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“A handsome villain”

Meera Srinivasan

M.N. Nambiar

CHENNAI: His evil grin and the manner in which he rubbed his palms are part of the basic grammar for every actor playing villain. M.N. Nambiar, an actor whose name became synonymous with ‘villain,’ passed away here on Wednesday following a brief illness. He was 88.

His vivid portrayal of the bad man in films such as ‘Sarvadigari’ won him great acclaim.

He made quite a statement in the early 50s with his portrayal of over 10 roles in ‘Digambara Samiyar.’ His arresting performance in films such as ‘Manthiri Kumari,’ ‘Velaikkari,’ ‘Ayirathil Oruvan,’ ‘Thillana Mohanambal,’ ‘Missiamma’ and ‘Nenjam Marappadillai’ paved way for a very successful career that spanned over five decades.

Director P. Vasu said: “If there was anyone who could act with both the top heroes [Sivaji Ganesan and MGR] of Tamil cinema then, it was Nambiar. At one point, directors could not think of anyone else but him to play villain.”

In fact, several aspiring actors would mimic Nambiar while enacting their skills to prospective producers and directors. “He was one of the most handsome villains we have had…the evilness would come through in his expression, voice modulation and body language,” Mr. Vasu added.

Actor Srikanth, overcome by emotion, said: “This is a very big loss…you cannot find a human being like him easily.”

Actor Manorama recalled the actor being very jovial on the sets. “He was a villain only when the camera got rolling…otherwise, he’d always keep us laughing with his ready wit,” she said.

Mr. Nambiar’s make-up artiste K. Raman recalled: “In ‘Nenjam Marappadillai,’ he plays a really old man…the make up would take hours together, but he would be extremely patient,” adding: “His skin was flawless and almost pink…he took great care of his health.”

Very keen on fitness, Nambiar would play badminton at his backyard every evening. “We would play everyday and he was really good at it. He was a very disciplined individual,” recalled Chitralaya Gopu.

A vegetarian and teetotaller, the actor usually packed lunch and dinner from home to the sets.

“Our guruswami”

Friends and close associates said that to them, it was not just the loss of a great actor but also of a spiritual leader. “Nambiar sami was responsible for taking most of us in the industry to Sabarimalai,” said dance master Sundaram.

T.L. Palaniappan, cashier of the Ayyappan devotees’ group led by the actor, said: “He was our guruswami…he went to Sabarimala for nearly 60 years. He planned every trip so meticulously,” he said.

“He had great regard for all his contemporaries. One could see the genuine affection he had for actors,” said actor Sarath Babu, Nambiar’s son-in-law.

Born in Ooty, Nambiar identified an interest for acting when he was very young. As a teenager, he joined ‘Nawab’ Rajamanikkam’s drama troupe and was part of several plays such as ‘Bhakta Ramdass’ and ‘Krishnaleela,’ which were runaway hits then. His debut on silver screen was when ‘Bhakta Ramdass’ was made into a film.

According to public relations professional ‘Film News’ Anandan, Nambiar acted in about 360 films in various languages including Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi and Sinhalese. He was also part of ‘Jungle,’ an English film.

Besides playing villain in most films, he also made a mark playing character roles in several films such as ‘Gentleman,’ ‘Baba’ and more recently, ‘Sudesi.’

As most of his associates described the actor, Nambiar who was a veteran at playing villain, was a true hero in real life.


AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa, in her condolence message, said: “I have acted with him in several films. He would be very jovial and enthusiastic on the sets. When one worked with him, one forgot the burden of work. He was very fond of me and I always had great regard and respect for him. His passing away is a great loss indeed.”

BJP MP S. Thirunavukkarasar, in a statement, said the actor was not only a great villain artiste, but also a revered character artiste. He offered his condolences to the actor’s older son Sukumaran Nambiar, a senior functionary of the party, and other members of his family. Mr. Nambiar is survived by wife Rukmani, two sons and a daughter.

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