Ra. Sankaran forsook academics in order to pursue acting.
Remember Mr. Chandramouli of ‘Mounaraagam?’ Yes, Revathi’s stern father with whom Karthik plays a prank? This writer picked up a conversation with the dignified elder of the silver screen and what an amazing journey it has been for him, a side not many would be aware of!
Ramarathnam Sankaran (RAS) chose acting ahead of academics. T.R. Ramachandran (T.R. Sarangapani’s elder brother) was classmate in college at Musiri. Sankaran’s cousin was Javar Seetharaman. The pull of grease paint was too strong and Sankaran abandoned studies to become a drama artist (1952). `Kasethan Kadavul’ was the play. The group included Chandrababu, Sandhya, Vidya and V. Gopalakrishnan. He acted in several R.S. Manohar’s plays too.
Guided by Javer Seetharaman, Sankaran joined director K. Shankar as associate in 1959. A spate of films in Tamil and Hindi, such as ‘Ore Vazhi,’ ‘Sivagangai Seemai,’ ‘Kairasi,’ ‘Kavalai Illadha Manithan,’ ‘Jhoola,’ ‘Aalayamani,’ ‘Padha Kanikkai,’ ‘Aadi Perukku,’ ‘Panathottam,’ ‘Aandavan Kattalai,’ ‘Panchavarnakkili,’ ‘Chandrodayam’ and ‘Gowri Kalyanam.’ Javer Seetharaman passed away in 1970 and on the advice of Sivaji Ganesan Sankaran joined director ‘Vietnam Veedu’ Sundaram as associate in ‘Gauravam.’ He was associate to Puttanna Kanagal for ‘Irulum Oliyum.’
An opportunity to direct came in 1974 with ‘Onne Onnu Kanne Kannu.’ ‘Thaen Sindudhe Vaanam,’ ‘Thoondil Meen’ and other films followed. So when did he come in front of the camera?
Bharathi Raja who had worked in a few films with Sankaran forced him to act in AVM’s ‘Pudumai Penn’ as Revathi’s father. A good character artist had made his entry and Sankaran did not look back. Who can forget the bishop to whom Kamal confesses in ‘Oru Kaidhiyin Dairy?’ Or his roles in Paarthiban’s `Pondatti Thevai,’ in Mani Rathnam’s `Pagal Nilavu’ and in ‘Iru KovilgaI’ with Ambika. “But it is Mr. Chandramouli people remember even now,” chuckles Sankaran.
Small screen caught up with the veteran and the list includes ‘Ethanai Manidhargal’ (with Sivakumar), ‘Oru Nadhi Engae Pogirathu’ (With Rajah, SPB, etc.,), Suresh Menon’s serials, Balu Mahendra’s telefilms and TV serials, etc. RAS has taken part in several story discussions of Rama Narayanan, V.M.C Haneefa, etc.
“You had the facility to continue your education. Why did you drop out? Was it not a risk?” To Sivaji Ganesan’s query Sankaran replied, “I have confidence in my acting skills. Just wait, one day, I will be receiving a shield from you.” And he did, for the film ‘Kadami Ganniyam, Kattupadu.’ Sivaji handed over the shield, not without recalling Sankaran’s words. RAS is thankful to Bharati Raja and Mani Ratnam for giving him apt roles.
Media-shy Sankaran keeps himself engaged with social activities, EXNORA and Jeeva Park Betterment Association in particular. Kalaimamani, the State honour that he richly deserves, is yet to come his way. “Accolades should come on their own,” smiles Sankaran.
Recalling the days showbiz kept him busy, Sankaran said, “I interacted with almost every actor/actress as director and as an artist and I was always impressed with Jayalalitha's discipline, something rare in a person so young. Punctual, she would attend the shot and when it was over would retire to a corner with a book. And she would pick up the thread when the next call came.”
In this context, this writer wishes to share what R.S. Manohar never tired of repeating. On one occasion, Manohar found Jayalalitha reading a tome swiftly turning the pages. When she closed the book, he teased her, “I'm sure you didn't read all of it.” Giving him the huge volume, the young artist said, “You can ask questions from the book, I'll answer.” Manohar threw a dozen questions and she answered them with the page number. “Brilliant!” commented the senior as the girl smiled.