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VERSATILE Prakash Raj dons all roles with equal ease
VERSATILE Prakash Raj dons all roles with equal ease

MURALIDHARA KHAJANE

Four-time national award winner, Prakash Raj, never goes to the sets without doing his homework

Metamorphosis reminds one of two things: the biological process that most animals undergo – including the caterpillar that transforms into a beautiful butterfly. The other is Franz Kafka’s stunning piece of fiction, the protagonist becoming a beetle. In this case, it’s the former – the case of the luminous butterfly. Going a little further, I would extend this metamorphosis to Prakash Raj, the much-loved actor of the South, who has bagged his fourth National Award as Best Actor for his brilliant performance in Priyadarshan’s “Kanchivaram”. He has acted in more than 250 films and has even produced films in Tamil. Now he is directing “Naanu Mattu Nanna Kanasu” in Kannada (a remake of his famous “Abhiyum Naanum”)

In “Kanchivaram” Prakash plays the role of a weaver, who dreams about a silk sari for his daughter’s marriage. What sounds like a simple dream is far too complex to be in the ambit of one’s imagination.

The fact that very few films are released without Prakash Raj in Tamil and Telugu, speaks volumes about his talent. From “Aasai” in 1992 till date, most roles played by Prakash Raj have been that of a villain who is gunning for the heroine. Yet, he managed to make each role different by his unique performance.

In “Aasai” he was a soft-natured villain, and the oft-repeated line, “Chellam, I love you Chellam” in “Gilli” became such a hit that fans started calling him ‘Chellam’. In Manirathnam’s “Iruvar” he donned the role of Dravida Munnetra Kazhalagam (DMK) leader M. Karunanidhi.

The film opened an unexplored face of Prakash Raj and Tamil film industry watched his performance awestruck.

From a menacing villain to a loving father who would die for a cause, Prakash can don any role with amazing ease. He switched over with ease to the role of a eunuch in “Appu”; in “Saravana”, he played the heroine’s brother and a good nurtured village chieftain. To understand the genius of Prakash Raj, one has to see “Iruvar” “Anthapuram” (Tamil), “Kannathil Muttamittal”, “Nagamandala” (Kannada) and a few others. Of course, there are others that one wants to forget too. “Anthapuram” dwells on feuding families and Prakash as an eccentric village patriarch with an iron heart is unforgettable. It fetched him the National Award. His performance as both Naga and Appanna in the Kannada film “Nagamandala” is something unique.

All the films Prakash has produced — “Mozhli”, “Abhiyum Nanum”, “Velliterai” belong to different genres. While his first production “Daya” delves into the world of the gangsters, “Naam” was about a terrorist who hires four jobless, desperate youngsters to hijack a flight carrying an important minister. His “Alagiya Theeye” and “Kanda Naal Mudal” were well received by viewers.

* * * Metamorphosis of Prakash “Rai” — from a humble theatreperson to a superstar is a rags to riches story. He began his acting career with Kannada Doordarshan serials like “Bisilu Kudure” and “Guddada Bhoota”. He later took up small supporting roles in Kannada films like “Ramachari”, “Nishkarsha”, “Lockup Death” and others and was noticed for his dialogues delivery.

Rai, always a dreamer, was restless about achieving something in his life. This took him to Madras and with just Rs.140 in his pocket. Balachandar, known to weave his magic wand on newcomers took Prakash Rai and changed his name to Prakash Raj and introduced him as the dignified Guru Rangan in his tele-serial “Kailavu Manasu”. The film “Duet” soon followed.

He has not forgotten his struggling days. Prakash is forever willing to help newcomers and those who helped him during his initial days in Kannada film industry. Prakash is a voracious reader too. His involvement is very intense and never turns up on the sets without doing his homework. Like many others, Prakash too left the Kannada film industry in search of better fortunes. After Rajnikanth, it is Prakash Raj, who could achieve huge success in the Tamil industry.


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