Movies

A scene change

actor L. Raaja  

When Thirumurugan (director of megas such as ‘Metti Oli’ and ‘Nadaswaram’) approached him with a role in the film, ‘Muniyaandi Vilangiyal Moondraam Aandu,’ his first response was, “I’m a director. I don’t think I can act.” But today L. Raaja is a busy actor on the small and the big screen. ‘Muniyaandi …’ was his first experience as an actor.

It is more than a decade since I had met Raaja. It was at the shooting spot of the Telugu serial, ‘Idhi Kadha Kaadhu.’ He was its director. If I was surprised then that he had switched over to the small screen after directing nine feature films, I was equally intrigued to see him turn actor. “It’s been quite a while since I began playing character roles,” laughs Raaja. He has worked in 35 films so far, and Malayalam cinema offers him strong roles, like in the soon to be released ‘Zebra Avargal.’ “Thanks to Samuthirakani, my role as Sasikumar’s dad in ‘Nadodigal’ also earned plaudits for me.”

After nearly 18 films as co-director under Rajashekar, including Rajnikanth’s ‘Thambikku Endha Ooru’ and Kamal Haasan’s ‘Vikram,’ Raaja debuted as director with, ‘Shankar Guru.’ It had Arjun and Seetha and was a hit. After six films with Arjun and three more with Karthik, Raghuvaran and Charan Raj, Raaja seemed to have gone into hibernation for a while.

Kavithalaya brought him back, but to television. “‘Raghuvamsam’ on Sun was well-received, so I stuck to soaps. Several such, besides two for Seventh Channel – ‘Ethanai Manidhargal’ with Sivakumar and Moon Moon Sen, and ‘Vazhkai’ — followed. “I am the first mega serial director in the South,” he says.

Radaan means a lot to him. Radhika is a wonderful boss. She takes such good care that we feel like family.” Raaja directed ‘Idhi Kadha Kaadhu’ and ‘Ninne Pelladutha’ for Radaan, and is now a regular in the group, as an actor. He played Radhika’s brother in ‘Mahalakshmi Nivasam’ and today he is Nirosha’s brother in Radaan’s ‘Thamarai’ which appears in the afternoon slot on Sun.

Do afternoons mean more melodrama and less viewership? “No way, we’ve crossed 600 episodes and are still going strong,” contends Raaja. “And it has emotions, not tears.”

The number of scenes in an episode are said to be very few. He refutes it. “Not these days, every episode has at least five.” Soon ‘Ganga,’ his next mega for Home Media will be on air. “This is another company with which I share excellent rapport.”

So has he hung up his boots as far as direction goes? “No. Working with young directors keeps me abreast of the changing trends in direction. When an opportune moment arrives I will get back to direction.”


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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 8:55:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/A-scene-change/article16778043.ece

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