In the early 1980s, Jayaram was the star at the Sree Sankara College in Kalady. He was good at mimicry, mono act, and had won the best actor and best comedian awards at inter-collegiate festivals. But his throne was shaky.
For an upcoming college festival, the top comics of the Kala Bhavan had been invited to perform. “I realised that if they came, they would completely overshadow me,” says Jayaram. So he went to Kochi and watched one of their shows intently. On the evening of the day they were supposed to perform, Jayaram played a masterstroke. He enacted their entire programme in the morning itself.
So, when the troupe arrived, the students informed them that they had already seen the show. “They became extremely angry with me,” says Jayaram. “They returned to Kala Bhavan and told the director, Fr. Abel, that a criminal case should be initiated against me.”
But the legendary Fr. Abel had a different reaction. “Fr. Abel said that if a person, who saw our programme once, could enact it perfectly then he is a person of talent,” says Jayaram. “Instead of initiating a criminal case, we should invite him to join our troupe.”
As a result, Jayaram joined the Kala Bhavan troupe in September, 1983. He was with them for four years. “I did more than 3000 performances in Kerala, all over India and abroad,” says Jayaram.
The group would bring out videocassettes of their performances which were extremely popular and sold well.
Meanwhile, well-known director Padmarajan was searching for a new hero for his film, ‘Aparan’. His son, Anantha Padmanabhan, gave his father a video cassette and said that there was a mimicry artiste worth looking at. Immediately Padmarajan said, “Mimicry is not a good art. It is a copy of what other people do. I don't want such a person in my film.”
But Anantha finally persuaded his father to have a look. And the director liked what he saw. “Padmarajan Sir called and offered me a role,” says Jayaram. “It was a turning point in my life.” Shooting began on February 18, 1988.
Jayaram played a dual character. “The actions taken by a criminal is borne by another, who looks like him,” says Jayaram. The film was a box office hit and established Jayaram as a bright star of Mollywood. Today, Jayaram is celebrating his 25th year in the industry, having acted in more than 250 Malayalam and Tamil films.
Asked the reasons for his enduring success and popularity, Jayaram says, “Work as sincerely as possible. Give more than 100 per cent in your job. That is probably the reason why, so far, no producer or director, who has been associated with me, has ever said they will not work with me again.”
Another reason had been the extraordinary talent in Mollywood working together at the same time during the 1980s and 90s. They included Sankaradi, Tilakan, Nedumudi Venu, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Mamukoya, Innocent, Jagathy Sreekumar, Kuthiravattam Pappu and Cochin Haneefa. “They were exceptional people,” says Jayaram. “When you were pitted against them, you had to perform better. So, you improved automatically.”
And the improved Jayaram is as busy as ever. His latest film is ‘Bharya Athra Pora’ (My wife is not that good). “It is one of the best roles I have played,” he says. “Women will be able to identify with the characters.” Jayaram is also busy shooting for veteran director Joshy’s film, ‘ Kashmir ’.
So, a quarter century later, the mimicry artist has become a true original.
(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)