- Written by CS Venkiteswaran - Associate Professor ,Gulati Institute of Finance & Taxation, Chavadimukku,Sreekariyam
The sudden departure of Kalpana leaves behind a void if one considers her oeuvre till date, and also a huge loss of a vibrant artist who surely would have essayed many more captivating performances. What marked her acting was the ease with which she portrayed different roles, and for the very personal and charming comic dimensions that she gave to each of them.
Born into a family of artists, Kalpana started her career as a child artist in 1977 in Vidarunna Mottukal. In 1982, she played an important role in the G Aravindan film Pokkuveyil (1982), as the protagonist’s (Balachandran Chullikkad) friend and lover. During the same decade, she acted in few more films, but it was her debut appearance in a Tamil film by Bhagyaraj Chinna Veedu (1985) that brought and displayed her acting talents to the fore, capturing the attention of film makers and admiration of film lovers. In the following decades, she acted in more than 300 films in Malayalam and other South Indian languages. In an acting career that spanned three decades, she did several roles, but her special talent was in her ability to give them that special ‘Kalpana touch’. The ease and verve with which she played comic roles was something that reminds one of the legendary Tamil actress Manorama. Her comedy performances in Dr Pasupathy, Kauthuka Varthakal, Innathe Programme, Dr Balram, Ardram, Kabuliwallah , Gandharvam, Pidakkozhi koovunna noottandu, CID Unnikrishnan, Punnaram, Kudumba Kodathi, Aramanaveedum Anjurekkarum, Grama Panchayath, Ishtam, and Bangalore Days, and Tamil films Sathi Leelavathi, Pammal K Sambandham etc were hilarious and unforgettable. Kalpana always brought variety and innovation to her performances, playing different roles in her own inimitable style, and always giving it a added dimension through improvisations in her body language, gestures, costumes, speech, demeanor, movement etc. She was one actress-companion who could easily spar with great comedians like Jagathy Sreekumar; the roles they did together stand apart in Malayalam cinema like that of Sreelatha and Adoor Bhasi. Equally at ease with TV shows, she was known for her forthright and pungent humour that did not spare even herself, but always without malice. Her open, vivacious attitude to life and career were always positive and something that came through in all her appearances, whether in cinema, television or in the memoirs she published titled Njan Kalpana.
Like many talented actress, Kalpana too was stereotyped to a great extent, though she fought it all along by bringing in as much variety and diversity as possible to the roles. But whenever she got the opportunity to do ‘serious’ roles, she excelled in them. Her performance in Sayanam, Kerala Café, Spirit, Charlie are some such instances. In 2012, her performance in Njaan Thanichalla won her the National award for the best actor in a supporting role. Malayalam lost a great actress and artist, someone who could have played great roles and also redrawn the contours and content of humour.