Next Malayalam star in the making

Regional hero

Versatile: Dileep in ‘Mr. Marumakan’Names that come to mind in a flash include Jayaram, Dileep, Prithviraj, Kunchako Bobban and Jayasurya. Dileep, who honed his mimicry skills in the famous Kalabhavan in Kerala, is today one of the most popular heroes in Mollywood.

With over a hundred pictures to his credit, he is rated highly as a minimum guarantee star, whose films rarely leave a hole in the producer’s pocket. Over the years, he has also been able to prove his versatility as an actor and has excelled in portraying a whole gamut of characters, including that of a buck-toothed hunchback and a coy eunuch.

It was actor Jayaram, who had made a successful transition from mimicry to stardom, who recommended Dileep to director Kamal.

Kamal then took him under his wing as an assistant director. Dileep learned the ropes by working with Kamal. However, he was more interested in acting. He succeeded in this quest when he was signed on for his maiden film, Maanathe Kottaram, as hero. Audiences, however, cottoned on to him only after the outstanding success of Sallapam, which released in 1996. His mentor Kamal gave him a hit in Ee Puzhayum Kadannu, a sentimental family drama which clicked in a big way.

Comedy films have always been a major draw at the box-office and it was but natural that Dileep, who has a perfect sense of timing as far as comedy is concerned and gels well with ace comedians like Innocent, Jagathi Srikumar, Salim Kumar and Harisri Ashokan, found himself cast in several films with a comic backdrop.

His delivery of one liners with a deadpan expression found him a legion of admirers and led to films like Joker, Meesa Madhavan, Ee Parakkum Thalika, Kalyanaraman and CID Moosa — all were made on shoestring budgets and raked in the moolah at the box-office. Rafi-McCartin’s Punjabi House was another film of the same genre that found audiences warming up to the actor in a big way. The duo’s film, Thenkasipattinam, which had Suresh Gopi and Lal in the lead roles, also featured Dileep in a significant character that proved to be the mainstay of the film. Dileep also essayed a supporting role in the film Varnapakittu.

Never one to shy away from accepting roles that required painstaking efforts, Dileep impressed all and sundry with a dual role in Kunjikoonan, one of which being that of a hunchback with a heart of gold, who eventually gets pummelled by the villain.

There were quite a few scenes in the film which called for severe physical strain but the dedicated star could pull it off with grit and elan. The film, which turned out to be a hit, has been remade in Tamil and Kannada with Suriya and Jaggesh in the lead respectively. Lal Jose, who had directed Dileep in hits like Meesa Madhavan and Chandranudhikunna Dikhil, boldly cast the handsome actor in an effeminate role in the offbeat film, Chandu Pottu. Dileep did not disappoint his fans and his portrayal won him critical acclaim.

Dileep has worked with most mainstream directors in the industry and some of his best films have been T V Chandran’s Kadhavishesham, Priyadarshan’s Vettom, Sathyan Anthikad’s Vinoda Yaathra and Jayaraj’s Thilakkam. Blockbusters which had Dileep essaying lead roles included films like Bodyguard directed by Siddique (later remade in Tamil as Kavalan with Vijay and Bodyguard in Hindi with Salman Khan) and Papi Appacha, the highest box-office grosser in 2010.

The multi-starrer Christian Brothers and films like Karyasthan (his hundredth film), Kochi Rajavu, Lion, China Town and Marykundoru Kunjadu too did brisk business at the box-office. While his career graph has been studded with hits, there have been films which turned out to be damp squibs. These include Colours and Moss and Cat, the latter directed by well-known filmmaker, Fazil. Passenger, which marked the debut of director Ranjith Shankar, also met with the same fate. Dileep also has the distinction of producing the quickie, Twenty Twenty, which entered the history books for featuring all the actors and actresses in Malayalam cinema for the first time.

His production house also came out with Malarvadi Arts Club, directed by young Vineet Srinivasan, the playback singer-actor, son of veteran actor and director, Srinivasan. The venture met with a good response.

Dileep has a number of films on the floor and is banking on Mr Marumakan and Nadodi Mannan for that fillip to his career. The Lal Jose-directed Spanish Masala where Dileep has a role after his heart (a mimicry artiste named Kochi Charlie who gets lost in Spain and turns into a cook for survival) is again poised to be a laugh riot. Tamil audiences got a taste of Dileep, the comedian, in the Vijaykant starrer Raajiyam, where he played a deaf-mute and brought the house down in sequences with the ace Tamil comedian, Vadivelu.

Dileep is married to his co-star in films like Sallapam and Ee Pozhayum Kadanthu, Manju Warrier, a very popular actress in her own right who gave up films post-marriage.

Dileep has a distinct acting style and is keen to sign films that entertain audiences in a big way. His chemistry with actresses like Kavya Madhavan has set the screens alight and with Kavya back after her marriage turned sour, filmmakers have been showing interest in casting the two of them together again.

A non-controversial actor who has been pursuing his career with vigour and determination, Dileep has always struck a chord with his seniors in the industry as well as with the new entrants. Having worked with most of the big names in the industry, he looks forward to his future with plenty of confidence in his abilities.

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