In a career that spans 27 years, the actor has created an invincible slot for himself, on his own terms.
A lead role has limitations, my characters don’t.
Probably no artist can go into hibernation time and again and bounce back like Raghuvaran has. The actor has done it at least thrice. “Yes! I often do a turn and turn about. Rajinikanth keeps asking me about it,” he guffaws, as you sit down for a chat in the greenery of the porch in his home in T. Nagar, Chennai. “I have to give my all to the role I play. And when I feel I can’t, I opt out. Once I even decided to renounce the world. So it was long robes, rudraksha et al.” Today the versatile actor is an indisputable value-addition to films, big and small. What does he attribute it to? “God,” he says simply.
Every moment of the meet with the veteran is a rewarding experience as myriad telling emotions crisscross his visage despite the shades over his eyes — quiet and serious one minute, voluble and laughing the next.
Cinema and life
After a short silence he looks you straight in the eye and says: “Acting is like puking! I take two days to come out of a character, and two more days to get into another. That’s the problem with me. See, because you told me you were coming over to meet me I’ve cancelled today’s dubbing for ‘Yaaradi Nee Mohini.’ I have to think and field your posers honestly. I can’t, if I have another commitment after this.” You can only gape at him perplexed! “Now I’ve given my life to cinema. You see the caravan there. That’s where I am most of the time, doing homework for my roles and listening to stories.”
Are his ideas accepted by the director? “He gives me a hearing and then decides. After all he’s the chief,” notes Raghuvaran. The conversation steers towards the famous, “I know” dialogue in ‘Puriyadha Pudhir,’ which he utters again and again in a scene lending a different expression to the phrase each time. “I’m indebted to director K.S.Ravikumar for it. He had given me four pages of dialogue. I suggested we could do it differently and after much deliberation I came up with the words,” smiles Raghuvaran.
He vibes well with heroes Rajini, Ajith, Vijay and Vikram. And he’s all praise for Dhanush, his ‘son’ in ‘Yaaradi Nee Mohini.’ He acts out the scene he had dubbed for, the previous day. “Nayantara slaps me. Dhanush warns her and pulls me away. While dubbing for the scene I really felt a bonding with Dhanush,” he says. How many takes did it involve? “Six!” Did Nayan really slap him? “Yeah! She really did!” The candour makes you smile.
He had always wanted to be an actor but not a hero. “A lead role has limitations, my characters don’t,” he says. “In Rajeshwar’s ‘Indra Vizha’ I’m back to my ‘Baasha’ kind of role. And I loved my part in ‘Bheema.’” Raghuvaran has significant parts to play in ‘Kandasamy,’ ‘Sila Nerangalil’ and ‘Ellam Avan Seyal.’
Again breaking the norm that once you work on the small screen it’s impossible to find a foothold in films, Raghuvaran did Sivasankari’s ‘Oru Manidhanin Kadhai’ — the story of an alcoholic — in the early years of his career. And only rarely do you see him talk to the media, visual or print! The man’s niche is safe and secure without any effort from his side!
He also does many first-time directors’ films. “Every assistant dreams of making it as director. When he comes to me with a role he says he has created with me in mind, I don’t have the heart to send him back disappointed.” The goodwill speaks volumes about Raghuvaran’s nature.
What about your mood swings? “How do you know?” is the repartee. “You are right. But I feel most artists do. That’s why it is better that my son Sai Rishi is growing up with his mother … Do you know I’m divorced? But Rishi comes over very often. He even has a set of his school uniform here. In fact despite my divorce from Rohini the three of us enjoy a very good relationship.”
Raghuvaran has worked with Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Lal Badsha.’ “I’ve also played Dilip Kumar’s son-in-law in Hindi. Madhuri Dixit was the daughter.” But he’s done just three Hindi films so far … “Here, in 10 days I finish a role and go on to the next. But it’s not possible there,” he says. The actor also works in Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu films.
“Music. It’s more a passion, though I’m an avid reader too. I began playing the guitar when I was eight. I have a music room where I compose.” It’s a revelation! “Yeah! I hardly talk about it,” he says. Raghuvaran has passed Grade II in piano at the Trinity College of Music, which is headquartered in London and conducts its exams here. “A real musician should be able to notate. I can. When I left Coimbatore for Chennai to try my luck in acting, I had the confidence that if need arises I could earn playing my guitar.” The actor has 30 compositions of his own. “I can easily pull out 10 and make an album. But that isn’t my aim. I just want to keep in touch with music. I plan to take the Grade III exam soon.”
How many more talents of the man remain hidden, you wonder!