Malayalam cinema veteran NedumudiVenu is no more. Not only did he appear in 500+ films but the actor in his three-decade-plus career was synonymous with quality. Be it in supporting parts, in villainous, or in occasional lead roles, the actor managed to leave an indelible stamp – in every film he was cast in.
My earliest memory of watching the actor steal the show was in Sibi Malayil’s His Highness Abdullah. As a hapless royal family head, the actor displayed a range of emotions which earned him a National Film Award. In the following year, Venu sparkled as a jealous, alcoholic musician in Bharatham – again a film by Sibi Malayil. Among many others, his turn as the affectionate father in the filmmaker’s 2001 film Ishtam, too, is remembered with great fondness.
Among his lead roles, Oru Minnaminunginte Nurunguvettam takes the cake even though a personal favourite would be Lenin Rajendran’s Venal that saw him play the archetypal good guy with a unique verve that made him stand out from the rest of the cast. Right from his early days, Venu proved himself to be a force to reckon with a string of stellar performances in films such as Thampu, Chilambu, Chillu, Chamaram, and Yavanika – all helmed by acclaimed filmmakers. Even as he was propelled to mainstream fame, the actor never sidelined arthouse cinema. As a result, we got to watch him in exquisite films such as Saira, Susanna, Karunyam, and Mankamma to name a few.
Notably enough, Nedumi has also had a great run in hugely celebrated commercial films made by Priyadarshan – right from the director’s debut in Poochakkoru Mookkuthi, to the iconic Chithram, Thalavattam, Chandralekha, Mithunam, and Thenmavin Kombathu to name a few.
Nedumudi Venu was also a rare actor to possess a physicality that allowed him to be a shapeshifter with great ease. As a result, he could never be slotted to a certain genre of roles – which (arguably) the late Thilakan often fell prey to. If he’d play a sibling to Mohanlal in one film, he would be his father or a friend in the next two. If he would turn up as a priest in one film, the next one would see him as a cop or a scheming politician.
That said, one can also rue over the fact the last decade in the actor’s career did not challenge him in the way they did in the preceding 30 years. Yet, Venu continued to remain a supremely relevant and qualitative force in the industry throughout. If his hugely appreciated act in Aashiq Abu’s short film ‘Rani’ from Aanum Pennum is anything to go by, the actor had a lot more in him to offer.
As we mourn his demise with great sorrow, we are equally fortunate that he will continue to live on forever through the unforgettable movies that he left behind. May his soul rest in peace.