Thiruvananthapuram: Eminent film actress Sukumari, who passed away at a Chennai hospital this evening, had established herself as an evergreen presence in Malayalam and Tamil cinema in her career spanning over five decades.
A versatile actor who could do roles of a loving mother, villainous mother-in-law, stepmother or a comic character with tremendous ease, Sukumari had acted with all prominent heroes and heroines of Malayalam cinema of the present and the past.
The 'Sukumari touch' had been the imprint of more than 2,500 movies in Malayalam and Tamil which won the hearts of millions of viewers.
Sukumari, born at Nagercoil in 1938, was a relative of Lalitha-Ragini-Padmini sisters. She learned dance with them and mastered dance forms like Keralanadanam, Kathakali and Bharathanatyam and had gone on an all-India tour with them.
Her first film in Malayalam was 'Thaskaraveeran' with legendary actor Adoor Bhasi and her last movie appearance was in '3 G.'
Sukumari's film career started at age 10 with the Tamil film 'Orarivu'. She acted in various Malayalam films of the later black and white age including 'Chettathi', 'Kunjali Marakkar' and 'Thacholi Othenan'.
Her most popular Malayalam films include 'Poochakkoru Mookkuthi', 'Boeing Boeing', 'Rasikan', 'Achuvinte Amma', 'Appunni', 'Vandanam', 'Arappatta Kettiya Gramathil', 'Karyam Nissaram' and 'Nizhalkkutthu'.
Sukumari has acted in films in Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Hindi, and used her own voice in all of the movies without taking the help of dubbing artistes.
Sukumari was actively involved in films, TV serials and stage dramas till she was bed-ridden following burn injuries suffered at her house in Chennai.
The veteran actor had won the Padmashri in 2003 and the second best actress award in 2010 for her role in the bi-lingual movie 'Namma Gramam'. She had won several other awards, including the state award for supporting actress four times.
Film fraternity in Kerala expressed profound sorrow over the sudden demise of the actor, describing her as a mother figure to all. "I have lost a mother, sister and a good friend," said Mohanlal.
Actor and president of Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes Innocent said at a condolence meeting at Kochi that her death was an irreparable loss to Malayalam film industry.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said Sukumari was a "phenomenon" in Malayalam cinema. Cinema Minister K B Ganesh Kumar said actors in Malayalam film industry have lost the loving presence of a mother in the sets.