Versatile Innocent completes 50 years in Malayalam cinema

Actor Innocent has, until now, acted in more than 750 films. File photos

Veteran actor Innocent, in his glorious career spanning five decades, has never failed to make us laugh, both on and off screen. However, for him, those years were of struggles and crises too. In the initial years, he struggled to stay away from poverty while lately he had been fighting cancer; but, all with an infectious smile on his face.

Innocent had made his debut, in 1972, in the movie ‘Nrithashala’ directed by AB Raj and produced by Shobana Parameswaran Nair. Prem Nazir, Jayabharathi and Adoor Bhasi were the lead actors in that movie. Even though it was a blink and miss role, it surely gave Innocent hope to continue in the movie industry.

Various roles played by actor Innocent. Photos:

He has, until now, acted in more than 750 films. Like every youngster who dreamed to become an actor during those time, Innocent too has stories of struggle and difficulties that he had faced while looking for work in Kodambakkam. He often recalls the olden days when he slept on a mat with many others on the floor of Uma Lodge. He even took his wife Alice and their little son there so that he could be with them.

The family lived in a quaint one room house as he struggled to make the ends meet. It is no big secret that family has always been Innocent’s greatest strength. It is the same for his wife and son too, who has been with Innocent throughout his incredible journey as an actor. When his wife Alice too was diagnosed with cancer, Innocent jokingly said that she had prayed to God give her cancer as she loves him so much.

In 1973, Innocent had acted in three movies. However, in the 1980s, he acted in at least forty films every year. Innocent had once said how he couldn’t stop crying watching the audience roar with laughter as they enjoyed his iconic comedy scenes in Ramji Rao Speaking, at a theatre in Thrissur. He recalls how he felt happy thinking that his hard work and struggles had finally paid off. When he got out of the theatre that day, the premises were crowded with his fans and admirers who had waited to catch a glimpse of him.

Besides acting, Innocent produced many movies that became milestones in the history of Malayalam cinema. Innocent had to pledge his wife’s gold ornaments in order to bank roll the movie ‘Vida Parayum Munpe’. However, that film marked the beginning of a revolutionary change in filmmaking. Meanwhile, ‘Ilakkangal’ was a visual adaptation of a story written by M Raghvan, the elder brother of noted writer M Mukundan. This movie directed by Mohan is often hailed as a golden feather in Innocent’s career as a producer. It was he who persuaded Raghavan to sell him the rights of the story. Innocent was also the co-producer of movies like ‘Ormakkai’ directed by Bharathan and ‘Lekhayude Maranam Oru Flashback’ directed by K G George.

Even after recovering from cancer, Innocent kept acting as he couldn’t stop doing what he loves the most. There had been days when he came to the sets from the hospital and went back to the same hospital room after the director called pack up. 2020 was the only year, after 1980, in which Innocent didn’t act in any movie. He was undergoing treatment for cancer then. He smiles and keeps cracking jokes even when he suffered relapses. Meanwhile, he tried his hands in politics too. From a councillor at the Irinjalakkuda municipality to a member of the Parliament, Innocent had donned many roles in the political arena. On the day he lost an election, Innocent, in his quintessential quirky style said that the people had asked him to return to the movies. The thespian was last seen in Prithviraj-starrer ‘Kaduva’.

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