Innocent Vareed Thekkethala (born 4 March 1948), better known as Innocent, is an Indian film actor and politician. He served as the Member of Parliament in the 16th Lok Sabha of India representing Chalakudy constituency. He predominantly works in Malayalam cinema in addition to Bollywood, English, Tamil, and Kannada films, mostly in comedic roles. He has acted in more than 750 films and has won several awards, including three Kerala State Film Awards.
In 1979, he was elected as the Municipal Councillor of Irinjalakuda municipality. Innocent won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Chalakudy Lok Sabha constituency as an independent candidate supported by the Left Democratic Front (LDF). Innocent served as the President of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), a guild of Malayalam artists from 2003 to 2018. He has written books based on his memoirs, and columns in magazines and newspapers.
Don Bosco Higher Secondary School, Irinjalakuda, and Sree Sangameswara NSS School, Irinjalakuda. He studied till eighth grade and discontinued his studies as he could not cope with studying. Innocent went to Madras (then) for his acting career and worked there as a production executive and during that time he acted in a minor role in the movie Nellu, which was one of his earlier movies. He fell ill, and came to Davangere in the 1970s for treatment for Typhoid, where his cousins George (studying medicine at JJM Medical College), Davis and his brother Sunny were running the Shamannur Match factory, at Davangere. Later, he was an active partner in the working of the factory. As Innocent was keen on the performance activities, he seized the opportunity to participate in Davangere, Kerala Samajam drama and received audience approval in entertainment events. He married Alice on September 26, 1976 and had a son Sonnet. Sonnet is married, with two children, Innocent Jr and Anna. Jr. Innocent has acted in a documentary as Innocent in childhood. Both Innocent and his wife are cancer survivors.
He left Davangere in 1974, set up a leather business, then a cycle renting business to make a living. Growing up, he had a few conflicts with his father, Vareed, because his brothers continued to have an excellent education and became successful doctors, lawyers, and judges. After some time, he joined politics and became Municipal councilor of Irinjalakuda.
Innocent’s mannerisms and diction is unique in Malayalam cinema and he wildly caught the attention of the Malayalam audience. This made him almost a phenomenon in the Malayalam comedy scene, also making him a hot favourite for mimicry artistes. His popularity can be gauged from the fact that many frontline directors in Malayalam (like Priyadarshan, Satyan Anthikkad, Fazil and Kamal) rarely make films without Innocent. He has proven his acting skills in serious and character roles in several films. He has been the president of Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) for 12 years. He has held the post for the last four consecutive terms.
Innocent entered the film industry in 1972 with the movie Nrityashala. At first, he produced a few serious offbeat films, but he was not successful. In the long span of his career, Innocent has worked in more than 500 films in a variety of roles, mainly in Malayalam. He has also acted in a few Tamil and Hindi films.
Innocent played key comedy roles in superhits like Ramji Rao Speaking, Mannar Mathai Speaking, Kilukkam, Godfather, Vietnam Colony, Nadodikattu and Devaasuram. Innocent has also excelled in character and villain roles such as Keli,Kathodu Kathoram.
He proved his skills in other serious roles with a touch of laughter in films such as Kabooliwaala, Gajakesariyogam, Mithunam, Mazhavilkavadi, Manassinakkare, Thuruppugulan, Rasathanthram, and Mahasamudram. His effort, along with that of the superstars who starred in these films, played an important role in their success. His pairing with K. P. A. C. Lalitha was highly successful in movies such as Ponn Muttayidunna Tharavu, My Dear Muthachchan, Godfather and Manichitrathazhu.
Innocent is one of the most imitated actors of Malayalam cinema and mimicry artists have brought him closer to women and children among his fans. The best example of this can be seen in the widely popular Maveli (Mahabali) comedy cassettes which are brought out by various mimicry groups annually in association with the Onam festival of Kerala in the past few years. These cassettes satirise Mahabali, a benevolent King in Kerala’s mythology, who is supposed to visit his subjects in Kerala every lunar year on the day of Onam. These cassettes tend to portray Maveli (Mahabali) as a comic King who gets into all sort of troubles – the script makes use of many contemporary issues in Kerala – on his annual arrival in Kerala. Mimicry artistes uses Innocent’s voice to represent Maveli and all his mannerisms and idiosyncrasies in speech are deftly mimicked to generate laughter in the audience.
Innocent’s participation in stage shows guarantees him a leading role as an anchor or performer. His Kathaprasangam (oratory combined with poetry) Olayaal Menjoru is one of the regulars in Gulf stage shows.
Innocent has published his memoirs: Njan Innocent. He has published three other books: Mazha Kannadi (collection of short stories), Chirrikku Pinnil (an autobiography) and Cancer Wardile Chiri (Laughter in the Cancer Ward), an account of his experiences while undergoing treatment for throat cancer. Innocent also writes columns in magazines and newspapers.
Innocent was the Thrissur District Secretary of the Revolutionary Socialist Party during the 1970s. He had contested in the Irinjalakkuda municipal council elections as Revolutionary Socialist Party-backed candidate in 1979 and had won that election. He was rumoured to be a Left Democratic Front (LDF)-supported independent candidate from the Irinjalakkuda assembly constituency in the 2006 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections but this did not happen. Innocent won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Chalakudy Lok Sabha constituency in Thrissur district as an independent candidate supported by the LDF.
He lost in the Lok sabha elections 2019 with a margin of 132274 votes to UDF candidate Benny Behanan.
Kerala State Film Awards
1989 – Second Best Actor – Mazhavil Kavadi
1981 – Second Best Film (Producer) – Vida Parayum Munpe
1982 – Second Best Film (Producer) – Ormakkayi
Kerala State Film Critics Award
2009 – Best Actor – Patham Nilayile Theevandi
Asianet Film Award
2001 – Supporting Actor Award – Ravanaprabhu
2004 – Supporting Actor Award – Vesham
2006 – Best Actor in a Comic Role – Rasathanthram, Yes Your Honour
2008 – Supporting Actor Award – Innathe Chintha Vishayam
2013 – Lifetime Achievement Award
2007 – Sathyan Award
2008 – Annual Malayalam Movie Award (Dubai) for Outstanding Performance
2013 – TTK Prestige-Vanitha Film Awards – Lifetime Achievement Award
2019 –He is Distributing Awards Realtors Investors Summit