Actor and filmmaker, Adoor Bhasi was popular for his comic and villainous roles, celebrated as a highly sought-after actor in Malayalam films in the 1960s and 1970s. Part of the comic trio of actors that comprised S P Pillai and Bahadur, he acted in more than 700 films, mainly in supporting roles. His performances won awards such as Kerala State Film Awards for Best Actor for Chattakkari (1974), Best Actor for Cheriyachante Krura Krithyangal (1979), and Second Best Actor for 18 April (1984), as well as the Filmfare Awards South for Best Actor for Raagam (1975). Also famous for his eloquent speeches delivered in English, he directed three films in the late 70s, namely Aadhya Paadam (1977), Acharam Ammini Osaram Omana (1977), and Reghu Vamsam (1978). He also rendered several songs in films including Kallupaalathil kariyaachan from Aadyakiranangal (1964), Zindabaad Zindabaad from Sthaanaarthi Saramma (1966), Utharamadhuraapuri from Kaattukurangu (1969), Oru roopa nottu koduthal from Lottery Ticket (1970), Chinchilam chiluchilam from Vidyarthikale Ithile Ithile (1972), Oshaakali from Chaayam (1973), Velutha Vavinum from Chakravaakam (1974), Naanam maraykkaan from Swarnnavigraham (1974), and Angaadi marunnukal from Amrithavaahini (1976), besides also penning the lyrics for the latter.
Born K Bhaskaran Nair on 1 March, 1927 in Peringanadu, Adoor, Travancore, his mother Maheshwari Amma was the daughter of famous Malayalam novelist C V Raman Pillai and his father E V Krishna Pillai was a well-known Malayalam humourist writer, dramatist, lawyer and Member of the then Travancore Legislative Assembly (MLC). The fourth of seven children, Adoor Bhasi’s elder brother Chandraji became an actor in Hindi and Malayalam films, even managing the Raj Kapoor-owned R K Studios for a time. Growing up in Trivandrum, his father’s premature death at 44 saw the family move to the village of Adoor, where he completed his schooling. Moving to Trivandrum, Adoor joined the Institute of Textile Technology, gaining his diploma in Textile Chemistry. Working as an apprentice in the Lakshmi Textiles factory in Trivandrum, he started acting on the amateur stage and participating in dramas broadcast by All India Radio, Thiruvananthapuram station, alongside leading stage actors of the time. He also worked as Manager of P K Memorial Press run by well-known playwright, T N Gopinathan Nair, also working as the Manager of Sakhi weekly. Developing contacts with writers and artistes from the realm of drama and films via his friendship with T N Nair, Adoor finally managed to enter the Malayalam film industry.
Starting with a minor role in Thiramala (1953) directed by P R S Pillai, he first garnered attention in Chandrathara's Mudiyanaya Puthran (1961). His role as Anchal Krishna Pillai in Adyakiranangal (1964) also won plaudits. Acting in P Venu’s Viruthan Shanku (1968), the first full-length comedy in Malayalam cinema, he established himself as a highly sought-after actor of Malayalam feature films of the 60s and 70s. Along with S P Pillai and Bahadur, he formed a trio that added zing to comedy scenes in Malayalam films, becoming a stalwart of the slapstick tradition. Acting in more than 700 films, mainly in supporting roles, Bhasi acted with many leading Malayalam film actors of his time including Sathyan, Prem Nazir, Madhu, K P Ummer, Jayan, M G Soman, Sukumaran, Mammootty and Mohanlal. In more than a hundred films he was paired with actress Sreelatha; their pairing was very popular.
Besides comic roles, Adoor Bhasi also made a mark playing villain in films such as Itha Oru Manushyan (1978) and Karimbana (1980). He also played double roles in Lankadahanam (1971), Bhadradeepam (1973) and Kottaram Vilkkanundu (1975). He also played an unconventional character in Uttarayanam (1975). Felicitated for his performances, he won his first Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor for Chattakkari, followed by his next for John Abraham's Cheriyachinte Kroorakrithyangal, and 18 April. As an actor, his characters often represented the cynical counterpoint to the romantic idealism of Prem Nazir’s roles.
As a filmmaker, he went on to direct three films, namely Reghu Vamsam, Acharam Ammini Osaram Omana, and Aadhya Paadam. To him also goes credit for recognising the potential of Kamal Haasan, whom he had cast as the lead in his film Aadhya Paadam well before Haasan became a huge success.
Adoor Bhasi passed away on 29 March, 1990, aged 63. He was cremated with full state honours at his home in Adoor. He is celebrated as the first truly great comic genius of Malayalam cinema, and also one of its finest actors. In recent times, his legacy has been questioned by veteran actress KPAC Lalitha, who accused him of misusing his clout and harassing her.