Veteran actor Innocent passes away

Innocent had made his debut, in 1972, in the movie ‘Nrithashala’ directed by AB Raj. File photo

Veteran actor Innocent, who recently completed five decades in Malayalam cinema, passed away at a private hospital in Kochi on Sunday. He was 75.

The actor had been battling cancer for some years now. Though he had fought cancer bravely and gracefully over the years, he developed some uneasiness earlier this week following which he was admitted to the hospital. His condition worsened on Sunday evening.

Innocent was also a member of Parliament from Chalakudy from 2014 to 2019.

The Irinjalakuda native's humour on and off screen had endeared him to the masses, making him one of the most popular actors in Malayalam cinema.

Innocent made his debut in 1972 in the movie ‘Nrithashala’ directed by A B 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 gave Innocent hope to continue in the movie industry. In 1973, Innocent acted in three movies. However, in the 1980s, he acted in at least forty films every year.

He has, until now, acted in over 750 films. Like every youngster who dreamed to become an actor, Innocent too had stories of struggle and difficulties that he had faced while looking for work in Kodambakkam. The actor has often maintained that his family is his greatest strength. When his wife Alice too was diagnosed with cancer, Innocent joked that she had prayed to God to give her cancer as she loves him so much.

Besides acting, Innocent produced many movies that became milestones in the history of Malayalam cinema. Innocent had to pledge his wife’s gold ornaments to bankroll 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 to 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 because 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. His response to the disease also gave a lot of people strength. He shared his experiences in his book titled 'Cancer Wardile Chiri' (Smile in the Cancer Ward).

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’.

Funeral on Tuesday

His mortal remains will be kept at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium at Kadavanthra in Kochi from 8 am to 11 am on Monday for public to pay homage. Later his body will be taken to Irinjalakuda where public will get a chance to pay their respects from 1 pm to 3.30 pm at the Municipal Townhall.   

Funeral will be at the St Thomas Cathedral at 10 am on Tuesday.

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