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A virtuoso recalls of Veteran Actor V.S.Raghavan

Posted by classiindia on October 9, 2010

Veteran stage and film actor V.S. Raghavan takes a stroll down his eventful past.

“If an award were instituted for the most credulous person who’s been taken for a ride several times in life, I deserve to get it,” veteran stage and screen actor V.S. Raghavan laughs sardonically during our conversation at his home in Mandaiveli, Chennai. The past master has seen a lot in life, both good and bad, and has emerged unscathed. “That’s because acting, particularly theatre, which began as a pastime became my passion. When you love your job you tend to forget the problems it posed or the hassles it caused,” he says.

In a career spanning almost six decades Raghavan has acted in around 1,000 films, even while he was busy with his theatre jaunts! Also a television actor till a while ago, he’s not often seen on screen these days. “That was till a fortnight ago. I’ve just accepted a role in ‘Vaadagai Veedu,’ a daily soap. I took a break because TV proved too taxing and I had decided to take it easy,” says the ever-active octogenarian. “Don’t ask me why I’ve gone back to it again! Frankly it was on an impulse. As they say, once you’ve donned make-up, it isn’t easy to wipe it off,” he smiles.

Always a dad

Throughout the conversation his incredible memory power has me dumbfounded. “I only take a second or two to recollect the names of films and plays I’ve acted in. Names of people I never forget,” he says when I ask him about director Sridhar’s classic features Raghavan has worked in, beginning with ‘Nenjil Oar Aalayam’ and ‘Kaadhalikka Naeramillai,’ and almost instantly adds, “Sridhar also gave me fabulous roles in ‘Sumai Thaangi’ and ‘Nenjirukkum Varai,'” with a see-I-got-it look on his face.

From age 30, when he began his cinema sojourn with the film, ‘Vaira Maalai,’ most of the time he has played the hero’s or heroine’s dad. “But in real life, I got married only at 40,” he guffaws, “and that was only to please my mother.” Yet whatever the role he has made his presence felt. The grandpa in KB’s serial ‘Anni,’ which rained accolades for Raghavan, is a case in point.

He has been directed by the best in the field and has acted with the most popular heroes of the past and present. “Once a maker uses me, invariably I become a permanent part of their projects. That included MGR,” says Raghavan. ‘Oli Vilakku’ was his first film with ‘Puratchi Thalaivar,’ from when Raghavan had a role in every MGR film. It has always been so. A more recent example is Chimbudevan, who has cast Raghavan in all his three films – ‘Imsai Arasan 23{+r}{+d} Pulikesi,’ ‘Arai Enn 305-il Kadavul’ and ‘Irumbu Kottai Murattu Singam.’

The same was the case with K. Balachander. Raghavan played a memorable part that had negative shades in KB’s ‘Iru Kodugal.’ “The strict, Anglo-Indian dad I portrayed in his ‘Nootrukku Nooru’ also earned me plaudits. Unforgettable role,” recalls Raghavan. K.S. Gopalakrishnan and A.P. Nagarajan were other formidable makers who frequently took him on board.

His association with Balachander dates back to the time when the director was an amateur actor, who was also penning one-act plays. “He wrote the dialogue for a couple of our plots and also acted in a few of them,” says Raghavan. One such play was ‘Chadurangam’ — an adaptation of well-known Welsh dramatist Emlyn Williams’ ‘Someone Waiting,’ a murder mystery. Raghavan was so taken in by the book his friend Lenin had given him that he wrote to Williams seeking his permission to stage it in Tamil, which he magnanimously granted. KB handled the translation.

Arguably for the first time in Tamil theatre, Raghavan used the one-set technique. “Thanks to Ranganna’s imaginative screen décor,” says Raghavan. “He helped us achieve it, with the screen coming down to close one part of the stage, and going up on the other.” Those were the days when Raghavan’s troupe, INA Theatres, was a name to reckon with on the stage circuit. From their first play ‘Engirundho Vandhaal’ to ‘Gowri Kalyanam,’ ‘Vazhi Naduvil,’ and others Raghavan always plumped for storylines published in books or serialised in magazines. An avid reader, and an aspiring journalist from his youth, he had an eye for selecting concepts that would make worthy plays. “Serious family themes were our forte, probably because basically I’m a serious man,” he says.

But this sober actor’s close friend was the inimitable comedian and character actor Nagesh. “He should have lived for at least two decades more. He neglected his health a lot,” he rues. Nagesh was a regular at Raghavan’s home. “‘Janaki coffee!’ he would call out even while entering the house, and ask again for his second cup before leaving. He loved my daughter-in-law’s preparation,” Raghavan remembers. “Can you find a versatile actor like him? Yet did he get his due?” Rhetorical posers which kindle ire in connoisseurs of acting!

Ironically it was Nagesh who persuaded Raghavan to quit the stage because it was proving a strain for him. “‘Take care of your health, Raghava,’ he would advise me,” he sighs. Anyway with the onslaught of satellite channels the theatre scene wasn’t conducive and it was curtains on INA. “But even now you find Y.G. Mahendra, TV Varadharajen, Augusto and a few others dedicated to it,” he says.

Probably it is Raghavan’s philosophy in life that keeps him contented and happy. “I’m a man of simple needs. My two sons are engineers and they are well-settled. I’ve had no great aspirations. I believe everything is ordained and I move with the tide. When I set off on my own as a young man, after my father passed away, the balance sheet was perfect – no debts, no assets. Today it’s the same — no commitments, no wants,” he smiles.

Courtesy_
http://www.thehindu.com

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