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PREMA MANMADHAN

Rajan P. Dev is one man every cinemagoer loves to hate, for he is one of Malayalam cinema's best villains.

Photo: Mahesh Harilal

CLOSE-UP: Rajan P. Dev remains a theatre person at heart.

He has `villain' written all over him, his physique, eyes, and voice.

Rajan P. Dev makes capital of his innate qualities. His passion for movies and theatre made him a survivor. Now, he's a winner. He is busy in all South Indian language movies, doing negative roles.

He rates his role in `Thommanum Makkalum' as his best to date, but he regrets that he had to refuse two Malayalam movies recently because of his schedules in Tamil and Telugu.

Director's role

While he plays the evil and manipulative head priest in `Chanthupottu,' not many remember that he directed the drama with the same story about 16 years ago. Benny P. Nayarambalam, who wrote the story and script for `Chanthupottu' also wrote the play and played the lead character, Dilip's role.

Rajan is gracious enough to comment that the movie is better than his play, `Arabikkadalum Albhutha Vilakkum.' "Benny made several changes to suit the medium of cinema and Dilip did a wonderful job, as also Lal Jose," he says.

More than 20 years ago, Benny, who wrote the scripts for Rajan's drama company, Cherthala Jubilee Theatres, and Rajan saw a man with painted nails on a beach. They followed him, spoke to him and Benny created the character of `Pennu Pappi,' which on celluloid became Radhakrishnan.

"The `Kattukuthira' ghost always haunted me. Because it was a thumping success, I had the responsibility of making every other drama equally good. To this day, I continue my passion, my drama company. I don't act or direct now, as I am too busy in films, but I continue producing plays.

"There is a permanent rehearsal camp next to my house in Kuruppankulangara, three km from Cherthala. Every year, a new play is rehearsed for 22 days, and it travels all over Kerala for a year.

"I am there to oversee things, but not to direct. I am happy that about 18 families are provided for, though it is a no-profit-no-loss business today, with TV making huge inroads into the entertainment time of the public.

Plight of theatre persons

The plight of theatre folks is better today; it was a tough life for them in the early years, he reminisces. "I used to joke that I sleep between Prem Nazir and Sheela during our theatre tours, that is, on cinema posters! But today, they have beds, fans and good food," he says.

Rajan prefers acting in movies to direction because "it's hassle-free." But he disagrees that acting on stage is more difficult than on celluloid. While on stage, after rehearsals, it comes naturally, and these emotions have to be a little exaggerated as there are no close-ups, in cinema, one has to portray deep feelings on the face in a natural way in minimum time, which calls for a lot of concentration and effort, according to Rajan.

His directorial efforts on the big screen have not exactly been rewarding as has been his experiences on stage.

`Achamma Kuttiyude Achayan,' `Achante Kochumolku' are two movies he directed and a third, `Maniyara Kallan,' is slated for a December release. "That will have Jayan's brother's son, Jayan Junior as the hero, and Sahya as his leading lady," Rajan says. His directorial dream is a movie, already titled, `Kayal Rajavu' with Mammooty doing four roles in it. He hopes it will materialise shortly.

Among his movies in Malayalam, other than `Thommanum Makkalum,' he likes his roles in `Chettan Bava Aniyan Bava' and `Karimadikkuttan.'

While actors love to keep you guessing about their age, Rajan loves to tell you about it, because he acts in `elderly' roles when he is actually younger. He played Mammooty's father in `Thommanum Makkalum' when he is actually younger than Mammooty, a fact that gives both actors credit.

He has negative roles in a movie starring Vijay in Tamil and a Telugu one with Balakrishna. While he has started dubbing for his roles in Tamil, others dub his voice in Telugu and Kannada.

Rajan won the award for the best Telugu villain in 2002. Of the 528 movies he has acted in so far, 18 are in Telugu, 32 in Tamil, five in Kannada and the rest in Malayalam. He had good roles in four TV serials and has also directed a few telefilms.

Rajan is not certainly content with one medium. He won the AIR award for the best radio play, `Chathaneru' a year ago. He took on a role in it too.

Writing radio plays is a hobby as also children's stories.

"That's how I got my name. When I was young, I wrote children's stories and gave myself the name Rajan P. Dev so that my folks at home would not know. And that name stuck," he laughed. Rajan's father was a stage actor and was called Devassia.

The late Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, who gave several people screen names, including Prem Nazir, gave Devassia the name S.J. Dev.

Rajan holds dear the fact that his mother was a Carnatic singer in those days when Christians did not venture out much in the field.

That Rajan has been able to hold on to all his beloved fields, acting, directing, the stage, cinema and the radio, is perhaps his biggest achievement.

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