G Kesava Pillai, widely known as G K Pillai, a veteran Malayalam actor who was regarded as one of the industry's oldest performers, died on Friday at the age of 97, according to family sources. He died at his home, they claimed, after suffering from age-related problems. He had been a constant presence in cinema and television serials for the previous 65 years.
Pillai, known for his deep voice, robust body, and distinct articulation style, appeared in over 320 films and a handful of soap operas over his lengthy career. He entered the army at the age of 16 after being born in the district of Chirayinkeezhu in 1924.
He returned to his home state after finishing his 12-year military duty. His friendship with veteran actor Prem Nazir opened the path for him to break into the film industry, and 'Snehaseema,' a 1954 feature, was his debut cinematic appearance.
Though he made a name for himself as a villain, he also played a few endearing character roles in films and serials later in his career. Some of his well-known films are 'Snapaka Yoyannan,' 'Sthanarthi Saramma,' 'Ashwamedham,' 'Aromal Unni,' 'Choola,' 'Harichandran,' 'Karyasthan,' and others.
He was most recognised for his appearances in 'vadakkanpaattu' films, which are based on traditional songs from the medieval period. He also rose to prominence as one of the few performers who performed their own stunts.
After being a busy actor until the 1980s, he abruptly took a sabbatical from performing and then returned to the field through TV serials in 2005. His popular serials were 'Kunkumapoovu' and 'Kadamattathu Kathanar.' He is survived by six children, and his wife passed away many years ago. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed his condolences on Pillai's passing, remembering him as an actor who captivated audiences of all ages with his distinct acting style.