R.T. Narayan, actor Ramya’s guardian, friend and philosopher is no more
She called him ‘gundappa’ and he addressed her as ‘mari’ (little one). They were soul mates. They shared the most unique, close father-daughter relationship I’ve ever come across, more friends than filial. They were two lonely souls who clung to each other in a rare, emotional bond that was decided by destiny rather than genetically designed. He was the father she yearned for and she, the daughter he’d never have. They complemented each other probably because they were opposites in nature. She’s aggressive, impulsive and short tempered while he was her sounding board, letting her rant and then coolly dousing the fire.
With the sudden, shocking demise of R.T. Narayan, Ramya has lost a father, friend, philosopher and guide not to speak of the most calming factor in her life. Where he was concerned, she could do no wrong. Even performances she considered her worst were good for him. “If only she can control her anger, but then again there’s always goodness where there’s anger,” he’d say as if to check himself from saying anything negative about her. He was indulgent, never authoritative. He’d advise her rather than insist on implementing his point of view. He always had a soothing word when she returned from a shoot and filled him in with all the details, good and bad. He was most contented when he knew she was around.
R.T. Narayan was an enigma to those who didn’t know him. He was spoken about in hushed tones in the corridors of Congress power. He was referred in reverential terms as the ears, mouth and brain of S.M. Krishna. Ensconced in a quaint cottage in the lush West End hotel for more than three decades, you’d assume he was far removed from reality. The fact was that his grasp of grassroots politics was uncanny and precise. As the sun set there was a steady stream of politicians in his room. He lent a patient ear to their woes and wishes as they sipped the best of Scotch. His mind would be on where his daughter was, what she was probably doing and when she would return to give him the customary peck on his cheeks.
A once meeting with R.T. Narayan and it became a habit to visit him. We hit it off the first time Ramya introduced me. Carnatic music was a common passion. He has played host to stalwarts like Lalgudi Jayaraman and Umayalapuram Sivaraman. His office room in Mysore boasted of a music system that cost a fortune. His collection of concerts would be a connoisseur’s envy. A few years back Ramya, without his knowledge arranged for the Malladi Brothers to sing on his birthday. He was visibly moved as he was ushered into the hall. His favourite raga was Saramathi and they gave a dazzling rendition. When a film crew invited me to accompany them on an outdoor shoot I had to refuse because my passport had to be renewed. Narayan was annoyed. I was summoned to the passport office the same afternoon. Without violating any rules, the process was hastened and in an hour the work was done!
On the day when Ramya’s film was getting released he would sometimes call uncannily, the moment the show was over. “She’s been getting a lot of adulatory calls but I want to know your frank opinion,” he’d say. He was not an avid filmgoer but had strong views. He felt Kamal’s performance in ‘Sagara Sangamam’ was the best ever by any actor. When rumours recently surfaced that Kamal wanted Ramya in his next film he was ecstatic. “I wish it’s true,” he sighed. In fact that was his last call to me. Ramya is like a ship without rudder now. The one man who could have kept all the sharks at bay and give her sound advice is gone. The worst thing about writing this piece is referring to him in the past.