Remembering dreaded villain Nambiar on his birth centenary

Chennai: He was the epitome of evil on screen in Tamil cinema for over three decades. He poured venom through his eyes. With stiff body language and his trademark scowl, he sent shivers down the spine of the audience. Often at the receiving end of MGR and Sivaji fans in cinema halls for his villainous acts, he has worked with seven generation of actors. The name is M N Nambiar.

The cruel, charming villain on the silverscreen was in contrast a very pious man in real life. He was also a pure vegetarian and teetotaler. Nambiar was an ardent devotee of Sabarimala Sri Ayyappan and a famous guruswami for his followers.

Recalling the contribution of Nambiar, an ardent film buff, septuagenarian Murali, says, “He was a multi-talented star. Nambiar played many memorable bad guy roles with his powerful eyes, scintillating voice, and excellent delivery of Tamil dialogues despite being from Kerala.”

A peerless actor, who walked tall as antagonist was born on this day exactly 100 years ago. On his centenary year, News Today chronicles his contribution to cinema through the varied roles that he portrayed and that made his name immortal.

Velaikari (1949)
It was one of the acclaimed movies in the history of Tamil cinema. Written by C N Annadurai and directed by A S A Sami, it featured Nambiar in two roles, as the feudal ‘Shylock-like’ rich man’s son in love with the poor housemaid, and as lecherous guru (shades of Rasputin). His performance was the talk of the town.

Dhigambara Samiyar (1950)
Produced by Modern Theatres, this movie was the high point of his career. He played a role that involved donning 12 disguises and he pulled it off with panache. The movie was written by Vaduvur Doraiswamy Iyengar and directed by T R Sundaram.

The film is remembered for Nambiar’s brilliant performance and the songs, proving to be a major hit. There were 12 songs in the film.

Manthirikumari (1950)
As the king’s Brahmin preceptor, Rajaguru Manthirikumari, Nambiar displayed his exceptional talent with his portrayal of the ambitious guru who wants to take over the kingdom.

He became a star with this film and there was no looking back after this. Directed by T R Sundaram, the movie was written by M Karunanidhi. Madhuradevi played the title role.

Uthama Puthiran (1958)
Directed by T Prakash Rao, it was the story of a queen who gives birth to twins. But one of the twins is forcefully abandoned and grows up elsewhere.

He grows up as a kind and honest man, while the other twin grows up as a greedy and arrogant man, thanks to the arrogant ways taught by his uncle Naganathan (M N Nambiar). This movie established Nambiar’s prowess in doing villain roles with consummate ease.

Nenjam Marapathillai (1963)
A Sridhar classic, it saw Nambiar playing a different role. His portrayal of an old man in the movie won appreciation from all sections of the audience. Nambiar played the role of an old zamindar.

With a spooky theme, the movie got good reception from the audience. Music by Viswanathan-Ramamurthy added strength to the film. Critics then gave thumbs up for Nambiar’s performance.

Ayirathil Oruvan (1965)
An MGR-starrer, directed by B R Panthulu, the movie was about a group of rebels led by a doctor fighting for their freedom. Nambiar played the leader of pirates. His body language, dialogue delivery and sword fights with MGR were instant hits. His villainous act is still remembered. This was evident when Ayirathil Oruvan was re-released in digital format only to see thunderous response in theatres when Nambiar appeared.

Enga Veetu Pillai (1965)
The film, directed by Chanakya, was about a look-alike twins, who were separated at birth. One being a coward, another being a courageous man.

The rest of the film revolves around the twins whose paths cross when they meet each other. Nambiar played MGR’s uncle who controls a brother and his wealth. His powerful performance won him more fans.

Thillana Mohanambal (1968)
The Sivaji Ganesan-starrer, Thillana Mohanambal was a cult classic directed by A P Nagarajan. Sivaji played Sikkal Shanmugasundaram, a nadaswaram player, who is short-tempered and sensitive.

He meets Mohanambal (Padmini), a Bharatanatyam dancer, and they fall in love with each other. Nambiar played Maharaja of Madhanpur, who develops a crush for Mohanambal. He adopts all wicked means to woo her. A solid performance as antagonist, his role still stays fresh in the minds of movie-lovers.

Thooral Ninnupochu (1982)
Call it a surprise. M N Nambiar was given a feel-good, emotional role of a kusthi vathiyar in the movie, directed by K Bhagyaraj.

As heroine’s uncle, he not only gave his emotional best, but tried his hands successfully at comedy. The song En Soga Kadhaya Kelu featuring Nambiar was a huge hit.

Gentleman (1993)
The maiden directorial venture of Shankar, the movie starring Arjun featured Nambiar in a crucial role. The film was about disparities in the educational system. Arjun played a Robin Hoodisque role. Nambiar’s subtle performance in encouraging Arjun to achieve his mission is still remembered by the audience.

M BHARAT KUMAR