Malayalam cinema has managed to roll out some truly memorable characters in the past many decades. Some of them made you cry, some made you roll around in splits, some made you think and some made you want to be like them. Then there are some characters that have so much negativity written into them that you actually hate them from the first time you set your eyes on them.
The credit for bringing these characters to life has to be equally shared between the writers and the actor who portrayed them. In many cases the strength of these negative characters had to be built so as to match the machismo of the larger than life hero characters on screen. After all, the “heroism” of the hero is directly proportional to the adversary he faces.
Here are some of the most memorable villain characters that just cannot be forgotten in Malayalam cinema. Some by the quality of writing, some by the depth of character and some by the sheer screen presence of the actors. So in no particular order…
Kulapully Appan (Narendra Prasad)
The cruel, sinister patriarch was a complete contrast to the suave and urbanely stylish Mohanlal in the movie. He also had the added charisma of not using his own physical strength to compete with Jagannathan and relied on his clout and feudal control to stand shoulder to shoulder with the hero. Narendra Prasad excelled in this role especially in scenes where his anger and frustration at being thwarted at every step had to be controlled.
Digambharan (Manoj K Jayan)
What can you say about Digambharan? He made the hero(s) pale out into oblivion with the strength of the character and the intensity written into the role. Add to it a mind blowing performance by Manoj K Jayan, you have one character who has carved his place in the annals of Malayalam cinema for time immemorial. He still gives me the chills with his crazy eyes.
Mundakkal Shekaran (Napoleon)
This movie was as famous for Mangalassery Neelakandan as it was for Mundakkal Shekaran. A villain who matched the hero with wits, strength, power and intensity. One of the few ultra-masculine roles of Mohanlal which had an equal as his foe. In fact this is one of the few movies of the genre where the antagonist actually managed to inflict harm to the hero. (Read as managed to physically beat Mohanlal’s character down)
Ayyappan (Bharath Gopi)
Bharath Gopi needs no introduction to the Malayalam cinema viewer but the movie Yavanika might not be familiar to the new generation of viewers. You do not hate the tabala player Ayyappan from the onset as he is missing. However, as more and more facets of his personality are revealed during the investigation, you cannot help but feel a growing disgust and contempt towards the character.
Paul Pailokkaran (Thilakan)
Thilakan was one of the finest actors the Malayalam film industry has been able to produce and the never ending list of memorable performances is a testament to the fact. The character of Paul Pailokkaran stands heads and shoulders above the loads of negative characters done by the thespian. The cruelty and lust he hides for his step daughter while appearing somber in public is truly scary to say the least.
Sahadevan (Kalabhavan Shajon)
Let’s face it… One of the most hated characters played in recent times has to be that of police constable Sahadevan who unleashes a barrage of physical and mental abuse on the lead characters family. What makes Sahadevan’s character even more complex is that he is fueled by the belief that he is right (which he is) and a predisposed anger towards the hero. When he gets a chance to use his position of power against the hero he does it with a ruthless abandon, ignoring all considerations for gender and age.
Mirza Khan (Amrish Puri)
Now technically Amrish Puri is not a Malayalam actor, nor was Kaalapani a Malayalam movie (it was a multi lingual) but I believe it would be a shame to leave Mirza Khan out of the list. The absolutely horrendous jailor of the prison which housed freedom fighters who went to every length to satisfy the wishes of his British overlords. One can’t help but stop to think if there was more to his actions that simply carrying out orders. His underlying sadistic character is highlighted in scenes where he dishes out atrocities without showing any display of remorse.
Paniyan was pure evil. Just a mountain of a man filled with evil. Imagine all the evils that a person is capable of – Paniyan showcases it. The Malayalam equivalent to Iago (from Othello) Lal manages to make us feel sorry for the hero is taken for a ride because of Paniyan’s scheming mind. The fact that the whole plot revolves around continuous manipulation of the hero’s mind is a statement – you don’t need to beat up the hero to bring about his downfall, pure evil intent is enough.
Carlos (Rajan P Dev)
Who can forget the whimpering don Carlos in an otherwise one man show by Mohanlal? Menacing and cut throat in his characterizations, Rajan P Dev managed to hit the bull’s eye with this performance. In fact, he was referred to as Carlos for quite a while post this performance – need I say more?
Bhaskara Patelar (Mammooty)
I hated Bhaskara Patelar. Hated him for everything he did and said. In fact my hatred for Mammooty’s character was miles above sympathy for Thommy. Everything about the man was vile, repulsive and just plain outright disgusting. Using the money and power he possessed, he managed to out oppress Kim Jong Un, Pol Pot and Robert Mugabe rolled into one. The lack of remorse despite feeling the ground slip under him ensures that we do not feel even a strand of empathy towards him even while being killed by his enemies.
There are a few other characters that do deserve a special mention in this list.
John Honai (Rizabawa) – Movie: In Harihar Nagar. A surprise entry to drive the plot forward in one of the best comic capers of all time. Add to it a stylish name and you have a villain who will never be forgotten.
Swami Amoorthananda (Narendra Prasad) – Movie: Ekalavyan. A first of its sorts by the portrayal of religious god men as the string pullers in government. The mannerisms defined Narendra Prasad for a long time.
Manapally Pavithran (N F Varghese) – Movie: Narasimham. A non-apologetic sinister man out to match tit for tat with the hero. Sad that an actor of his caliber has to be remembered by the dialogues that Mohanlal delivered in the film
Keerikadan Jose (Mohan Raj) – Movie: Kireedam. The fact that I did not know his name and had to look it up while writing this post just shows us the power of the character. Mohan Raj also holds the dubious distinction of being known not by a stage name, but by the name of a character he played.
Last but not the least…. My Favorite!!!
Professional Killer Pavanai (Captain Raju)
The name is enough!!!