Malayalam filmmaker Thampi Kannanthanam died earlier today at a private hospital in Kochi after a brief bout of illness. He was 64.
Kannanthanam was a prominent member of the league of filmmakers who turned Malayalam commercial cinema on its head in the 80s. They made films that celebrated men whose courage, intellect and mental strength were indomitable; films that talked about decay in public and private life.
Kannanthanam started off as an assistant director, and worked with filmmaker Joshiy in Thavalam (1983). His directorial debut, Passport (1983), had Prem Nazir playing the lead role. In 1986, he made Rajavinte Makan (Son Of A King), a gangster drama that was the first of its kind in Malayalam cinema that would change the career track of both Kannanthanam and its lead actor Mohanlal.
Written by Dennis Joseph, Rajavinte Makan is an unofficial adaptation of Sidney Sheldon’s Rage of Angels. Mohanlal played Vincent Gomez, a mafia don. The film is a low-key subversion of Ramayana where the protagonist is a gangster, and the antagonist, a politician in white-attire. Mohanlal’s character lacks a brashness that’s typical of a mass movie hero. Unlike the alpha-male roles he would do in the 90s, Mohanlal as Gomez is gentlemanly, a quality that is especially visible in his scenes with Ancy (Ambika), a lawyer and a single mother.
In a recent interview to a Malayalam newspaper, screenwriter Dennis Joseph recounted the events that led to the making of Rajavinte Makan. “I wrote the script as my friend Joshiy (filmmaker) wanted me to write one for Thampi who was in a difficult position after a failed movie. He sold off his car and house to produce the movie. We decided to approach Mammootty who was then an upcoming star. However, Mammootty turned down the offer. He said that although he liked the script, he didn’t want to associate with a director whose last film was a flop. I wouldn’t blame him. That was his policy,” said Joseph. He further added that Kannanthanam was enraged and announced that he would bring down Mammootty’s career by casting Mohanlal in the role and giving him a blockbuster the former would never be able to pull off.
Kannathanam himself couldn’t repeat the success of Rajavinte Makan that became an icon in Malayalam pop-culture. He directed films like Bhoomiyile Rajakkanmaar, Nadody, Manthikam and Chukkan which found moderate success. It was through his Onnaman (2002) that Pranav Mohanlal made his screen debut. His last few films were unremarkable ventures that earned neither critical or commercial acclaim. The filmmaker also starred in a number of films such as Madrasile Mon, Nirnayam and Ustaad.
Thampi Kannanthanam is survived by wife Kunjumol and two daughters; cremation is expected to be held later today.
Pic courtesy: Indian Express