Sunday, August 09, 2009
From villain to comedian
COLUMN: TURNING POINTS IN LIFE
Meeting producer S.K. Nair in a hotel at Thiruvananthapuram was a major break for actor Janardhanan
By Shevlin Sebastian
In 1968, when Janardhanan Nair was studying for his second year in commerce in Neyyatinkara College, an English professor, Sreevaraham Balakrishnan, selected him to act in a play. “The professor saw some potential in me,” he says. “I was tall, fair and handsome.”
Janardhanan’s next chance came when the Vayanasala in Thiruvananthapuram staged a play in honour of Balarama Varma, the Maharaja of Travancore. Janardhanan played the role of a painter alongside stalwarts T.R. Sukumaran Nair and P.K. Venukuttan Nair.
After the play, the actors were introduced to the king. “The Maharaja told me, ‘You acted well’,” says Janardhanan. “This was a big boost for me. My attitude towards acting changed at that very moment. I began to take it seriously.”
In 1970, Janardhanan heard that the people connected with the film ‘Chembarathi’, were having discussions at the Magnet Hotel in Thiruvananthapuram, where the aspiring actor was a regular.
At the insistence of the bartender Janaradhanan wrote a letter to the producer S.K. Nair. In it he said, “Outside, a Nair is waiting. If you have the time can you meet me?”
Janaradhanan sat in the lobby calmly drinking a glass of rum. After a while a man came out wearing a half-sleeve shirt and white mundu. He approached Janardhanan and said, “What are you doing?” Janardhanan said, “I am having a glass of rum.” When he heard this Nair burst out laughing.
They started talking. Then Nair said, “I wished I had met you earlier. Unfortunately, the casting is over.” Janardhanan replied, “No problems, I am glad to have made your acquaintance.”
Nair did not forget him. Sometime later he hired Janardhanan to work as a manager for the film. “Nair Sir told me I would understand what production was all about while doing the job,” says Janardhanan. “And he was right.”
In late 1971, Nair started an office in Chennai for his company, New India Films. And Janardhanan was once again appointed as the manager. For various reasons he would go regularly to the office of the Film Chamber of Commerce where, one day, the director Sethu Madhavan saw him. “He asked me whether I was interested in films,” says Janardhanan. “And here I was eagerly waiting for a chance.”
Janardhanan was given a role as Prem Nazir’s friend in ‘Aadhyathe Katha’. “My character was close to Prem Nazir and whenever he faced any problems I would try to help,” he says.
Janardhanan’s first scene was against the well-known villain at that time, N. Govindan Kutty. He had to stare intensely at Govindan Kutty and say, “If you have the courage step forward.”
When Janardhanan said this, he remembers that his whole body was trembling. “It was impossible to look at Govindan Kutty and not feel nervous,” he says. “He was a huge fellow with a thick moustache.” Fortunately, the scene was okayed in the first take itself.
Thereafter, Janardhanan began acting in many films. After a few years, there came a time when the reigning villains Jos Prakash, K.P. Ummer and Govindan Kutty opted for character roles. “I stepped into the gap and became a villain,” he says. And he acted as a villain for about 200 films. “All I did was beat up people and rape women,” he says.
In the film ‘Sathyam’ the actress Ambika was having a bath. Janardhanan was supposed to carry her, dripping wet, to the bed and rape her.
When Janardhanan jumped on top of Amibika the bed broke and both of them fell to the floor. “Thankfully, none of us were badly injured,” he says.
However, because of this negative image, at outdoor shoots women and girls would avoid talking to him. “Even though I was a married man with children the audience believed so deeply in the characters I played that they hated me,” he says.
Janardhanan’s career moved forward smoothly. In 1988 he got the role of Ousephachen in ‘Oru CBI Diary Kurippu’. Without realising it, a hidden talent was unearthed: that of a comedian.
“Thereafter, I began to play one comic role after another,” he says. Hundreds of films later, over several years, with his career going great guns, tragedy struck.
In 2004 Janardhanan’s wife, Vijaylakshmi, fell ill. When a doctor was consulted he suggested a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). “But Vijaylakshmi refused and opted for Ayurvedic treatment,” he says. After a while her condition worsened. When an MRI was eventually done she had cancer in the ovary, intestines and the uterus. It was too late. Soon, she died, leaving behind two married daughters, who live in Dubai and Sharjah.
In his large house at Vennala, where he stays with a grandson who is studying in Class 11 in Choice school, Janardhanan is supervising the cutting of the grass on his lawn. “I believe in God,” he says “I believe our destiny is already decided when we are born. What we plan never works out. We have no option but to follow our fate.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)