder’ of the two insanely rich, loutish siblings who love each other to death and find themselves in a dilemma after  finding their respective daughters in love with their young chauffeur ! The professor played the elder of the two Bawas, Kuttan Bava  aka the Chettan Bava. and to me it was the final time he got to display his quirky, loud, humorous side. As the elder one, he was more paternal than fraternal to his younger brother, addressing their life’s predicaments with 70 pc rationale and 30 pc vanity. 🙂 Post this movie, for the next 8 years, we got to see the same face of the professor, microwaved and served in different platters, but basically that of the hassled parent/guardian and for  a brief interlude, an incredulous repetition of the same ’embattled feudal lord’. Wasted, I would say.

A clipping from the movie.

Kaliyattam (1997)

Prof Narendra Prasad in Kaliyattom

Jayraj‘s clever adaptation of Othello, but without the ‘demands’ and ‘wracking discussions’ of its  strong undercurrent on racism. Jayraj took the premise and spun it around, naturalised it, gave it the palette of the Malayali psyche and took off, running. What a feast for the eyes it was. I am yet to see Suresh Gopi rise up to the mentally overwrought, insecure Perumalayan, 14 years down the line. Prof Narendra Prasad played the role of Thampuran, Tamara’s ( Manju Warrier, intense as usual) father and the local feudal lord, the helpless and debilitated parent, an impotent lord in front of the community when it comes to witnessing her daughter’s love for the oracle, Perumalayan.

From Kaliyattom (1997)
” ഞാന്‍ കാത്തു കാത്തു സൂക്ഷിച്ച എന്‍റെ മോള് പോയി. ഓളുടെ ജീവിതം തുലഞ്ഞു. ഞാന്‍ എന്ത് ചെയ്യണം ദൈവേ ? “

There is a tragi-comic, bizarre moment that is almost profound in its insane logic, when he confronts the Oracle, also his now son-in-law and addresses part divinity, part human with the question, “What should I do ? ” Beautiful.

Here is Velikku Veluppankalam from the movie.

Aaram Thamburan (1997)

Prof Narendra Prasad in Aaram Thamburaan

The father of all ‘feudal gangsters’ in Malayalam cinema, courtesy Renjith, who must be credited with creating the ‘way-larger-than-life’ persona for Mohanlal that eventually left the average movie fan seething with anger and disgust at a  flood of clones that have been  released with more or less the same story line, with the same bunch of characters, but with different directors. It has been  certainly a phenomenon. It started with Aaram Thamburan and his arch-nemesis, Kolapulli Appan ( Prof Narendra Prasad ), head of the local aristocracy and seat of feudal power – a confrontation was obvious as our hero intrudes into the latter’s life with loads of cash and loads more of sheer testosterone-laced chutzpah. As long as Jagannathan from Aaram Thamburaan will be remembered, Kolappulli Appan would be right there, riding shotgun, in a perverse way.

From the movie .

You will always hold a special place in our hearts, dear Professor.

Related :  Remembering Prof. Narendra Prasad, the Actor

Related : Prof. Narendra Prasad’s film roles | My favourites | One


45 thoughts on “Prof. Narendra Prasad’s film roles | My favourites | Two

  1. Sure Narayan Sir,
    I got a letter from cinematters for 2 xerox one meant for you or should we take a third copy? Please let me know. Thank you 🙂

  2. thank you cinematters and Narayanan Sir for your comments. Narendra Prasad Sir was my mom’s Professor and Director of School of Letters, MGU, when she did her M.Phil in 1991. In fact, my mom had started writing the novel in 1973 when she was doing her M,A . She wrote a few initial chapters; considered it silly, but resumed writing it in 1984 and sent it for the contest. Thakazhi gave her the Award during the 10th Anniversary Celebrations of D.C Books. It seems D.C books has published many of M.T’s novels. Narendra Prasad was aware that my mom had written a novel; but don’t know whether he had read it. N.V Krishna Warrier,Vaikom Chandrashekharan Nair and K.Jayakumar were the judges. Her second novel was written in one month and sent it for Mammen Mappila Award in 1986 or so. It was informally known that her novel had won the Award; but at the final twist it was given to somebodyelse. The novel was condensed and published in 1996. It was bcoz she was working and academically busy. Anywayz that is the past history; but I am so glad that I got very supporting comments about my mom:)

    1. Hi Jeana,
      I don’t think there is any truth to the oft-quoted ” 6 degrees of separation.” They are probably less 🙂 Thanks once again for bringing it here. Regards, cinematters.

    2. Ms. jeana…is it possible to get a copy of EE THURUTHIL NJAN THANIYE. I checked out the Public Library at Trivandrum- no luck…i think these sort of novels are the ones that should be republished…for a whole new generation to relish, ponder and enjoy.

  3. Hi Sir,
    yeah..bcoz I told you know that it is a controversial thing. I just wrote about it to inform a few people the fact and to give my mom a surprise. I thought that the comment will be deleted or unanswered like the publisher did. It was a surprise to know that you immediately showed interest to get more information on it . May I know about you ?

    1. this is a new information as far as SUKRUTHAM is concerned. I checked out Smt. Annnieamma Joseph’s literary contributions in my copy of Sahithyakara Directory. She has also written another novel called ARDHAVRITHAM.
      I was under the impression that MT had carved out a script for Sukrutham based on a one-line thread given by narendra prasad himself. This is what I remember (subject to correction).Narendra Prasad and late litterateur VP Sivakumar were thick friends- with a close relation existing between the families. (I believe litterateur Kalarkode Vasudevan was also a part of this trio). VP Sivakumar was infected with a grave disease (think it was cancer) and it really shocked him, his family as well as Narendar Prasad. VP Sivakumar decided to go for a holistic treatment (think it was called quantum treatment or something like that) and got better…though the good news was short lived. he succumbed to the disease in 1993 aged around 45- 47 years. Narendra Prasad was a pillar of strength for the family of Sivakumar. However, people began to bad mouth his visits to Sivakumar’s house…
      based on this inhuman way in which people saw the situation – Narendra Prasad might have told MT or some other…and from that might have sown the seeds of SUKRUTHAM.
      MT always occupies a venerable position in my heart. I don’t think MT would deliberately claim credit for a novel/ story which he had not written. In the past also there were some allegations that MANJU was copied from some Marathi (punjabi or bengali) novel. But MT doesn’t know to read Maratahi, bengali or pubjabi- and the said book was not ever translated to Malayalam or English (dont remember the title of the work or the author). He might have heard this story from somewhere in his travels across India and developed the thread into a full length novel. I got this information from a journalist who had initially decided to do a story on the plagiarism. But when he researched further and further- he found that there was no chance for MT to read the inspired novel and hence decided to kill the story.
      Likewise, in more recent times- I heard about such an allegation being raised against GADAMMA. It seems that the thread of the movie is very similar to a story written by …(I forgot the name of the author and the title of the story- the author is the wife of Dr. Rameshan Pillai of SUT Hospital TVM). But the author didn’t want to make a hullabaloo out of it…simply because she also believes that the same plot might have been independently hatched in another writer’s mind.
      I haven’t read EE THURUTHIL NJAN THANIYE- and I will want to read it…pity revised editions are not in existence. Sukrutham and EE THURUTHIL NJAN THINYE might share the same plot, same story- but MT might have written it without knowing about this novel….One thing is sure- I loved the movie SUKRUTHAM. if the novel is based on similar must have been well received and no wonder it got the Kesari Award.

      1. This is exactly what has been running through my mind too, Narayan. It seems like an “obvious thread” lying there for almost anyone to pick up and build on it. I haven’t read the novel, though I really look forward to now, to read it.If the movie was nominated for the National Awards and State Awards, and the novel has one the Kesari Award, no doubt, as you said and I perfectly agree, that they should have been brilliant in their own right.Thanks Narayan, for your exhaustive perspectives, as usual.Thanks, cinematters.

        1. Dear Narayan,
          From what I know and is in the public domain, the final story of Khaddama was a composite of a couple of stories narrated by KU Iqbal, over and above the Subaida article he wrote for Bhashaposhini, which in itself was from his own Subaida Vilikkunnu news item in Malayalam News.Salim Karikkalakathu, another Middle East based journalist had alleged that it was a direct lift from his story published in 2000. And now there is Sreerekha 🙂 .This is interesting. Regards, cinematters

  4. Hi Sir,
    Thank you somuch for the reply. Actually I wasn’t expecting a reply as it is a contreversial thing. My mom got the ‘Kesari Award’ for her novel “Eee Thuruthil Njan Thaniye” ( Published it in 1985). People who read the novel and who saw the film pointed out a lot of similairities between her novel and the film. Some of them wrote to her that they wanted to make it an issue; but she advised them not to, as M.T.was her favourite author.She had referred the matter to Sri. DC Kizhakkemuri; but he was indifferent. She has used the name Aniamma Joseph. The book is out of print. If necessary, she can give a copy, but she would like to get it back.

    1. Hi Jeana,
      To write to the Old Malayalam Cinema blog and not expect a reply ? 🙂 Was hoping to get a copy of the book in the market. Will try getting in touch with Dr.Aniamma Kuriakose once am in Kerala, and I do hope to wrork a way out. Thanks so much again for bringing this here.regards.cinematters

  5. the story of sukratham is actually my mom’s. she got Kesari Award for “ee thuruthil njan thaniye” and it was published in 1984

    1. Hi Jeana,
      Apologies for the late response. This is serious matter.I haven’t read the novel but would really love to do it.Have asked my friends in Kerala to look it up and source me a copy. Hope that I get it soon. Had this been brought to the Harikumar-MT team at the time the movie was under production? What was their response?Would really love to know more.See that the author is Dr.Aniamma Kuriakose from a cursory search on the Web.Regards, cinematters

    1. Dear Vinjk,
      Why not ? 😀 To me, this is the only instance where he balanced between the ‘loud and over-the-top’ nemesis and the caring father, an unusual combination which I haven’t seen in any of his movies. Thanks..cinematters

  6. A very comprehensive study of the professor’s contribution to malayalam cinema. congrats.What I remember the most about Narendra Prasad is his voice over in NJAN GANDHARVAN..(maanavanum manushyanakanum..poovakanum poompatayakanum, ninte chundinte muthamakanum oru nimishardham polum aavashyamillatha aroopa gaganachari…njan gandharvan. GANDHARVA NEE KANDUPIDIKKAPETIRIKKUNNU…..CHANDRASPARSHAMULLA RAATHRIKAL INI NINAKKILA, SOORYASPARSHAMULLA PAKALUKALUM) i think it was the time his voice was recognized by the industry for its supernatural charm and that must have been one of the reasons for the industry to try the actor in him. i love that incorporal voice…SUKRITHAM, somehow, i found to be a good concept but not a well developed script. The monologue of the professor in the movie about the changes happening in the body every moment etc. can be seen in DEEPAK CHOPRA’S book AGELESS BODY, TIMELESS MIND. the same words. However, the voice culture of the professor makes it a spell binding experience.

    1. Dear Santhosh,

      Though the Professor’s voice over in Njaan Gandharvan lents the majestic grace to the movie, i think it was Padmarajan’s dear friend Bharathan who sampled his booming vocals for the first time, as King Lomapada’s voice ( Babu Antony ). to me that role remains his best till date. I haven’t like any of his attempts at acting after that movie :D. Deepak Chopra’s transcript is news to me :). Great..thank you for passing through and writing in..regards..cinematters

  7. Think ‘Paithrukam’ as one of his most memorable performances and Jayaraj’s movie can do with much more debate now. Meleparambil Aanveedu showcased his flair for comedy while Aaram Thampuran and Kaliyattam exposed a meaner side in his acting prowess but he largely suffered from the sterotyping that scriptwriters put him to, unlike the likes of Nedumudi Venu and Murali who bagged a much larger variety of roles which is a pity for a man of such talent. Surprisingly, his forays into parallel cinema also seem rather limited…

  8. I have seen Ekalavyan, cinematters. I’m not too sure if I have seen Thalasthaanam. The story seems familiar, but I do not recall anything, not even after reading your synopsis. My problem with Sukrutham is my mental block against Nagavally’s movies. 😦

    1. Hi Anu,
      Talasthaanam had the main incident borrowed from the Mandal agitation. A student immolating himself right in the middle of a rabid agitation that’s already getting from violent to worse, but it is really murder ! Aha . 🙂 And Sukrutham has NOTHING to do with Venu Nagavalli, let the good doctor assure you 🙂 Script by MT, directed by Hari Kumar, with Mammootty, Gautami and Santhi Krishna in the lead. Regards..cinematters

      1. Okay, I stand corrected, and will absolutely look for Sukrutham the next time I’m in Kerala. It’s also difficult to find esoteric movies on DVD some times. My local DVDwala is actually very good about knowing my tastes, and has introduced me to some brilliant movies (he’s the buddhijeevi type and thinks I’m one too. 🙂 ) so maybe he will be able to locate it for me.

        Thanks cinematters and Pradeep for the recommendation. Keep them coming. Now that I’m not in India, I depend on others to tell me about good Malayalam movies which I can only watch if it is available on DVD. 😦 Ella velliyazhchayum chennu cinema theatre-il kerunna kaalam eppozho maari. 😦 )

    2. Anu, Sukrutham is an absolutely brilliant movie, though it can be depressing but that’s mainly due to the topic of Death that it looks at. Additionally, it isn’t even a Venu Nagavally movie and Sukrutham would definitely feature in my list of all my time recommended favourites.

      Cinematters, don’t think that Hari Kumar has done justice to his abilities after Sukrutham though…

      1. Dear Pradeep,
        Somehow, I have always had a liking for Hari Kumar’s movies, very quirky 🙂 From Snehapoorvam Meera, Ayanam, Puli Varunne Puli ( a screwball caper which I rate above Priyans’ ), to oru Swakaryam and Paranju Theeraatha Visheshangal, he always builds them on a very simple premise and then brings it to a close almost abruptly, well Sukrutham had MT’s rhythm 🙂 Thanks so much for writing in..regards..cinematters

      2. Don’t think I have seen any of these movies that you have mentioned below except maybe ‘Puli Varunne Puli’..Is this about Mammooty reluctantly joining the police force or something like that? Have a faint memory of one such movie…Other than Sukrutham, the only movie of Harikumar that I probably have seen is Swayamvarapanthal (same Harikumar, I assume) which was hardly impressive..

        1. Dear Pradeep,
          Puli Varunne Puli was a case of two small-time fraudsters masquerading as CBI officers to the best of the knowledge..Was a long time ago. The Mammootty one reluctantly joining the police force was nandi, Veendum varika by PG Vishwambharan..Strangely, Swayamvarpanthal had its story and screenplay by Sreenivasan :). Regards..cinematters

          1. Hi Geethu,
            If you have watched Hari Kumar’s movies, since his 1st movie in 1981, Ambalpoovu, you would realise that there is a certain gravity with which he makes his every film. There is , for me, an uncommon seriousness in all his movies and he does it effortlessly, the reason why I look forward to his movies. He has always done movies HIS way, not subscribing to any of the existing ‘requirements’, so to speak. So it would be with a bit of eyebrows raised that you look at a collaboration with Sreenivasan, when the ones before included Ekalavyan/John Paul, Balachandran Chullikkadu, MT Vasudevan Nair and Lohithdas. Thats why it looked strange. Hope this helps.Regards, cinematters

          1. Puli Varunne Puli had Sandhya ! I just love Sandhya (She acted as the Kanathaya Penkutty in Kanathaya Penkutty)

  9. Great write up! For all the aura that Kolapulli exuded, he had the most lousiest of henchmen to complete the posse. Having said that, admittedly, the professor put in a fantastic performance as a local landlord, bristling with contempt and loath for anything that didn’t sway to his whims. His avatar – that face – remains etched in memory as a quintessential face of evil.

    Another avatar that remains fresh for me, is the one in Sukrutham. Sporting that ‘Bulganin’ beard, until then the trademark giveaway for psychiatrist roles in Malayalam cinema, the professor lent real strength to that character in terms of understanding and credibility. Anybody could get healed, of anything, listening just to his persuasive monologue on the constituent strengths of the universe.

    I don’t know if you have felt this – but even in the most silliest and stereotyped roles of his, the Professor stood out, his intrinsic natural intelligence revealed in the way he nuanced his roles. A big, big loss, I must add.

    1. Dear Soni,
      I think with respect to Sukrutham, it was a kind of mystical dance around Death, choreographed by Death itself. The Professor was lucky to be a part of it. Along with Kolappulli, who can ever forget Swami Amoorthananda from Ekalavyan, for starters 🙂 A big, big loss! Truly. Thanks…cinematters

  10. What about Paithrukam? It was an exceptional role and character well played by Narendra Prasad. Also any idea on the movie Galileo?

    1. Dear Rajesh,
      This is the second part . I had written detail about Paithrukam in the first part, you could read it here.. Have asked around for the exact status of galilieo..Will keep you posted..regards..cinematters

  11. I liked the steely menace that Narendra Pasad brought to his roles. But I feel he had immense potential for comedy as was seen in Meleparambil Aanveedu. Unfortunately, he passed away before we could see more of him.

  12. Thanks for the write-up. I’ve always liked Narendra Prasad as a character actor; didn’t know he had passed away.

    I’ve seen all the movies listed here except for Sukrutham (and that I’m not sure) and Aayirappara. (It’s very difficult to watch Venu Nagavally’s movies. :)) Loved him in both Meleparambil Aanveedu and in Aniyan Bawa, Chettan Bawa.

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