Monday, April 25, 2016

Remembering Raghuvaran

It’s funny how some actors become such an integral part of our lives, growing up.  You get used to their voice, their smile, their mannerisms and above all, a certain aura that they possess.  I have always been an incurable cinema fanatic.  But over the years, I would like to think that I developed a taste for things that are rooted in reality.  Sure, I do continue to enjoy well-made masala fantasies but where my heart truly lies as a moviegoer is in cinema where the creator’s lens that was intended to capture the lives of the characters also doubles up as a mirror that makes me view myself and the world I live in with a little more acuity.  

A lot of people remember Raghuvaran as the unforgettable villain from many a memorable movie.  As a villain, he was absolutely terrifying.  Those performances were the result of his uniqueness, which came from his expert understanding and use of silences, voice modulation, expressions and body language.   I still watch in awe the interview scene from “Mudhalvan” (where he may have lost the CM post but simply stole the show!) or the famous “I know…I know…” sequence from “Puriyadha Pudhir.”  But those were still performances.  Performances that were played in a way that was absolutely right in terms of pitch for the kind of dramas or melodramas that they were a part of.  But the Raghuvaran that I remember is that controlled performer, who brought tremendous depth, dignity and nuance to some well-written but tough-to-play characters.  His parts in “Anjali”, “Thotta Chinungi”, “Aaha”, “Thulli Thirindha Kaalam” (the flashback portions), “Mugavari” and “Yaaradi Nee Mohini” are the kind of roles that etched him indelibly in my mind even now, eight years after his untimely death.*
Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Tall, lanky and blessed with powerful eyes, Raghuvaran cut a dashing figure.  He used his physicality in a way that very few performers did.  He had tremendous control over his body language and knew how to do just enough with his body and voice to create an august presence.  Take for instance the climactic portion of “Aaha.”  He is simply tremendous in this scene.  He plays a character that has made some questionable decisions in a relationship outside of his marriage.  (The movie very intelligently leaves it to us to determine whether the relationship is platonic or is an affair.)  But start watching at the 2 hr 34 min point of the video below.  In explaining his stance (starting at the 2:35:50 point), he does a splendid job of making us understand the reasons for the character’s supposed imperfections.  Just note the way he delivers the line, “She’s no more, pa.”  Absolutely lovely and invested with a kind of emotion that's so...Raghuvaran-ish!  It is in roles such as this one and the one in “Thotta Chinungi” where he played human characters - replete with strengths and imperfections - where he was absolutely a class apart.  With his rich repertoire, he was a showcase for everyday ‘heroes,’ the ones that were the fruit of the discerning mind’s labor, not of fantastic imaginations. 


The other reason why I absolutely adored Raghuvaran’s roles that had more shades of white than black was the way he played the scenes where he transforms the outlook of other characters.  For a moment, I resisted the word ‘advice’ since it sometimes carries unfavorable connotations in thamizh cinema!  But in movies like “Anjali” and “Mugavari,” Raghuvaran did a marvelous job of narrating stories or offering advice in a way that didn’t sound like a tiresome sermon and instead, sounded like the words of a wise, well-meaning soul.  In fact, of the number of times I have been to a theater, not once have I seen a crowd hoot or holler when Raghuvaran played a straight scene like the one below (it starts at 1:10) from “Mugavari.”  Usually, there was stunned silence.  And that was probably the result of that ‘aura’ that I mentioned earlier. 


It may sound like exaggeration but the people that know me know that this is absolutely true.  But the fact is that I genuinely miss Raghuvaran even though I never knew him personally.  Whenever I happen upon a scene of his on TV, my comment is usually along the lines of, “Anyaayama poitaan.”  You could say that it’s because I take movies way too seriously.  But it is also possible that he made a lasting impact.  Sometimes these actors have a way of sneaking up your subconscious in your formative years and staying there.  I think with the aforementioned roles and the way he played them, Raghuvaran did just that.  I guess that’s why people get comfort out of the immortality that the silver screen bestows upon the departed.  So, thank you, cinema.  And, miss you, Raghuvaran. 

***
*PS - I have read quite a bit about his problems with alcohol addiction.  Well, what can I say except that I wish he had recovered from his addictions to live a longer life.  :)

*PS #2 - my sister suggested that this post will be incomplete without at least one of these videos.  So, here you go, Minnu!  (Readers - she's such an admirer of Raghuvaran that my phone plays the interview scene music when she calls!)



32 comments:

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : Atlast ! My childlike eager wait for my "promised toy" is done. THANK YOU for this tribute to one of my favourite actors. The fact that you didnt know Raghuvaran was probably an advantage since it created a spatial distance so necessary in writing this piece.

Thanks heaps for reminding us about his role in Aahaa. When talking about his non-villain roles one tends to begin and stop with Anjali.

No less a person than Dilip Kumar exclaimed in wonderment "You are a FINE actor !".

(Yes he did act in some Hindi films)

He's really lifted some straight as an arrow so called non-roles like the eldest son he played in Samsaram Adhu Minsaaram with the memorable line delivered in the way only he can deliver.

"Varshamthaan pass aaittrukkay thavira NEE pass aagaraa maadhri yenakky theriyala !"

Way to Go !

Rahini David said...

I remember him from the episode "Raji Maatiri Ponnu" in the Penn Series. He fits the character so well that it is difficult to imagine the character being played by anyone else at all. In fact, all three of them (Raguvaran, Charanya, Sowkar Janaki) fit their roles so well.

Also, Samsaram Adhu Minsaram. That is my favourite Visu movie. It is has its problems, but it is a well told story.

ravishanker sunderam said...

Rahini: Absolutely. Its got its share of flaws and its not "cinema' but surprisingly its one of the few movies that I always pause to watch if its running on some thingummy channel on the telly. Never get tired of it. Especially the come-naa come come-naatti goooo ! and ofcourse Raghuvaran's clashes with Ammaiyappa Mudaliar.

Ram Murali said...

Thank you, Ravishanker, for your usual prompt response and kind words. Much appreciated.
Yes, "Samsaram..." was a very good movie. Lakshmi's characterization and acting were both fantastic. The fact that Visu was more of a supporting player was good because Visu's roles have been more 1-dimensional, advice spouting characters. Whereas Lakshmi gave the role a lot of depth and made it very 'real.' And, Raghuvaran was also equally good. One thing I noticed in "Samsaaram..." was how Raghuvaran's dialogue delivery was quite different from his usual style. He was a lot less gruff and a little louder, probably owing to Visu's direction. Agree with you that it's not great cinema per se. But you had to give it to Visu - his scripts were strong. Maybe if he had worked with a director (as a writer), you could have seen more of the "cinema" aspects. But then again, SPM directed "Kudumbam Oru Kadhambam" and it was directed in Visu style. Maybe when he wrote, he could never get of the stage setup mindset...but I think it's safe to say that I am a fan of Visu's work. Esp. when he had some strong actors and in-depth characterizations (as in "Kudumbam...") as opposed to just being preachy (as in "Varavu Nalla Uravu").

Rahini - thank you for your comment. Yes, he was superb in the "Penn" episode. Esp. the scene where he apologizes to Sowcar for his ways, was extremely well done. Neenga "Thotta Chinungi" paathrukeengaLa? He was terrific in that one. Comes across as a bit negative but by the end of the movie, he makes you fully understand the reasons for his insecurity and the feeling of not being loved.

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali: You've given us a lot of To Do Lists ! Looks like there's LOTS to look forward to doing :) :)

While on the subject of Samsaaram Adhu Minsaaram, the last scene was a six out of the ball park. That was AVM Saravanan's contribution. He really insisted on that ending.

Ram Murali said...

Ravishanker - Ha ha! To help with your "to do lists" here're a couple of videos.

By the way, if you ever watch "Thotta Chinungi," the Nagendra Prasad - Devyani portions are terrible. So, skip through them!

The Raghuvaran-Saranya episode of "Penn"
https://youtu.be/AwoLDJx_LDU
https://youtu.be/nhU60wX1sUI

Ram Murali said...

Re: AVM Saravanan's input for the climax of Samsaaram, was there a different ending? If so, could you share more details? I watched a Visu interview where he narrated an interesting story of how his stage play was adapted by KSG as a movie starring Gemini Ganesan in the 70s. It seems KSG did a poor job of adapting the play and the movie flopped badly. Later, when he was narrating this story to AVM Saravanan, he told the latter that they would have to buy the rights which they did, and the rest is history! Visu won a (well-deserved) national award :)

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : Unfortunately my memory is hazy on that one. What I gathered from the interview with AVM Saravanan was that the ending was debated and understandably there was concern since it introduced a big element of conflict after everything had been resolved at the end and this could backfire but AVM Saravanan stood by it and assured everyone that this was in fact the logical way to end it and the rest is history.

To do well in movies one has to be especially good at endings :):)

For further details and if you're interested in movie scrreenplay writing do check out Mario Puzo's 'The Last Don'

Ram Murali said...

Thank you, Ravishanker. Sure, will check it out. I have a copy of Sujatha's "Thiraikathai Ezhudhuvadhu Eppadi" which I haven't read yet since I am a very slow thamizh reader. Is that adapted from Mario Puzo's book that you're referencing or is that completely different, would you happen to know?

Anyways, do check off the "Penn" episode (links above) from your to-do list! It's just a 25-min episode. Raghuvaran is at his best! Thanks, Rahini, for the reminder.

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : Sure - will check it out. Re: Mario Puzo's book - its a novel about the Mafia and Hollywood. Great insights on writers and writing from a great writer.

anusrini20 said...

When I was (much) younger, I remember watching an episode of Pepsi Ungal Choice in which he was the guest. I was so worried he'd do something villainous on the show..haha.
I feel especially wierd when I watch his scenes in Yaaradi Nee Mohini. It doesn't feel right.

Ram Murali said...

Ravishanker - Sure, will take a look and see if it's available in our library. I am currently reading "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" on the 70s Hollywood filmmakers (such as Coppola and Altman). It's fascinating how some of these auteurs were absolutely eccentric n brilliant in equal measure. Must have driven others around them crazy :)

Ram Murali said...

Anusrini20 - thank you for your comment.

"I was so worried he'd do something villainous on the show..haha."
--> :) There's something to be said about the kind of impact these villains have on people! I remember Prakashraj stating in an interview that his sister-in-law was so mad at him for acting in "Aasai" that she refused to speak to him for a while!

"I feel especially wierd when I watch his scenes in Yaaradi Nee Mohini. It doesn't feel right."
-> Are you referring to the fact that he passed away shortly after the movie's release and the fact that his character died in the movie? If so, absolutely. But it's one of my favorite Raghuvaran performances. He was terrific in the scene where he asks Danush something along the lines of, "Unaku yaen da apdi kovam vandhudhu?" (referring to Nayanthara accidentally slapping him)

ravishanker sunderam said...

Anusrini : I had the same feeling. Actually he didnt look well at all wand the performance was strained which actually helped the performance. The wasting away of his being was quite evident.

Yes I remember that Pepsi Ungal choice. Man ! I was over the moon that day

Ram Murali : Thanks a billion for triggering all these memories.

Ram Murali said...

Ravishanker - I am somehow completely blank on the Pepsi Ungal Choice episode with Raghuvaran. I must have been traveling or something because I used to watch it regularly. I still remember the Srikkanth and Azharuddin episodes :)

Adding a couple of videos at the bottom of the post per request from my sis who suggested that this post will be incomplete without at least one of these videos!

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : Comment from a reader, Ravi Karthik, on my blog :

"How can you miss and not report about the role of his life – in the Sivasankari DD drama on TV which brought him to mainstream popuarity?

Oru Manidhanin Kadhai – that serial and the acting in that was something to talk about."

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : Comment from S.L.Narayanan (part of my school alumni mail group)

"thanks for sharing this very well written piece. Memories of Raghuvaran will remain with us.

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : Comment from my friend Vijay Chandrasekhar on Twitter

"Terrific writeup Ravi. I cried in yAaradi nee Mohini when he died. Anjali was such an underplayed role."

Ram Murali said...

Thank you SO MUCH, Ravishanker. I am honored and touched by your extremely kind gesture.

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : My pleasure entirely ! Here's one more from my colleague Vijay Chandrashekar on Twitter.

"terrific writeup Ravi. I cried in yAaradi nee Mohini when he died. Anjali was such an underplayed role."

Ram Murali said...

Thank you, Ravishanker. Thanks also to your colleague Vijay for reading this and commenting. In addition to YRM, the other Raghuvaran performance that made tear up was the death scene of Sukanya in Aaha. He was exemplary in that scene in the hospital - absolute control over his body and voice there to let us know of the grief without overdoing it...

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : My colleague Paulraj Velraj writes in from D.C :

"Thanks Ravi, for sharing this post. Raghuvaran was indeed a fine actor and my favorite one too.. Another offbeat movie he did was ‘En Bommukkutti Ammavukku’, with Sathyaraj, my other favorite. Both the stalwarts did such a great job that I can’t forget that movie ever.

Thanks again for kindling the thoughts."

Ram Murali said...

Thank you SO MUCH, Ravishanker, for all these comments from your friends and colleagues. And, please convey my sincere thanks to Paulraj. Yes, "En Bommukutti..." was a very touching movie - one of Faazil's best. Both Satyaraj and Raghuvaran were pitch perfect. I liked them as a combo in "Makkal En Pakkam" too. Nizhalgal Ravi mentioned that since all three of them were from Coimbatore that they hit it off instantly and always bonded well...

Ms Rekha Nair said...

I actually had the pleasure of knowing Raghuvaran - the person. He lived in the same apartment complex as my parents till he passed away. He was a very cool guy. Had no airs about him. Talked to everyone. Was a fabulous father. We heard rumours about his addiction to alcohol and drugs, but none of us saw that side. Thank you for this great tribute. I have only seen a few of the movies mentioned here. I need to check out the rest.

ravishanker sunderam said...

Hi Rekha : One of my CA batchmates also lived close by in T-Nagar. He told me when Raghuvaran first moved in all the kids went to get his autograph and his comment was "You remind me of the Anjali group"

Ram Murali said...

Ms Rekha Nair - thank you so much for that comment. It's great to hear about the personal side of this great actor. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to meet with him except for seeing him from a distance in my Chithi's colony where he was shooting for a movie in the early 90s.

Ram Murali said...

Ravishanker - ha ha! I wish I were one of those kids. I would've treasured the autograph :)

Anonymous said...

Ms Rekha Nair- what was he like as a perso? Do you know anything about him? What were his likes and dislikes? Was he fond of books? Did he speak malayalam? PLease reply!
Does anybody have the video of the pepsi ungal choice interview or any other interview in which he came?

Joell said...

Could you tell me how actor Raghuvaran was in person? Did he read books? Was he a malayalee? If so how did he know tamil?

Ram Murali said...

Joell - I unfortunately don't know much about Raghuvaran as a person. Sorry!

Joell said...

Hi Ram Murali- when you saw him at your chithi's colony do you remember how he was behaving? Or how he was dressed? Thank you so much! And would it be possible to contact Mrs Rekha Nair? I would love to know more about actor Raghuvaran. I do not know much about blogger also.

Ram Murali said...

Joell - I do not know Ms. Rekha Nair personally. And also, I thought Raghuvaran was very courteous to fellow actors when I saw him from a distance. Didn't interact with him 1:1 though.