Saturday, February 19, 2011


I have just finished reading the book MAMUKKOYA , a biography of the popular Malayalam cine artist Mamu Koya . The biography is chronicled by Sri Taha Madayi after a series of interviews/lengthy conversations with Mamu Koya over several days.The book was first published by D.C.Books, Kottayam, in 2007 and the copy I have is of the 4th edition.

Born in the year 1946 at Beypore in Kozhikode, Mamu Koya started his life as a measurer of timber logs, at the then world famous timber business centre Kallai in Kozhikode district, and as a carnival artist. He went on to become a noted artist of Malayalam drama and then to be a popular cine artist to carve out a place for himself in the hearts of discerning audience, acting in about 200 Malayalam films. He continues to be active in films to the delight of his innumerable fans. He is no Mohanlal or Mammootty. But for Mamu Koya acting is spontaneous and natural . Tell him the situation and the dialogue, he will simply live the role as he did in films like 'Doore Doore Oru Koodu Koottam', 'Subha Yathra', 'Chandralekha' , 'Nadodikkattu' , 'Varavelppu', 'Perumazhakkalam' etc. etc. For him acting is being himself. In the process he, as the blurb goes, as a comedian made us laugh heartily and often amazed us as a character actor.
Coming back to his biography, he reveals himself through his simple conversations with the biographer without the usual air of a successful film star. He comes out as a simple self made man with ample inborn talent for art and acting with a keen sense of observation of the people around him. He has clear cut views on all matters concerning the society we live in and is sincere, candid and at the same time has the courage of his convictions. He talks about men, society, politics, God, religion, drama, films and art and artists etc. as convincingly as on wood industry in general and measuring of timber logs, his original means of livelihood, in particular. He is candid enough to say that he stopped formal education at the 10th standard as he did not want to spend hard earned money on books and writing materials!! His views on God, faith and religion as well as life in general are highly balanced, positive and progressive eventhough he sighs that 'there are no good people , no good dramas and no good songs nowadays'(page 72) and that there is the possibility of Kozhikodan boys forgetting S.K.Pottekkat, Bashir, Uroob etc., say, within a decade.(Page 30)

How is it that Mamu Koya, a man with such a humble and ordinary beginning , could acquire such progressive views on life around him? How he could always exude cheerfulness on and off the screen? Simple. His experiences in life as well as his association with the stalwarts in the literary and cultural scene of Malabar. He was very close with the legendary writer Vaikom Mohd.Bashir, (the Sultan of Beypore) who was his neighbour.It is evident from the book that the life and views of Bashir has influenced Mamu Koya a lot. Mamu Koya reveals his closeness with S.K. Potttekkat who used to visit his drama rehersal centre in the evenings. It was S.K.Pottekkat who found out a bride for him! Eventhough Mamu Koya walked barefoot as a bridegroom he found happiness in the fact that his wedding was attended by S.K.Pottekkat, Kozhikode Abdul khader and M.S.Babu Raj! He remembers his walks with Uroob through the streets of Kozhikode and wonders how many such eminent writeres of the day would walk like that. He narrates V.K.N.'s visits to his house and their combined visits to Bashir's house and also incidents connected with their presence at Bashir's burial function. He talks of his friendship with M.T , Thikkodian, Uroob, T.Padmanabhan and Sukumar Azhikode. He talks of his close association with the K.T.Mohammed, Nilambur Balan,Kunjandy, Shantha devi, Nellikode Bhaskaran,Surasu, Kuthiravattom Pappu and other well known personalities of Kozhikodan stage. He becomes emotional when he talks of his association with Vasu Pradeep, the artist and a genius whose great contribution to Malayalam drama and art has not been given recognition. His intimacy with M.S. Baburaj, Music Director, and Kozhikode Abdul Khader, the singer, is narrated with feeling. He was close to the revered E. Moidu Moulavi Saheb and Late C.H. Mohammed Koya and E.M.S. Mamukoya recalls the last day of the creator of 'Agraharathile Kazhutha', John Abraham. He went to meet John at Oasis building with home made 'Samoosa' and 'Unnakkai' only to learn that by the time he had reached there John had a fatal fall from the terrace of the building!!

Yes, the book is an epitome of an age in the artistic and cultural history of Kozhikode, a bygone age punctuated by love, friendship, tenderness, sincerity and humour. The book consists of 'small small' chapters containing incidents in the life of Mamu Koya and his own down to earth views on several subjects, in the process, revealing the life of the person himself. Each chapter though small in length is big in content especially for those who had lived in Kozhikode during the period and experienced those Kozhikodan evenings. The chapter titled 'Tharavad' is the smallest but the message it conveys is significant.

To me, who had spent a big part of his life in Kozhikode, the book offered a nostalgic journey back the memory lane. I had no personal touch with many of the personalities appearing in the book. But I had seen most of them and watched them from a distance with great admiration and respect. I have memories of Uroob waiting for the bus at Panchamam school (Kiliyanad School) bus stop, S.K.Pottekkat walking along S.M.Street, Thikkodiyan going in or coming out through the gates of All India Radio, Kozhikode. I used to hear their speeches in our school and College functions and in the several functions held in the Town Hall, Kozhikode. Memories about AIR, Calicut, where I used to go to participate in Inter-collegiate Quiz Programmes in general knowledge and Five-Year Plans also came flooding to my mind. We used to get a book for participating in the 'Quiz' in General Knowledge and were helped by Uroob, Thikkodian and others for selecting one from the big collection of books kept in front of us! For participating in the 'Quiz ' on Five year Plans one got Rs.10/-by means of a cheque which we used to get encashed fron SBI through some third party account with great difficulty! I have also colourful memories about Kozhikodan football which Mamukoya has not touched in the book.

Thaha Madayi has done a wonderful job in chronicling and publishing the book and the fact that the book was on its 4th edition in 2009 itself shows its acceptance . The book has a preface by Sri T.Padmanabhan, a short note by Sri V.K.Sreeraman and a study by Sri V.R.Sudheesh.The beautiful line sketches by Katalur and a few photographs of Mamu Koya are the added attraction.

Tail piece: Another actor who always fitted naturally into the given roles? Oduvil Unnikrishnan

p.s. click on the sketches for clear view.