Like Malayalis across the world, I too was deeply shattered by the passing away of Sukumari, one of Kerala's most versatile actresses. She breathed her last at a Chennai hospital two days ago. As an actress, Sukumari had the kind of passion and dynamic presence besides brilliant acting skills that made people enjoy all her performances spanning over five decades.
Her performances were so natural and memorable that she added considerable substance and depth to the story line itself. She had the audacity to make every one of her characters, including the bland and bad ones, stand out as striking and memorable. Her dialogue delivery, her sense of humor and flawless timing struck a chord with Malayalis spanning all ages and walks of life.
A bit of info about this fine actress: Sukumari was born in 1940 in Nagercoil. She made her debut into the world of Malayalam cinema as a child artist at the age of ten.
She was the first cousin of the legendary Travancore sisters - Padmini, Ragini and Lalitha. She was well versed in dancing but she swung to different realms within the cine field.
Across the years, she strengthened her position in the Malayalam film industry as one of the most versatile supporting actresses donning various roles as comedienne, mother and so on. She acted in more than 2,500 films and her name is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of films she acted in. In 2003, she was conferred Padmashree. There isn't a single movie that I can remember feeling disappointed by her portrayal of a character.
About Sukumari's Personality
In the film fraternity, the love and respect for Sukumari is tremendous. Her friendship with Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa, for instance, is well known. News reports continue to mention how Jayalalitha paid a visit to Sukumari in the hospital some days ago and how they shared a deep friendship that went beyond the realm of movies. Reports from the media also mention that Jayalalitha told the doctors to take good care of her because she was a "precious" person. Indeed, she was 'precious' for Malayalis across the world. She made us cry, smile and laugh like no onelse did especially from among the actresses.
Super stars, actors and actresses cutting across several genres, established directors and ardent fans say she was exceptional in the film industry because of her passion for acting and her compassionate nature towards all. Though she had shared screen space with big stars from the South such as MGR, Sivaji Ganeshan, Gemini Ganeshan, among others, she remained simple in her ways and accessible to all - super stars and budding stars. She is reported to arrive at film sets with an armful of snacks for everyone, offering and sometimes serving food to those on the sets. She is known for her sense of equality - having never discriminated between stars, technicians and so on. While her proximity to super stars was well known, she was accessible to all and behaved with utmost love and generosity to everyone. She saw every one as her own children without any discrimination - a rare quality today, particularly among popular actors and actresses.
Sukumari's Memorable Movies
Personally I love all the roles that Sukumari portrayed in Balachandran Menon's and Priyadarshan's movies best. These roles were versatile, vivid and enabled this brilliant artist to showcase her acting skills to movie buffs.
One of the Malayalam movies that deeply touched me and had me crying several times was Sthreedhanam (meaning: Dowry). While the key actors were Jagdish and Urvashi, the role of Sukumari as the helpless mother of daughters who had to be married off without much dowry was brilliantly portrayed. Her mannerisms, body language, simplicity, quiet pride - all of this beautifully and painfully brought to life the dilemma and agony of a mother of daughters.
Some of the must-watch movies starring Sukumari in versatile supportive roles are:
1. Anuragakodathi (Comedy)
2. Poochakkoru Mookkuthi (Comedy)
3. Boeing Boeing (Comedy)
4. Panchavadipalam (Comedy)
5. Vandanam (Comedy)
6. April 18 (Family Drama)
7. Chiriyo Chiri (Comedy)
8. Aye Auto (Family Drama)
9. Kaaryam Nissaram (Family Drama)
10. Sanmanasulavarku Samadhanam (Family Drama)
11. Njanguludey Kochu Doctor (Family Drama)
12. Prashnam Gurutharam (Family Drama)
13. Manicheppu Thurannappol (Family Drama)
14. Akaashaganga (Horror)
15. Thenmavin Kombathu (Family Drama)
16. Achuvintey Amma (Family Drama)
There are many many movies that I have missed listing here, not because they are less memorable but because I am unable to recall all her fine movies at one go. These are the ones that remain evergreen in my heart.
Farewell & a Lesson to Learn
It is difficult to believe that this veteran actress has passed away into another world. We all pray that may her soul rest in peace and may we all learn something from the rich legacy she left behind in life - of looking beyond social statuses and of valuing all relationships without expecting anything in return.