December 6, 2022

EXCLUSIVE – Adoor Gopalakrishnan on casting KPAC Lalitha in ‘Mathilukal’: That was the moment I realized, no one in Malayalam cinema could breathe life into Narayani – Times of India

Veteran Malayalam actor KPAC Lalitha breathed her last on Tuesday (Feb 22) night. She was 74. In her career spanning of over five decades KPAC Lalitha has worked with the who’s who of Malayalam cinema and also been part of over 550 films both in Malayalam and Tamil.

KPAC Lalitha has also been a constant presence in acclaimed filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s oeuvre. The iconic filmmaker has made use of KPAC Lalitha’s acting chops brilliantly, in many movies including ‘Swayamvaram’, ‘Naalu Pennungal’, ‘Mathilukal’, and ‘Kodiyettam’ among others.

Speaking exclusively to ETimes, Adoor Gopalakrishnan shares that KPAC Lalitha was very distinct from other actors, for various reasons, “First and foremost, her talent as an actor was limitless. Secondly, she is someone who was very sincere towards the profession, a woman who had considered cinema as her life. Usually, actors have a tendency to choose characters that have either a certain glamour or could achieve popularity, when it gets to the silver screen. But KPAC Lalitha saw the soul in the characters and breathed life into them. And that is what transformed her into an artist.”

Though KPAC Lalitha has acted in several films helmed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, it was the film ‘Mathilukal’, based on eponymous novel by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, that has been celebrated. KPAC Lalitha played the protagonist alongside Mammootty, however, only her voice was used, and never once was she showed on the screen.

Speaking about casting KPAC Lalitha in the role of Narayani, Adoor Gopalakrishnan shared, “The dialogue penned by Basheer for the character Narayani, was about the loneliness she experiences after spending a lifetime behind the bars. The dialogues between the characters Basheer and Narayani, reflected the longing of a man and a woman. They never meet in person, not once, yet fall for each other and are passionately in love. Since Narayani is not shown in the frame, her voice is pivotal. Her voice conveys her presence. So initially I wanted a new actor, since KPAC Lalitha’s voice was very familiar. I had asked Lalitha to refer some names for the audition, and she herself had sent a few for the role. I auditioned 26 newbies, but none of them are very fit for the role. If their voice was satisfactory, it won’t reflect after the rendering and vice versa. Narayani is a complex character and her loneliness, yearning for love, bland life, and the ability to seduce a man through her voice at the right time, should be conveyed through her voice. Basheer falls for Narayani, even without seeing her and they are in an intense romantic relationship. That was the moment I realized, no one in Malayalam cinema could breathe life into Narayani. Later I asked Lalitha to take up the role, because none of them were able to give voice for Narayani. Casting KPAC Lalitha wasn’t a decision made on a whim.”

Adoor Gopalakrishnan summed up paying tributes to late KPAC Lalitha.

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