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Malayalam’s first super star

Rajesh Khanna was Indian cinema’s first ‘official’ superstar. The actor’s fans and admirers, along with film journos gave him this title. Of course, Rajesh Khanna in the 1970s was the most popular Hindi actor with an unbelievable series of super hits. The superstar tag stuck. Soon, similar claims were made by frontrunners in Tamil and Telugu cinema. Interestingly, no one in the Malayalam film industry staked a claim to this status during this period. Sathyan, Prem Nazir and Madhu certainly had their admirers but none of them were eager to latch on to this new found status in cinema.

Surprisingly, one man in the Malayalam industry thought he deserved this title. And he did not hide his intentions. Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair firmly believed that he was the most deserving individual for the superstar status. He often made this claim in private conversations.

Thikkurissi observed closely how Rajesh Khanna and his Tamil contemporaries achieved this title. He came to the conclusion that their claims were backed by the media and of course, their admirers. Unfortunately here neither the media nor fans showed any interest in elevating him or anyone in the Malayalam film industry to such a position. So, Thikkurissi decided to do all the promotion by himself.

Waiting for the right opportunity to launch himself as a superstar Thikkurissi got such a chance in 1982. A group of film lovers and certain film organisation got together to organise a function in honour of veteran film stars. The venue was the Town Hall in Ernakulam. The venue was packed much before time. All the big names in cinema and literature were there. The meeting started. Thikkurissi, who was a special invitee, was a notable absentee. The organisers were a bit disappointed.

A few minutes into the meeting Thikkurissi made his appearance. He was dressed in a dark blue T-shirt and black pants. On his T-shirt embroidered in silver were the words Super Star Thikkurissi with a prominent star on the back of the T-shirt. He had also dyed his hair and moustache black.

It was certain what Thikkurissi was up to, he saw to it that he would be noticed. To reinforce this he walked up to the dais and wished each one seated there before sitting next to Kottarakara Sreedharan Nair.

It is said that Kottarakara made fun of Thikkurissi asking him why he had dressed up like this and whether he was not ashamed to do so. Thikkurissi listened to all this not uttering a word in reply. But when his turn to speak came Thikkurissi unleashed a severe tirade against Kottarakara. He said that Kottarakara was jealous over his young, handsome looks and had even tried to imitate him but failed. He claimed that he was the superstar.

The audience thought there was a running rivalry between the two. But after the meeting both of them hugged each other, went to a nearby hotel and even had a drink together. Thikkurissi’s claim to the title of superstar was perhaps not considered seriously though a few journalists did subsequently refer to him as Malayalam’s first superstar. It was only in the 1990s that the Malayalam film industry got its first superstar.

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