With the possible exceptions of the legendary TR Omana, who was already 6 movies old when GK Pillai debuted in Snehaseema ( 1954), and Santo Krishnan, there is no one who so aptly deserves the title of the living Patriarch of Malayalam films as this proud and defiant Army man-turned-actor from Chirayinkeezhu in Kerala. Then again, he is elder to her by almost 15 years ! It could be safely assumed that when G Kesava Pillai aka GK Pillai started his career in Malayalam film industry, most of us were just whims in our parents’ imagination.
GK Pillai, in conversation with TN Gopakumar of Asianet ( which you can watch here ) talks about being a part of more than 300 movies in Malayalam cinemas till date, and of course a fair share of TV soaps as well. For someone with such prolific output ( an average of 5 movies per year ), for me, his memorable ones came in the first two decades, after which, it was just “mindless cloning” of the ones that had already passed by.
GK Pillai, an actor who can truly be called a living legend, has been announced the recipient of the RAGAMALIKA – JAYAN AWARD for 2011 , instituted by the Jayan Samskarika Vedi in memory of the late Jayan, actor, who passed away on 16 November 1980. GK Pillai debuted in Malayalam films in 1954, at the age of 29, way, way before any actor currently active in the industry faced the arc lights, in Associated Pictures’ Snehaseema, playing the role of an octogenarian !
As I mentioned about the timeless relevance of Harishchandra’s story as juicy meat for a film producer, I wonder how it would fare if someone were to make it today, when you have the best of the technical advancements available along with the sensibilities of our times. My guess is that it would fall flat on its face and the Producers know that. Harischandra (1955) was the first mythological film in Malayalam that was successful, prompting Merryland and Neela Productions to produce ‘blockbusters’ like Bhakta Kuchela,’ ‘Sree Guruvayurappan,’ ‘Devi Kanyakumari’, and Kumarasambhavam amongst others in the 69-odd movies that were produced in Merry Land. Harishchandra was directed by Antony Mithradas which has been erroneously credited to P Subramaniam on the cover of the VCD that I have ! Harischandra (1955), is according to B Vijayakumar, a scene-by-scene ripoff of the Kannada version from 1943 and the Tamil indigenous production from 1944 (starring the legendary PU Chinnappa and Kannamba ) which surprisingly didn’t fare as well as the dubbed version from Kannada!