Malayalam Cinema owes its credibility in creativity and success in status, to many veteran film makers, script writers, actors, cinematographers, musicians, singers and so on. There is always a unique stamp of originality governing the entire gamut of Malayalam film making. Among heroes, from Prem Nazir to the most recent entrant, many would take credit for lifting the creative face of Malayalam film industry, each one unfolding a distinct dimension to character delineation. But among character actors, mixing a celebrated gusto of comedy, there are only a few actors who have made a long standing impact with a constant display of spontaneity, individuality and variety.
There was Adoor Bhasi who occupied the centre stage as one of the prominent faces of Malayalam Cinema, nearly for four decades from the Nineteen Fifties. Luckily,there was no vacuum left by him because immediately, there came another ebullient actor, who amazingly mixed up comedy with character portrayal and sustained the tempo maintained by Adoor Bhasi. The grandeur in Bhasi was due to the impeccable mark of innocence coupled with mischief and there was no decline in this extraordinary brand of character fixation, thanks to the emergence of yet another master of the craft, carrying innocence in his name too. Innocent Vareed Thekkethala, shortly called Innocent, is the steadfast actor- turned politician and Member of Parliament, who has attained the singular position of an inseparable segment of the Malayalee movie routine.
Those who have acquainted themselves with the inception, emergence and progress of Tamil Cinema would compare Innocent without prejudice, to the prestigious position held by actors like S.V.Subbiah, S.V.Rengarao,T.S.Balaiah,V.K.Ramasamy and M.R.Radha of the last century. Innocent has in him, a trait or two of all these actors and with his own masterly strokes has added pep and dynamism to each of his role performances. Voice is the greatest asset of Innocent. It is a tremendous voice pattern capable of churning out several emotions at one stroke. In expressing anxiety and nervousness, he may resemble T.S.Balaiah and in increasing his decibel he may be closer to V.K.Ramasamy. In moments of dignified silence he will bring the veteran SV.Subbiaha to our memory. In deliberation of hasty dialogues ending up in a sudden switch off, he will be like S.V.Rengarao and Radha. It is my remarkable association with Tamil Cinema, that makes me equate Innocent with the stalwart character actors in Tamil films. Otherwise, one could simply say he is an actor in the line of Adoor Bhasi, opening up newer channels and intricacies in acting, through his independent creative formulations .
As far as quality of role performance is concerned, Innocent heralds fresh throws and trends in acting by injecting hilarity and emotions relevantly to the context, thereby making himself incomparable. One could say he is unbeatable in combining comedy with character projection.The salient humour shots of Innocent, generate more from his physical demonstration [otherwise known as body language]than from his utterances. It is a kind of immobile, stony stance he periodically maintains in his body language, resulting in instant laughter.His face is a symbolic exterior,shuffling expressions and emotions in a sequence, through the calculated movement of his eyes and lips. Most often, one could perceive an ostensible stubbornness in his body mould and gesticulations, that would successfully reflect him as an unrelenting talent. Yes, as an aggressive artist, he would not surrender his position to anyone in any context. Be it in the midst of reputed Malayalam big screen comedians ,or great heroes like Mammootty,Mohanlal Jeyaram and Dileep, the presence of Innocent, will be a poignant indicator of the shot that stays glued to the memory of the audience.
Malayalam films abound in rib tickling physical and verbal comedy scenes vigorously carried on by a hearty tribe of humour mongers, like[ late] Cochin Haneefa,Jagathy Sreekumar,Harisree Ashokan,Salim Kumar, and Sooraj Venjaramoodu. Among these seasoned comedians, the first two have excelled in character acting too. But Innocent belongs to a specific category of actors capable of establishing an endearing link with the audience, demanding an invisible personal acceptance. It is difficult to bring in the list of all his great movies because the number itself is great. However, there are some special films, that would force the audience to keep thinking not only about those films, but also about Innocent’s contribution towards enriching the quality of the films.
In this regard, my memory archive could release from storage films like Kilukkam, Devasuram, Life is Beautiful,Vietnam Veedu,Ravanaprabu ,Mithunam, Rasathandhiram, Manichithrathaazhu, Balettan,Naran,Madampi,Ustaad, Alibhai,Baba Kalyani,Maambazhakkaalam,Snehaveedu, Gitanjali [all with Mohanlal}Hitler, Pattaalam Valiettan, Chronic Bachelor, Kaazhcha,Vesham,Kadha Parayumbol, Pranchiettan &the Saint with Mammootty,Verudhe Oru Bharya,Bagyadhevadha with Jeyaram,Nandanam and Vellithira with Prithviraj and Chandran Udhikkunna Dhikkil,Vettam, Ishtam Marykkundoru Kugnaadu,Paapy Appachan,and Aagathan with Dileep, apart from the mega hit multi-starring Twenty Twenty produced by Dileep.
I have given here only the list of significant movies that I have watched. I have not seen his most popular films like Mannar Mathai Speaking l and ll and Husbands in Goa.The eventful scenes of comedy and character performance of Innocent, are an on-the-spot quick fix, refusing to leave the memory slot. The periodical quarrels between him and his wife in’ Life is Beautiful’ ending up in a sweet course of romance, thanks to Mohanlal, his helplessness in preserving secrets in ‘Rasa Thandhram' his comedy time presented in association with Mukesh and Harishree Ashokan in ‘Chronic Bachelor’ and in almost a similar role as a confirmed bachelor with a craving for women in Ishtam,,his rigid approach towards his son in ‘Pappy Appachan’ and his self-centered clandestine banking activities in ‘Chandran Udikkunna Dikkil’are a few samples of the variety dimensions of characters he played on screen with precision and perfection.Besides these memorable performances, it was a pleasure to see him in priestly roles in a few movies and the way he fixed himself compactly,with unfailing look of dignity and sanctity in the character of God, in ‘Philips and the Monkey’s Pen’.
Innocent’s progress and sustenance in the field of acting has been both stable and substantially qualitative like the unobstructed acting career of the Tamil comedienne Manorama.The presence of this amazing actor in several Malayalam films is not due to any special favour shown to him, but because of his indispensability for adding certain amount of valid vibration to the narration of the main story. Above all, his amiable frame of innocence, capable of delivering the perennial flow of mischief and humour, is his potential market value, selling himself lovably into the hands of many film makers as an inevitable value addition.The really complicated issue in the case of this renowned Malayalam movie lord is the difficulty in assessing, when actually Mr.Innocent is mischievous and when this cheeky mischief maker is helplessly innocent.This is certainly the piquant side of the 'Innocent' face of Malayalam Cinema.