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Updated: September 23, 2011 00:34 IST

Spirit of freedom

Saraswathy Nagarajan
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Narain. Photo: S.S. Kumar
The Hindu
Narain. Photo: S.S. Kumar

Narain goes into raptures as he talks about his lead role in ‘Veeraputhran,' P.T. Kunhu Mohammed's historical biopic on freedom fighter Mohammed Abdul Rehman.

Narain returns to Malayalam cinema with ‘Veeraputhran,' a historical film directed by P.T. Kunhu Mohammed. The actor, who was last seen in ‘Robinhood,' plays the lead in ‘Veeraputran,' which is on the life and times of the dauntless freedom fighter and patriot Mohammed Abdul Rehman. It is a first-of-a-kind role for Narain.

After reading up on the leader, to prepare for the role, the actor visited Chavakkad to spend time with Rasheed, whose father was a contemporary of Rehman.

Unsung legend

“Actually Rehman is one of the tallest freedom fighters from Kerala. Unfortunately, the new generation, or for that matter even mine, has not even heard of this leader who always worked and spoke for a unified India. He was completely opposed to the idea of Partition. Almost all the great poets of Malayalam have paid tribute to him in verse. But there are no photographs or films of this leader,” narrates Narain.

Rehman was president of the Kerala unit of the Congress party when E.M.S. Namboodiripad was its secretary. It is a glorious chapter in the history of Kerala's fight for independence that has been relegated to the footnotes of history.

Narain says Rasheed was able to give him a fairly detailed account of the leader, the way he walked, talked, and thought. “I wanted to know more about the man and the leader that was Rehman. A teenaged Rasheed had met Rehman when he happened to visit his house. Even today the septuagenarian idolises Rehman and his ideals,” says the actor.

Rehman was active in politics from 1920 to 1945, until his death at age 45. Narain says portraying the leader was an emotional journey. ‘Veeraputhran' also touches upon the tragic personal life of Rehman who lost his wife, Kunju Beevathu, early in his marriage. “Although the upright and uncompromising leader was a serious man, there was a romantic and light-hearted side to his nature that was submerged when he lost his wife,” says Narain. The actor remembers that he became so involved in his character's tragic life that there were times when he broke down on the sets.

“Rehman was never given his due in history books or in present-day Kerala. I feel this is one leader who should have been placed in the pantheon of patriots that all of us revere today,” adds the actor.

Choosy about roles

By the time, ‘Veeraputran' reaches the marquee, Narain would be playing a negative character in “brother and friend” Mysskin's film ‘Mughamoodi.' The two have always been lucky for each other and Narain must be hoping that their third film together gives them a hat trick of hits after ‘Chithiram Pesuthadi' and ‘Anjaathe.' He has also signed on for Renjan Pramod's comeback movie in Malayalam.

Narain's filmography is proof of how choosy he is about his roles. After making his debut as an actor in Adoor Gopalakrishnan's ‘Nizhalkuthu,' he worked with some of the big names in Malayalam cinema such as Jairaj, Shyamaprasad, Sathyan Anthikkad, Kamal, Sharath, and so on and has several hits to his credit. His wide range of characters is remembered for different reasons and each of those proved his skill as a versatile actor who was able to submerge his image in his character. Narain also has an enviable track record in Tamil cinema. But then why is it that this talented actor is not seen more on the big screen?

“That is because I have always tried to strike a balance between Tamil and Malayalam cinema. After a hit in either language, I am flooded with offers. I prefer not to repeat my characters and take a little time to select a role. Moreover, by the time the film is released, I would have signed another movie, and would be neck-deep in its work. So, till now, I have not been able to capitalise on my hits,” explains Narain. A decision to stick to one industry might have proved to be good for his career, he feels. But he hopes that the two films that he is currently involved in will firmly enthrone him as one of the best in the field. Till then his plans to direct a film will remain on the backburner. The actor is at work.

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