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A glance, a sway in her voice, was the greatest gift KPAC Lalitha possessed for conveying emotion!

Being an actor is hard enough. As a character that remains just a voice for the duration of the film, only the most accomplished actor can offer an assured performance. KPAC Lalitha, who died at the age of 74 on Tuesday, received tributes from her peers and fans. It’s no surprise that the role that was cited most often as evidence of the late actor’s success was Mathilukal (1990).

As Narayani, a female inmate across the wall of the prison Basheer occupies, Lalitha shared dreams of a future with her for which there is no hope. The film was directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, based on an autobiographical novel of the same name by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. The voice played by Lalitha gives Narayani a form that never needs to be seen by the audience for them to become deeply engrossed in the love story. Her voice is romantic, yearning, and sad all at once.

Born Maheshwari Amma, Lalitha began her acting career at an early age. In addition to being a member of the leftist drama troupe Kerala People’s Arts Club, she adopted the initials of the club as part of the new name by which she became known during her lengthy film career. She was a favorite of the audience not just for her effortless performance in movies such as Spadikam, Sadayam, and Amaram (for which she received a National Award), but also for her impeccable comic timing indispensable in films such as Vadakkunokkiyanthram and Manichitrathazhu.

The great gift Lalitha possessed was her ability to convey the emotional weight of a scene by the sideways glance, the lilt in her voice. There is no doubt that many of the roles she assumed – mother, sister, and grandmother – were limited in their scope. Yet Lalitha’s investment in them ensured they had a far greater impact than would be otherwise the case.


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