Maheshwari Amma, who was popularly known by her stage name KPAC Lalitha, passed away on Tuesday night in Kochi. The 74-year-old actor was battling a liver-related ailment for a long time, which also forced her to retire from the movies sooner than she would have liked.
In her long and decorated acting career, she has performed a variety of roles, from playing the female protagonist to comedy roles to supporting cast. As a character artist, she has also worked in many movies in Tamil.
Born in Kayamkulam in 1948, she entered the performing arts through Kerala People’s Arts Club, which is dedicated to spreading the ideology of Left-wing politics through plays. And when she entered the movies, she adopted the initials of her drama troupe and came to be known as KPAC Lalitha.
It was director K. S. Sethumadhavan who gave her screen name when he launched her in movies with Koottukudumbam (1969), which is the big-screen adaptation of a play by KPAC. And she never looked back.
Lalitha went on to act in more than 500 movies in a career spanning five decades. She bagged National Awards under the best supporting actress category twice for her roles in Amaram (1990) and Shantham (2000). She was also the winner of four Kerala State Film Awards. She also chaired the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi.
The Malayalam film industry is mourning the death of Lalitha. Malayalam superstar Mammootty called her “someone who was very dear to him”, in his Facebook post, while condoling her passing. He had shared the screen with Lalitha in many movies, including Mathilukal and Kanalkkattu.
Extremely saddened to hear about the passing of the legendary KPAC Lalitha aunty.
My heartfelt condolences to the family. pic.twitter.com/nGqxO5tpGb
— Keerthy Suresh (@KeerthyOfficial) February 22, 2022
— Radikaa Sarathkumar (@realradikaa) February 23, 2022
Mohanlal in his lengthy Facebook post said he was lost for words, calling Lalitha his family. He said, her death was an irreplaceable loss for Malayalam cinema and the Malayali audience.
Manju Warrier remembers her as a motherly figure. “Even though I called her chechi (elder sister), in my head she was my mother,” she wrote. Keerthy Suresh also condoled her death, “Extremely saddened to hear about the passing of the legendary KPAC Lalitha aunty. My heartfelt condolences to the family.”
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan remembered Lalitha’s stint as the chairperson of Kerala Lalitha Sangeetha Nataka Akademi. And he noted that she was part of several progressive movements. In his tribute that he posted on his Facebook page, he said the passing of Lalitha marked an end of an era in Malayalam cinema.
Lalitha was married to famous film director Bharathan, who died in 1998. She is survived by her daughter Sreekutty and son Sidharth, who is also an actor and director.
Lalitha’s last rites will be held in Wadakkanchery on Wednesday evening.