Chennai and Tamil Nadu
Master of expressions
Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup
Jagathi Sreekumar won the Special Jury Award of the Kerala State Government Film Awards 2007.
Jury’s choice: Jagathi Sreekumar.
His mere presence has audiences giggling in anticipation. And, soon, with one skilful contortion of his face, he has them in splits of laughter. Jagathi Sreekumar does enjoy making people laugh. But what he cherishes more than those evergreen comic roles are those serious character roles that have given him what he calls “real recognition as an actor.”
The latest recognition has come in the form of the Special Jury Award of the Kerala State Film Awards 2007. The award was given to him for his performances in the films ‘Paradesi,’ ‘Arabikatha’ and ‘Veeralipattu.’
Jagathi Sreekumar’s makeover from a comedian to a character actor came via Padmarajan’s film ‘Moonam Pakkom.’ It was the role of Kavala in that film that brought out the histrionic abilities of this actor. “I am deeply indebted to the late Padmarajan for giving me the opportunity to play that role,” Jagathi acknowledges.
It was yet another lucky break for the actor who made his debut in tinsel town in Sreekumaran Thampi’s ‘Chattambi Kalyani.’ Over the past three decades he has acted in over 1,200 films. In ‘Nottam,’ directed by Sasi Paravoor, he played the role of a Koodiyattom artiste. “It was challenging as I had to learn the mudras and movements in Koodiyattam to make it realistic,” he recalls.
In ‘Udayananu Tharam,’ Jagathi got the chance to display his wide range of facial expressions. In the role of an acting instructor, Jagathi had the audience doubling up with laughter as his face went through the nine expressions, navarasas, in quick succession and followed it with two rasas that he made up.
Jagathi Sreekumar firmly believes that it is the director’s contribution that enhances the performance of an actor. “Film directors can extract good performances from actors. If the director is able to make the actor understand what he actually wants, then half the job is done. After that it is left to the actor to use his imagination to do the rest,” he opines.
Jagathi Sreekumar has also tried his hand at directing a couple of films. But they flopped miserably, as he candidly admits: “I learnt my lesson. I still have hopes of directing a good film, but only after meticulous planning,” he says.
Jagathi Sreekumar is the son of the late Jagathi N.K. Achary, noted playwright and actor who worked in All India Radio. So Jagathi had ample opportunities to mingle with film and theatre personalities who visited their house. Jagathi fondly remembers how director Padmarajan gifted him a watch, which he had promised if Jagathi got a first class for his SSLC examination.
“My father has had a profound influence on me. I have copied the acting skills of my father. The older generation who have seen my father perform can see the similarity. In real life too, his sense of humour taught me many things,” he says. Jagathi Sreekumar has dreams of taking forward the legacy of his playwright-father by recreating the drama culture that was prevalent in Kerala. As a beginning, he has teemed up with the late Kalanilayam Krishnan Nair’s son Ananda Padmanabhan to stage Kalanilayam’s most popular play ‘Raktharakshas.’ The actor feels that story-telling art forms such as Harikatha and Kathaprasangam, which had been an integral part of Kerala’s culture, should be encouraged.
Among his most satisfying performances, Jagathi lists his roles in films such as ‘Yavanika,’ ‘Moonam Pakkam,’ ‘Kilukkam,’ ‘Meesa Madhavan,’ ‘Thanmatra,’ ‘Udayananu Tharam,’ ‘Nottam’ and ‘Paradesi.’
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu