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Just Cinema's humble obituary of the formidable Venu by Kerala Varma

Malayalam cinema lost one of its best actors and a man of immaculate aesthetics when Nedumudi Venu passed away today (11.10.2021) in a Thiruvananthapuram hospital due to post-covid complications. He acted in about 500 films between 1978 and 2021 (including 7 films in 2021). He won 3 National Awards, 6 State Awards (including 3 Best Actor Awards) and 3 Filmfare Awards (including 2 Best Actor Awards). Nedumudi is a village in Alappuzha district in Kerala on the Alappuzha - Changanassery Road. The small hitherto unknown village became a household name in Kerala after Venu, a theatre actor from that village, became a popular film actor. He became popular not because he did heroic or romantic roles in Malayalam films. His claim to fame was his off-beat roles, the way he redefined acting and the intensity he brought to the character roles he did. A natural actor impeccable in dialogue delivery, he was equally at ease in commercial and parallel films. He had the rare ability to transform himself effortlessly into the character he was essaying.

Son of a school teacher and a graduate, he was a journalist before he became a stage actor. It was Kavalam Narayana Panicker, one of the pioneers of experimental theatre in Malayalam, who spotted the talent in Venu and made him an actor in many of his plays. G Aravindan was impressed by his stage performance and gave him a break in his third film "Thampu" in 1978.

He was one of the rare actors for whom age did not matter in the least. His film debut was at the age of 30. He became so much the sine qua non of Malayalam films in the subsequent years that he was offered roles that matched his age, and he continued to do more or less the same number of films every year from 1980 to 2021.

Sivaji Ganesan had said, when Nedumudi Venu was introduced to him, "You're not Nedumudi; you're Kodumudi." Kodumudi means the peak in Tamil and Malayalam.

In 1995, when he went to AVM Studio in Chennai to act in Kamal Haasan's "Indian", Kamal welcomed him with these words, "You have already done all possible roles in Malayalam. Welcome to Tamil cinema, which is waiting for your magic." Today, when he heard about the demise of Nedumudi Venu, Kamal Haasan said, "My grief can't be expressed in words. I'm a fan of Venu Sir. He's not just an actor; he's a complete artist. We will miss the rare artistic genius that he was. I have in my mind a few roles that only Venu can do." In my earlier tribute to Mankada Ravi Varma, I had said that he was called Malayala Cinemayude Kazhcha Thampuran (The Lord of the Visual in Malayalam Cinema). Nedumudi Venu was known as Malayala Cinemayude Abhinaya Thampuran (The Lord of Acting in Malayalam Cinema).

Kerala Varma, is a former Deputy General Manager of State Bank of India. He lives in Chennai with his wife.

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