Remembering the Legacy of Innocent: A Loss to the Malayalam Film Industry

By Rinshi Ansari, March 27, 2023

Innocent, a renowned Malayalam actor and former MP (member of parliament), passed away on Sunday in a private hospital in Kochi. Several celebrities expressed their sorrow for the late actor’s passing on social media after learning of the terrible incident.

The cancer survivor actor was apparently not feeling well for a while before being hospitalised on March 3 for respiratory issues.

Taking to Twitter, Prithviraj Sukumaran wrote, “End of an iconic chapter in cinema history! Rest in peace, Legend! #Innocent.”

Sharing a few pictures of himself with Innocent, Dulquer Salmaan wrote a touching note, “We lost the brightest shining star in our constellation. You made us laugh till we cried. You made us cry till our insides hurt. You were an actor of the highest calibre. One of those timeless all time greats. Beyond that you were all things wonderful. You were all heart.” 

He also added, “You were family. To mine. To everyone who watched you on screen. To everyone you met. I’ve had the privilege of knowing you closely. Like my fathers brother. Like an uncle to Surumy and me. You were my childhood. And I grew upto act along side you. And you regaled us with stories then and now. Always gathering people. Always lifting them up. My thoughts are all over the place. As is my writing. I love you dearly Innocent uncle. Rest in peace.”

According to a statement from Kochi’s VPS Lakeshore Hospital, Innocent passed away at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The actor died, according to the hospital, as a result of a heart attack and other organs failing to work.

He received a cancer diagnosis a few years ago, but in 2015 he declared that the sickness had finally left him. In his book, “Laughter in the Cancer Ward,” he wrote about his battle with cancer.

He is survived by his son Sonnet and his wife Alice.

Innocent Vareed Thekkethala, popularly known as Innocent, was born on April 28, 1948, in Irinjalakuda, Thrissur district, Kerala. He started his career as a mimicry artist and later made his debut in the Malayalam film industry in 1972 with the movie “Nrithasala,” which starred Prem Nazir and Jayabharathi.

The actor, whose career spanned five decades and over 700 Malayalam films, was last featured in Prithviraj Sukumaran’s 2022 film “Kaduva.” Also, he has 12 years of straight service as president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA).

Innocent, who is regarded as one of Malayalam cinema’s top comedians, has also played villains. Many moviegoers and impersonation artists alike admired him for his distinctive voice and mannerisms.

He appeared in comedic parts in a number of films, including “Ramji Rao Speaking,” “Mannar Mathai Speaking,” “Kilukkam,” “Godfather,” “Vietnam Colony,” “Nadodikattu,” “Manichitrathazhu,” and “Kalyanaraman.”

Moreover, Innocent played villains in movies like “Keli” and “Kathodu Kathoram.” Kabooliwaala, Gajakesariyogam, Mithunam, Mazhavilkavadi, Manassinakkare, Thuruppugulan, Rasathanthram, Naran, and Mahasamudram were some of the additional movies.

As an independent candidate backed by the Left Democratic Front, he won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from the Chalakudy Lok Sabha constituency (LDF). From 2003 to 2018, Innocent presided over the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), a guild of Malayalam artists. In addition to writing for periodicals and newspapers, he has published novels based on his memories.

In 2018, Innocent was diagnosed with throat cancer and took a break from acting to undergo treatment. After successfully defeating cancer, he made a comeback with the movie “Thuramukham” in 2021. His performance in the film was highly appreciated by the audience and critics alike.

Innocent has won numerous awards and accolades for his contribution to the film industry. He has won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor twice for his roles in “Sathyan Anthikad’s “Sundarapurushan” and “Mannar Mathai Speaking.” He also received the Padma Shri award, the fourth-highest civilian award in India, in 2017 for his contributions to the fields of arts and cinema.

He was known for his humble and down-to-earth personality and was loved by the people of Kerala for his philanthropic activities. He was actively involved in various social and charitable organisations and has been a role model for many aspiring actors and politicians in the state.

Rest in peace, legend.

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