Former MP and veteran actor Innocent passed away at a private hospital in Kochi on Sunday, 26 March. He was 75.
He apparently suffered from multiple organ failure and a heart attack.
He had been battling cancer for some years now. However, was admitted to Lakeshore Hospital on 3 March as he developed some uneasiness.
His condition worsened on Sunday evening, and he died at 10.30 pm, the Lakeshore hospital said in a statement.
The actor was put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support — meaning his blood was being oxygenated outside his body — and he was acutely ill with major comorbidities.
His vital signs and other indicators were not at favourable levels, the hospital said on Sunday morning.
He was also ailing due to pulmonary issues after he tested positive for Covid-19 thrice in the past three years.
He hailed from Irinjalakuda in the Thrissur district, and acted in over 700 films over a span of 50 years.
Innocent was an important actor who excelled in comedic roles and character roles.
He had a close association with Satyan Anthikad and acted in many of his films, such as Ponmuttayidunna Tharavu, Mazhavilkavady, Manasinakkare, Yathrakarude Shradayku, and Rasathanthram.
Innocent’s friendship with director-producer David Kachipally made the duo produce some critically-acclaimed films like Ilakangal, Lekhayude Maranam Oru Flashback, and Vidaparayum Munpe.
As an actor
The Malayalam industry has produced many comedic actors, like Adoor Bhasi, Bahadur, SP Pillai, Mala Aravindan, and Kuthiravattam Pappu.
As the format of movies evolved, the comedic roles also underwent a significant change.
When Innocent and Jagathy Sreekumar entered the scene, comedy in films was part of the script, unlike in old films, where comedy was written for the sake of entertainment.
He was introduced to cinema by director Mohan in 1970. Innocent entered the film industry as a producer. But he understood that acting was his area of expertise.
He started his acting career in 1972 with Prem Nazir’s Nrithasala.
He went on to breathe life into many characters, which included both comedy and character roles.
His latest release was the Prithviraj-starrer Kaduva. His last movie is Pachuvum Atbuthavilakkum, helmed by Anoop Sathyan, son of ace director Satyan Anthikad.
Life beyond films
Innocent was born in Irinjalakuda and studied till the eighth standard.
He said situations after that made him understand the harsh realities of life.
He was elected as a municipal councillor on an LDF ticket, which led to his association with the CPI(M) till the end.
Innocent held the position of president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) for four terms, covering a total of 12 years.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he was also elected from the Chalakudy constituency in the Thrissur district as the Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate.
But he lost his seat in the 2019 elections to Benny Behanan of the United Democratic Front.
A comedic legacy
The iconic comedy scene from Kilukkam, where Kittuni — played by Innocent — falls down and becomes unconscious after hearing from Revathy’s character that he has won the Kamadhenu lottery is still fresh in the minds of Malayalam movie lovers.
His mannerisms and body language in the movie would make people break into peals of laughter. This scene is now popular among meme groups.
The combination scenes of Unnithan and his wife Bhasura played by KPAC Lalitha in Manichitrathazhu have been watched innumerable times on TV and even on YouTube now.
Ramji Rao Speaking and its sequel Mannar Mathai Speaking, Godfather, Kabuliwala, Doctor Pashupathy, Peruvannapurathe Viseshangal, Makkal Mahatmyam, and Vismayam are some of his important films.
Innumerable comedy characters, serious roles as Mammmooty’s father in Vesham, as Warrier in Devasuram and its sequel Ravanaprabhu, and the negative roles in Keli and Kathodu Kathoram surely point to Innocent being a fine actor in Malayalam films.
Innocent’s performance in No 22 Madras Mail has a lot of fans even now.
He played a wide variety of characters. The maverick actor proved his mettle by portraying complicated characters and roles that were rustic.
The dialogue presentation in typical Thrissur slang and acting skills helped this native of Irinjalakuda a lot.
He was an important actor during the end of the 1980s and starting of the 1990s.
The encounter between Innocent’s character Contessa with Mohanlal in Chandralekha was a laugh riot.
Similarly, his drunkard act and scenes with Mohanlal and Mukesh in Kakkakuyil have continued to make the audience erupt in laughter.
His association with director Priyadarshan, who directed Kilukkam, Chandralekha, and Kakkakuyil, helped him act in Hindi movies as well.
Innocent tried his luck at writing scripts. He wrote the scripts of Pavam IA Ivachan and Keerthanam. He also lent his voice to songs in Mr Butler and Sandram.
Innocent received many awards throughout his career.
In 1981, Vidaparayum Munpe was awarded the second-best film by the Kerala State Film Awards. Innocent produced this movie.
Similarly, Innocent-produced Ormaykayi was deemed the second-best film in 1982.
The actor received the second-best actor award (Kerala State Films Awards) in 1989 for his role as
Sankaran Kutty in Mazhavil Kavadi.
Innocent also received the Film Critics Award for Best Actor (Kerala) in 2009 for his performance in Patham Nilayile Theevandi.
Faced cancer with humour
Innocent always had a smile on his face whenever he appeared in front of the camera. He always spoke positively, even after he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015.
He recovered from the dreaded condition many times. He became more creative during these difficult times.
Innocent also wrote a book, Cancer Wardile Chiri, which became popular among Malayalees.
He wrote five books in total: Njan Innocent, Cancer Wardile Chiri, Irinjalakudakku Chuttum (memoirs), Mazha Kannadi (collection of short stories), and Chirrikku Pinnil (autobiography).
Irinjalakudakku Chuttum won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for humour in 2020.
Innocent always shared his lighter moments spent with his wife Alice with reporters, mainly during his appearances on TV programmes.
Alice was also diagnosed with cancer, which shocked Innocent and his family.
In 2017, Innocent made a controversial statement about the casting couch in the Malayalam film industry. He had said that “bad” actresses might share “the bed” at will.
Innocent said that those days were long gone when he was asked about the #MeToo allegations.
He said if such a request was made to a woman in this day and age, it would be shared with people. “But if the women are bad, they may share the bed,” he said.
This controversy rocked the film fraternity. It was the first time in his long tenure as AMMA president that he
came under attack.