Sunday, April 19, 2009

In Jagadish Nagar


Showing an early aptitude for acting and mimicry, the actor got his breaks easily and has acted in more than 300 films now

Photo: Jagadish with Meera Vasudevan during a location shoot for the film, 'Decent Parties'

By Shevlin Sebastian

At Government Arts College, Thiruvananthapuram, Jagadish remembers playing Nabeesa, a female character in ‘Vairoopyangal’, a play written by Salam Karasheri. The story is about Babu, a boy born with a facial deformity, who is passed on to a doctor. He, in turn, entrusts the child to a Muslim, whose daughter is Nabeesa.

“I got the best actor award (female),” says Jagadish.

The next year he essayed the role of Babu and got the best actor (male). Innately talented, he took part in several cultural activities in the college.

Because he belonged to an academically inclined family, Jagadish decided to do his post-graduation. “I got an interview call from two colleges for the M.Com course on the same day,” he says. The first was at 9.30 a.m. for the Mar Ivanios College and the second was at 2 p.m. for M.G. College. “Had it been the other way around my life would have been completely different,” he says.

Instead, Jagadish secured admission to Mar Ivanious College, which gives a lot of importance to the arts, unlike M.G. College, which has been plagued by student union problems for a long time.

Within a matter of time Jagadish came first in mimicry, mono act, tableau and drama acting, apart from being the college union chairman. Soon, he became very popular. Once, the B.A. English literature and economics students were going for an excursion to Bangalore. Even though Jagadish was a senior, he was invited.

He told them he had no money. Immediately, the students put up a collection box in the canteen. “Soon, there were contributions of 10 paise, 50 paise and, eventually, the amount reached Rs 100,” he says. “That was enough for me to go for the holiday.”

Because of his brilliant performances in inter-college competitions Jagadish got an opportunity to present a programme on Akashvani radio. Around this time, following the success of ‘Manjil Vrinja Pookal’, Navodaya studio advertised for new actors for their first 3D film, ‘My Dear Kuttichathan’.

“I applied, got a call and I thought I was going to be the next Mohanlal,” he says. When Jagadish reached the Navodaya office, in Kochi, armed with photos and a resume, he saw two friends waiting there.

“K. Shekhar and Rajeev Kumar used to present programmes on All India Radio,” says Jagadish. “They had not seen my application, but had called me because a cabaret announcer’s role was available.”

In his role Jagadish said, “Ladies and gentlemen, you have nothing to lose but Rs 2, while the cabaret artistes have also nothing to lose but their clothes,” he says.

When the show begins, Kuttichathan does his magic. “Soon, the cabaret dancers are fully clad, while the audience has no clothes,” says Jagadish. “As the crowd runs out, I ask, ‘Has the cabaret moved out?’” The film became a huge hit and Jagadish’s performance was noticed.

In 1984, Priyadarshan was about to shoot for a movie, ‘Oodarathuammava Aalariyam’ and Jagadish got a small role. The heroes included Mukesh, Sreenivasan and Jagathy Sreekumar.

However, on the first day of the shooting Jagathy called to say he could not come because of date problems. “Priyadarshan and producer Suresh Kumar had the courage to cast me as a hero,” says Jagadish. “This was a turning point in my life.”

The movie became a hit and Jagadish’s career took off. He acted in many films -- ‘Nandi Veendum Varika’, ‘Vellanakalude Naadu’ and ‘Kireedam’. In 1990 Jagadish started shooting for ‘In Harihar Nagar’. “We knew it was going to be a hit because the unit members kept laughing when the scenes were being filmed.”

Because of the success of ‘In Harihar Nagar’, Jagadish began to get ‘hero’ roles regularly. Today, he has acted in more than 300 films.

During a lunch break in the shooting of ‘Decent Parties’, in which he is the hero, at the Anjumana Devi temple, Edapally, Jagadish sits in the verandah of a house. As autorickshaws and cars surge past, he launches into an impersonation of Manna Dey singing ‘Maanasamaine Varu’ from Chemeen. Of course, it is pitch-perfect.

“Now I am going to do it in the style of Kundal Lal Sehgal,” he says and begins singing in a nasal voice. This is followed by the voices of S. Janaki, Yesudas, and finally, he makes the unit members burst into laughter by impersonating Usha Uthup with her husky voice and Westernised pronunciation.

What an amazing talent!

So where did he get this gift from? “My mother was a talented singer, but would only sing in the pooja room,” he says. And for the first and only time in the 90-minute conversation Jagadish’s face has a sombre look.

“The enduring sadness for me is that my mother, Bhasurangi Amma, has not been able to see my success,” he says. She passed away in 1984, aged 64, from a heart ailment, before Jagadish’s first film was released.

“I was very close to my mother,” he says. Bhasurangi Amma would always enquire about her son’s acting performances in college. “I felt shy to perform those items in front of her,” he says. “I feel a deep regret about this. If my mother had been able to see ‘2 Harihar Nagar’ it would have brought the greatest happiness to me.”

At this moment Jagadish is called to act in a wedding scene with actress Meera Vasudevan. As he gets up, he says, “Unfortunately, the rule of life is that God does not grant all your wishes.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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