Malayalam cinema has over the years seen a bevy of highly talented actors some of whom went on to be the unrequited kings of Mollywood. However, the one man who started it all and was the first Malayalam superstar was, Prem Nazir.
Known as the evergreen hero of Malayalam films, his charisma and charm wooed the male and female audiences alike. Born as Chirayankeezhu Abdul Khader, he debuted in Marumakal in 1952 and was instantly noticed for his performance. The name Prem Nazir was coined out by Thikurissi Sukumaran who was ruling the Malayalam cinema in those days.
Nazir with his inimitable style went on to play lead role in more than 610 Malayalam movies, thereby making a place for himself in Guiness Book of World Records as the actor to play maximum lead roles in any language. He acted with most of the actresses of his times in including KR Vijaya, Sharada, Ragini, Shiela and the likes. However, his pairing with Sheila was most loved which encouraged the directors to cast them together in 120 films, gaining them a place in Guiness Book again.
His popularity in Malayalam films also landed him roles in other major South Indian languages. He acted in 37 Tamil films, 7 Telugu films and 2 Kannada films. He is also the only actor in the history of cinema to have acted with 80 actresses.
Prem Nazir was a hardcore romantic hero. It is believed that the style of romancing the heroine while running around trees was introduced into movies by him. However, he did not allow himself to be typecast into just the romantic niche. He intermittently played dramatic roles too in movies. His portrayal in Vissappinte Vili and Vida Parayum Munpe are examples of such roles. In spite of competition from other talented actors like Sathyan, Madhu and Jayan, he held his fort and proved his mettle through the 50s, 60s and even 70s.
It is believed that he went out of his way to accommodate producers. He was extremely punctual and dedicated which is one of the main reasons for his success and his long career spanning close to three decades. He was very down to earth and had no qualms about playing the second fiddle to other established actors. Some of the films in which he played a second fiddle are Odayil Ninnu, Kunjali Marakkar, Aranazhikaneram, Adimakal and Anubhavangal Palichakal.
In spite of being an established actor, he went ahead and acted in heroine oriented films too like Thulabharam, Kallichellama, Oru Sundariyude Katha, Devi etc. Some of his powerful performances include Vida Parayum Munpe, Nadhi, Padayottam, Murapennu, Dhwani and Irruttinte Aathmavu.
However, his talent was hardly ever recognized as in those days there were no awards or fan clubs. The only award he ever won was the Kerala State award for his contribution to Malayalam cinema.
Prem Nazir was undoubtedly the first ever superstar of Malayalam cinema and still continues to live on in the hearts of Malayalam movie lovers.