'Don't feel special about getting Padma Shri'
Veteran Malayalam actor Madhu, 79, was so passionate about cinema that he resigned his job as a college lecturer to join the National School of Drama.
His first break came in 1963 when Ramu Kariat cast him in Moodupadam.
But what made Madhu famous all over Kerala was Ramu Kariat's Chemmeen made in 1965, the first Malayalam film to win a National Award.
Even today, 47 years after it was made, the dialogues of Pareekutty, played by Madhu, are popular among mimicry artists of Kerala.
Madhu became a part of the parallel cinema movement when he acted in Adoor Gopalakrishnan's first film Swayamvaram, P N Menon's Olavum Theeravum,etc. This, when he was a big hero in commercial films.
His directorial venture, Priya, won a National Award in 1970.
Madhu saw the birth of the Amitabh Bachchan, in K A Abbas's Saat Hindustani, where he was one of the heroes along with Utpal Dutt, Jalal Agha, Anwar Ali (younger brother of comedian Mehmood) and Madhukar.
Today, Madhu is a well known educationalist in Kerala and runs several schools.
This year, Madhu was conferred a Padma Shri by the Indian government.
Madhu speaks to Shobha Warrier from Thiruvanathapuram on the Padma Shri award that came very late.
How did you receive the news of the Padma Shri?
Just like any other news. I didn't feel anything special. The funniest thing is, for the last 10 years, whenever I went to any meeting the banners described me as Padma Shri Madhu! I had to tell them I was not one!
'The government and the entire people of Kerala are insulted'
Many actors much younger than you and with less experience have been given the Padmashri. Did you feel it came to you very late?
I never thought about all these things. Those who give the Padma awards should answer the question. I only feel whether I deserve such an honour or not.
So, you will accept the honour?
No, I have not decided on that. I have a grouse. That is, the government of Kerala had recommended a Padma Bhushan for me and the central government reduced it and conferred a Padma Shri.
When the government of Kerala recommended my name, they knew who I was and what I had done. I don't believe that there are people in Delhi who are more knowledgeable than them.
It is like the esteemed people of this state gave me 60 marks, and those in Delhi felt I deserved only 40 marks. What right, what authority, and what knowledge do they have to do this?
Okay, if there are some criminal cases against me, they can reject the government's recommendation. But who are they to cut me to size?
It was the entire ministry that sent my name to Delhi. So, I feel my government has been insulted, and the entire people of Kerala are also insulted.
'If the Kerala government is happy about the issue, then I will accept the award'
What do you plan to do now?
I called the Information Minister and Chief Minister and told them what I felt about the whole episode. They said it doesn't matter. You accept it. They also said, if I was happy with it, I should accept the honour.
I told them that I felt the government had been insulted. I asked them to think about it again and let me know their decision.
If the Kerala government is happy about the whole issue, I will go and receive it with pleasure.
You said it was an insult to the people of Kerala also.
When the representatives of the people are insulted, it is an insult to the people. But if the representatives who recommended my name tell me to take it, I will take it.
You will gladly accept it?
I will not say, gladly. I will accept it, that's all.
'I was not interested in knowing who won the awards'
S Janaki, who has been singing for 55 years, said that it was insult to her to confer a Padma Bhushan on her now...
I do not know what is in her mind. There may be reasons why she said so. I can't say anything more than that.
She also said that south Indians are neglected while giving Padma awards. Do you feel that way?
I don't feel that way because I have not studied who has won these awards before. I was not interested in knowing either. I have never followed these awards; they don't interest me. I never applied for any award.
When someone offers an award, it is also not right to reject it. But here the recommendation was degraded and that is not a right thing, according to me. Let the government tell me what they want me to do.