Remembering Mollywood's first action hero Jayan

An officer in the Indian Navy turned actor, Krishnan Nair a.k.a Jayan will go down in history as one of the greatest actors in Malayalam film industry.
The final daredevilry moment of actor Jayan's life
The final daredevilry moment of actor Jayan's life

The often imitated but never duplicated dialogue delivery, the glaring look, the daredevilry, the famous bell-bottoms, the macho image he built on screen and the title of Mollywood’s first action hero are some of the best ways to describe actor Jayan to the younger generation.

The late actor departed from this world 40 years ago but his contribution to the Malayalam film industry is remembered to this day. Jayan’s life was cut short when a helicopter stunt went wrong.

Krishnan Nair a.k.a Jayan, was born on July 25, 1939, in Kollam, Kerala. He was selected to the Indian Navy when he was studying in class 10. He gave up his career after serving in the Navy for 15 years and quit as the Master Chief Petty Officer (Master CPO). Soon he tried his hand in acting.

All it took was six years for Jayan to turn into the legend we know today. Jayan started out by doing cameo roles in Malayalam movies, where he was known by his real name, Krishnan Nair.

However that changed when Malayalam yesteryear actor Jose Prakash christened him Jayan on the sets of Shapa Moksham in 1974.

Jayan’s development as an actor came in three phases. From donning cameo roles, he soon moved to playing negative characters in many films. In fact, the actor got his first real break with Panchami [1976] in which he donned the role of a villain. The final phase saw the actor assume the role of the hero.

Having acted in more than 120 films, Jayan had many box-office hits such as Angadi, Etho Oru Swapnam, Achaaram Ammini Osharam Omana, and Sharapancharam to name a few.

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On November 16, 1980, tragedy brought the curtains down on the life and career of Jayan. A climax scene of the film Kolilakkam was being shot at Sholavaram air strip in Tamil Nadu. Jayan, who was known for doing his own stunts was doing a helicopter stunt where he had to stop the villain from escaping.

In a 2015 interview to Mathrubhumi, Kollakkam’s production executive Kalliyoor Shashi recalled how he witnessed Jayan’s final moments from close quarters. “Jayan was behind Sukumaran who was riding the motorcycle while Balan K Nair, who was the villain, was sitting in the helicopter. The scene of Jayan trying to capture the villain who was trying to escape in the helicopter, was beautifully shot three times. It was upon Jayan's insistence that the scene was shot for the fourth time," Shashi said in the interview.

During the fourth take, the pilot lost control of the helicopter. The pilot and actor Balan jumped off the helicopter while Jayan was still hanging onto the helicopter. He fell head first to the ground.

“If he had jumped he would have fallen on tall grass,” Shashi said in the interview. Jayan was only 42-years-old at the time of his demise and his final act was nothing short of daredevilry.

When Jayan’s news was confirmed, fans couldn’t believe he was no more. Since there was no social media back in the '70s and '80s, the only way to confirm a news like this was through newspapers. On November 17, 1980, newspapers carried the news of the actor’s demise, shocking many fans and the film fraternity.

Forty-years later, Jayan is still remembered by ardent Malayalam cinema fans. Known for his dashing and daredevilry style, no one comes close to him. No matter how many artists try imitating his looks, style, dialogue delivery and mannerisms, there will always be only one Jayan.

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