Malayalam has lost its Captain. While departing, what Captain Raju leaves behind are memories in mixed emotions – the laugh riot by Pavanayi (Nadodikkaattu) and Karunan Chanthakkavala (CID Moosa), the chilling cold-bloodedness of Nicholas (August 1) and Pathrose (Adwaitham), the commanding power of the tough master Aringodar (Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha), the revengeful bloodshot glance of Madassery Thampi (Puthukkottayile Puthumanavalan)… the list goes on.
For someone who started off his acting career by playing a criminal and a rapist, switching to a comic or adorable role and making the audience fall in love with the portrayal doesn’t happen that easily. But Captain Raju had the Midas touch. As in his personal life, it took only seconds for the talented actor to woo film buffs. The hatred towards the villainous Raju just vanished and in no time, the audience accepted Captain’s new roles and looks. That’s why even years later, memes and trolls adore those memorable characters. Remembering Captain Raju on and off screen, his colleagues pay tribute to their great friend and affectionate brother.
‘He was a child at heart’
More than an actor, he was a good person. He was one of those rare actors who remembered his roots with gratitude. In my film career, I have rarely come across such persons. He had acted in Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha, Pazhassi Raja and Amrutham Gamaya, and would recall those times whenever we met. Though he looked big, he was a child at heart. He wanted to break the mould of the villain. He even told me to ‘release’ him from that image. When the role of Aringodar (Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha) came, I felt he would be apt for it because appearance is an important factor in historical movies. He had good screen presence, an inevitable quality for an actor. There were discussions on whether an actor who had been doing negative characters would suit a positive role like Aringodar. But I was confident about him. He too was very happy about the role.
It was not a momentary happiness or gratitude. He kept it throughout his life. Each time we met, he would rewind those happy moments on the set and how I appreciated him after shots. He valued all relationships. When my daughter’s wedding happened at Guruvayoor, he came though he was sick. That was him. When he was hospitalised after he fell ill during a flight, I was the one who informed Idavela Babu. I talked to Captain after that. I was thinking of meeting him after he leaves the hospital, but, he left before that.
- Hariharan, director
Was just watching Avanazhi the other day. The captain had his own style and charisma and gave us some of the most memorable characters in Malayalam. He was a wonderful human being. Warm and kind. RIP sir. Love and prayers to the family.
– Dulquer Salmaan
He was a villain in most of his movies, but a lovable person in real life. Those who knew him well couldn't even find a shadow of his characters in him. We worked together only in Daya. I still remember the travel to Rajasthan and how he cared for me there. Later, we used to talk over the phone occassionally. I saw an elder brother in him all those times. A salute to the captain of Malayalam cinema!
– Manju Warrier
A down-to-earth person
My memories about him can be traced back to the location of Takshasila (1995). It was a 40-day schedule at Kullu Manali. He would sing Hindi songs during shooting breaks. Another fond memory is what his teachers told me about him during one of the jubilee celebrations of Catholicate College, Pathanamthitta, where he studied. He was in charge of the celebrations and brought cine actors to the college. I remember his teachers recalling him as a good student. He was a down-to-earth person and used to share his military life experience with me. In cinema, during the initial years, he was a little upset about doing negative characters as villains were not well-received by the audience.
At least, a section of the audience believed that actors who do villainous characters are like that in real life too. At one point, he even decided to stop doing negative roles. But he did a negative role in Stalin Sivadas (1999) after that. When I asked him about that, he said he did that role as people’s attitude towards villains had changed.
He loved doing comedy. He used to say that the character Pavanayi (Nadodikkattu) helped him prove that he could handle humour. He was fortunate enough to work with big names such as Hariharan, M.T. (Vasudevan Nair) and I.V. Sasi. Also, he could act in other languages. Just like me, he too loved talking. If we were going together to the set, we would be talking in the car till we reach the location. During his last years, he was worried about his health issues. His health deteriorated after the accident at Palakkad. Though he had difficulty moving after the accident, he still wanted to do movies.
‘His talent wasn’t exploited well’
I cannot recollect when I met him first. Though his on-screen appearances were cruel, he was a very good person off-screen. We have worked together in many movies. This photo (he shared on Facebook) was taken on the set of Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha. We were shooting the song Chandanalepa sugandham… on the steps of the pond of a mana (house). He was not shooting that day and was sitting there chatting. Then, we took this photograph.
He was a dedicated actor. For the role of Aringodar, he got trained in kalari as the martial art couldn’t be done like regular fight sequences. And, he would transform into the character once he wears the costume. He used to say that Aringodar changed his life and brought out his talent. That proved right when the movie reached theatres. It was widely appreciated. The character is a milestone in his career. He was a good actor whose talent was not exploited well by the industry. Above all, he was a good friend.
Ramachandra Babu, cinematographer
‘A rare breed of actor’
To anyone who has known him, Captain Raju was like an elder brother; such was his affection and care. His calls always began with the love-filled words Rajuchayana mone…on hearing which, our bad mood just vanishes and is replaced by happiness. Everyone knows him through the characters he portrayed, but outside the screen, he was a gem of a human being. I have never met such a guy in the film industry. Unlike many experienced actors, he was very down-to-earth and had no issues approaching directors asking for roles. He was a rare breed and I am sure our films hadn’t explored him much.
Having started off portraying the antagonist, he was fed up with playing the baddie. Once, he conveyed that to me that he wished to play a positive role. In my next film Kalyana Sougandhikam, I offered him the role of Neelakantan Vaidyar, a character that was a game-changer for him. After that, I have ensured he had a character role in my movies. A great humanitarian and a close family friend, Raju’s demise will leave a huge void in my personal life.
I’ve lost a friend
I woke up to this sad news. We met hardly a month ago at the wedding of Madhu sir’s grandchild. He was very weak and had difficulty in walking, but even then, his charming personality evoked respect among the crowd there. It was always like that. Whenever Captain Raju walked into a room, people stood up in reverence; his presence had a magnetic aura. I have been fortunate enough to have shared screen space with him in films like Puthukkottayile Puthumanav alan and My Dear Karadi. There haven’t been too many films, but he had a considerable role in guiding me through the world of films. He was friendly with everyone on the sets, from the newbie acto r to the light boy. He was very loving, caring and encouraged everyone to prove themselves in life.
With his great experience in the field, he always had plenty of advice and words of caution to offer to newcomers and budding artistes. He had a straightforward attitude and nursed no ill-feelings towards anyone. A skilled orator, he could strike a chord while addressing the people seated before him. Even a person who met him just once would have lovely mo ments to share. He wa s an actor par excellence who could pull off any role with conviction. Can anyone else recreate on screen the charisma of Aringodar or the comic timing of in Karunan Chanthakkavala?
Another thing I admired about him was his disciplined lifestyle, something he might have acquired from his Army days. He was always disciplined and expected the same from his colleagues. There has never been an instance of Captain Raju coming late to the sets. For me, the loss is of a great friend.
Salutes to dear friend
Mohanlal: Lalu, it's Rajuchayan, I can still hear his voice in my ears. Rajuchayan, who only knew how to love people, will now live in our memories.
Mammootty: Raju shared a special bond with everyone. He was an honest gentleman who was so much attached to his works
Prithviraj: RIP Raju achaya. Thank you for the memories. It's a privilege to have known you and worked with you!
Asif Ali: Goodbye to one of the finest and irreplaceable actor Raju Chettan... The industry will miss a good human being...
Compiled by Vandana Mohandas and Elizabeth Thomas...