He had worked at All India Radio and already established a solid reputation as a writer, having authored several novels, before he entered the world of Malayalam cinema.
He was the sixth son of Thundathil Anantha Padmanabha Pillai and Njavarakkal Devaki Amma. After early schooling at Muthukulam, he studied at M. G. College and University College, Trivandrum, graduating in Chemistry (1963). Subsequently, he learned Sanskrit from the scholar Cheppad Achyutha Warrier at Muthukulam. He then joined AIR, Trichur (1965), starting as a programme announcer, and later settled at Poojappura, Trivandrum (1968); he would remain at AIR until 1986, when his busy involvement in films would prompt him to retire voluntarily. He began writing during these times.
Considered a second generation modernist writer, his novels deal with violence, romance, mystery, sexual jealousy, anarchism, and marginalised people. Many of them are among the best ever to appear in Malayalam literature; his first novel Nakshathrangalaey kaaval won the Kerala Sahithya Academy award (1972).
He entered the world of Malayalam films by writing the screenplay for Bharathan's directorial debut Prayaanam (1975); he is arguably the most talented script writer to have graced Malayalam cinema.
He later began to direct films based on his own screenplays, beginning with Peruvazhiyambalam (1979); this led to a remarkable series of films, which are greatly popular among the lay people (as opposed to merely intellectuals and film critics), while also being rich in artistic and thematic excellence and originality. In his themes, he was a great experimenter who explored all walks of life. Many of his films bear the hallmark of the pure romanticist.
He is celebrated for his possibly unparalleled attention to detail in his screenplays. Some of his scripts are probably the most mellifluous narratives ever penned in the Malayalam language. They are also ample witness to his keen observation, acute perception, and astute portrayal of human relationships and emotions: many of them have stunning and haunting climaxes, which he portrayed with great sensitivity and intensity on the screen; many are generously sprinkled with homely and humourous scenes; his dialogues are natural, in the language of the common man, and yet have a subtle lyrical quality.
Indeed, a just case may be made that his directorial merit flowed easily from his exquisitely crafted screenplays: he never directed a film based on a script written by someone else (unlike other Malayalam film directors of comparable stature, say, Bharathan and K. G. George), and but rarely adapted his script from a story not his own. Consequently, he had an unusually intimate knowledge of the characters in his films; in combination with his mastery of the script, this made him the excelling director that he was.
Together with Bharathan and K. G. George, he successfully laid the foundation for a school of Malayalam cinema that strove to tread a middle ground by striking a fine balance between intellectual and commercial appeal, without sacrificing the strong points of either approach; this was accomplished by portraying brilliant stories with ordinary men and women as characters, to which all could relate, steering clear of artificial characters, stereotype mannerisms, and pedantic inclinations allegedly typical of 'critically acclaimed' films.
Along with Bharathan, he displayed uncommon skill in handling human sexuality on the screen, treating very challenging topics without ever falling prey to vulgarity.
He was quite adept in spotting talent, and introduced many fresh faces as actors, including Ashokan (Peruvazhiyambalam), Rahman (Koodevidaey), Jayaram (Aparan), and Ajayan (Moonnaampakkam); all would play leading roles in Malayalam films. He coaxed sparkling and inspired performances from many actors, such as Gopi, Karamana, Mammootty, Mohanlal, Shaari, Shobhana, Sumalatha, Thilakan, and Nedumudi Venu; indeed, Thilakan's rendition in Moonnaampakkam may have marked the peak of the thespian's career. He also aided in establishing, to a fair degree, the fame of other directors such as Bharathan, I. V. Sasi, and Mohan, through the screenplays he chose to give them; his collaboration with Bharathan as a script writer is celebrated as a pinnacle of Malayalam cinema.
His sudden and untimely death, which occurred while he was visiting a film theatre in Calicut screening his last film Njaan gandharvan, was widely mourned, and the feeling of loss among the people of Kerala is truly soul-felt, lingering to this day.
His wife, Mrs. Radhalakshmi Padmarajan, who was his colleague at AIR before their marriage (1970), has written her reminiscences about him in her book Padmarajan entaey gandharvan [Padmarajan, my celestial lover].
|Birthday||May 23, 1945 (70)|
|Parannu Parannu Parannu (1988)|