During actor Jayaram’s adolescence in Thottuva near Malayattoor, he used to worship a ‘hero’. Not MGR or Prem Nazir but an elephant called Ravindran. The Kodanad elephant training centre was not far from where he lived and the 12-year-old boy was all admiration for this thappana (domesticated elephant used for taming wild ones) who singlehandedly negotiated wild elephants who got caught in the trap. He craved to go near the huge animal and touch its majestic tusks. “In 1977, the practice of trapping wild elephants was stopped by the government and Ravindran and other thappanas became jobless,” says Jayaram.
Many years later, the actor, whose love for elephants is well known, was invited as the chief guest to a Thrissur temple where he was supposed to anoint an elephant called Padmanabhan as the ‘gajaraja’. One look was enough for Jayaram to identify him as none other than Ravindran, his childhood hero. Extensive inquiries confirmed that it was the same elephant who had been renamed. “A few years ago, Ravindran passed away and its tusks were legally transferred to me and they enjoy pride of place in my drawing room.”
Jayaram has hundreds of such first-hand experiences as also the heroic tales that he had heard from his grandmother and others about legendary elephants like Guruvayur Padmanabhan and Kachankurichi Kesavan which have now taken the shape of a book, Aalkoottathil Oranapokkam. The book will be released by Mammootty at the IMA Hall in Kochi on October 30 at 10 am. The first copy will be received by Kuttappan, who used to be the mahout of Jayaram’s own elephant, which had been featured in many a movie.
“That elephant passed away and I don’t have any now,” says Jayaram. Who can forget the movie Pattabhishekam (1999) and the baby elephant Lakshmikutty with which Jayaram’s character tries to win a race but instead wins the hand of the heroine? Jayaram played an elephant lover in another movie called Anachandam (2006) and an elephant contractor in Thiruvambady Thampan (2012). “This book, however, has nothing to do with films or mimicry but deals with only elephants,” he says.
It is Jayaram’s first book and he explains why he thought of writing one on elephants. “People used to ask me why I did not write despite being a relative of Malayatoor Ramakrishnan. Of course I always wanted to write but did not want to attempt any great literature. Neither did I want to write my autobiography. What is there to write? As a person who loves animals even more than humans, I zeroed in on this topic,” he explains. “As a boy, when my classmates collected match box labels and stamps, I gathered nearly 400 pictures of elephants including paper clippings and black and white photos.” His dad, who was a keen photography enthusiast, had a German camera and would agree to the boy’s request to be photographed with his ‘idols’. Now, his wife Parvathy and son Kalidas are also hardcore elephant lovers.