Unnikrishnan Namboothiri, the veteran Malayalam actor who has played the role of a witty grandfather in several films, died at a private hospital in Kannur in Kerala on Wednesday. He was 98.
Namboothiri was initially diagnosed with pneumonia in December 2020 and was undergoing treatment at a hospital in Kannur. Soon, he tested positive for Covid-19 but was discharged from the hospital after he tested negative for the virus on January 17 and was recovering at his home.
The veteran actor’s son and Kerala High Court judge PV Kunhikrishnan had told Silverscreen India that his father had been infected with Covid-19 at the hospital where he was undergoing treatment for pneumonia.
“His health is better than mine. Yesterday night he was not able to sleep. The doctor suggested to check his blood for potassium and sodium levels. After we got the report, everything was normal,” Kunhikrishnan had said, adding that Namboothiri was suffering only from age-related ailments.
Born in Payyanur in Kerala, Namboothiri was married to Leela Antharjanam, who died in 2009.
Namboothiri had debuted with the 1996 National Award-winning film Desadanam, moving on to portraying important roles in several Malayalam films including Kalyanaraman, Mayamohini, Rappakal, Loudspeaker, Photographer, Pokkiri Raja, Madhuranombarakattu, Angene Oru Avadhikkalathu, Kaikudunna Nilavu and Kaliyattam.
He acted along with Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and Ajith Kumar in some Tamil films like Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000), Pammal K. Sambandam (2002), and Chandramukhi (2005).
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan while identifying Namboothiri as a ‘brilliant actor” condoled his death on social media and wrote “He was always a left-leaning fellow compatriot who maintained a strong bond with the CPM. It is a huge loss for the world of cinema and for me personally.”
ഭാവാഭിനയ പ്രധാനമായ റോളുകളില് തിളങ്ങിയിരുന്ന നടനായിരുന്നു ഉണ്ണികൃഷ്ണന് നമ്പൂതിരി. എന്നും ഇടതുപക്ഷ സഹയാത്രികനായിരുന്ന അദ്ദേഹം സിപിഐ എമ്മിനോട് ആത്മബന്ധം പുലര്ത്തി. കലാലോകത്തിനു വലിയ നഷ്ടമാണ് ഈ വേര്പാട്. വ്യക്തിപരമായും ഇതൊരു നഷ്ടമാണ്. pic.twitter.com/ZmyqVfncBa
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) January 20, 2021
Ramesh Chennithala, leader of the opposition, Kerala Legislative Assembly paid tribute to the late actor through social media and wrote: “Condolences on the demise of senior Malayalam actor Unnikrishnan Namboothiri. His dedication at work even at his old age is a testimony for his passion towards cinema. He will be fondly remembered for his roles.”
Several people from the film industry, including actors Dulquer Salmaan, Mohanlal, Tovino Thomas, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Dileep, Mammootty and cinematographer Rajiv Menon, paid tributes on social media.
Kamal Haasan, who had worked with Namboothiri in the 2002 Tamil film Pammal K. Sambandam, wrote about him as “a man of art” and how at the age of 73 he came into the cinema and “made Malayalees laugh for 18 years” as a “young grandfather”.
73ஆவது வயதில் நடிக்க வந்து 18 வருடங்களாக மலையாளிகளைச் சிரிக்கவைத்தவர் உன்னிகிருஷ்ணன் நம்பூதிரி. இளமை துள்ளும் தாத்தாவாகக் கலையுலகில் வளையவந்தவர். இன்னும் 2 ஆண்டுகளில் சதமடிக்கவேண்டியவர் இன்று நம்மை நீங்கியிருக்கிறார். நெஞ்சார்ந்த அஞ்சலிகள். pic.twitter.com/Dqz6uHzAJ4
— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) January 20, 2021
Namboothiri is survived by two sons, Bhavadasan and Kunhikrishnanand, and two daughters, Devi and Yamuna. His grandson, Deepankuran, is a music director.