Aranmula Ponnamma passes away

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The great grandmother of Malayalam Cinema has passed away. Aranmula Ponnamma died Monday at a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. She was 96 years old.

Ponnamma had a surgery after she fell down and had a back injury two weeks ago. Her body is expected to be moved to her house in Jagathy. Her final rites will take place today evening at Shanthikavadam at 6pm.

From the 1950s, from the days of Thikurussi Sukumaran Nair to the 90s, Ponnamma had played roles of mother and grandmother to actors of all generations, including Suresh Gopi, actor and husband to her grand daughter Radhika.

She won the state and national awards for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s film ‘Kathapurushan’ (1995). She was awarded the J.C. Daniel Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006. She last appeared in ‘Janathipathyam’ directed by K Madhu.

Aranumala ponnamma was born as one of five children of Malethu Kesava Pillai and Parukutty Amma in Aranmula, Pathanamthitta, Travancore. She started her career at the age of 12 as a Carnatic music vocalist. She began by singing before meetings organised by the Hindu Mahamandal on the banks of the Pampa river. At the age of 15, she was appointed as a music teacher in a primary school in Pala, before starting to teach in the senior classes. Later she joined the first batch of students at the Swati Tirunal Music Academy. After the course, she was appointed as the music teacher in Cotton Hill Girls’ High School in Thiruvananthapuram.

Ponnamma’s acting debut happened only when she became 29, in a play titled Bhagyalakshmi opposite Augustine Joseph, father of renowned singer K.J. Yesudas. She went on to act in some more popular plays, before debuting in films. Her debut role was that of the mother of the character played by Miss Kumari, a prominent actress at that time in Sasidharan (1950). The same year she did another mother role in the Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair starrer Amma, which was the first film of noted producer T.E. Vasudevan and also the 18th Malayalam film. She soon got typecasted in mother roles.

In her career spanning over 60 years, she acted as the mother or grandmother of first generation actors like Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, second generation actors like Prem Nazir and Sathyan and third generation actors like Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi, who happens to be the husband of her granddaughter.

Her final rites will take place today evening at Shanthikavadam at 6pm.

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