It’s been seven years since Raghuvaran’s untimely death. That haunting, gravelly voice (or hoarse growls, if you would) might still be a mimic’s favourite, but his characters – black, white, and several shades of grey – remain largely inimitable.
There was something fascinating about Raghuvaran’s slow villainy. His voice wouldn’t rise beyond a timbre, but those low growls would ring powerfully evil than most loud threats. While even Nasser – another well-adored rogue who is also known for his ‘calm cunning’ – would be a little brash sometimes, Raghuvaran never succumbed to the lure of noise. No bloodshot eyes, nothing remotely portly about his physique. Instead, he looked quite like a genius (but not so well groomed) college professor – with owlish spectacles and wavy hair.
He also challenged the conventional acting styles, and never let himself be typecast – playing characters ranging from a romantic hero to a drug addict.
Having begun his 27-year-old career playing a rebellious engineering student in Ezhavathu Manithan in 1982, Raghuvaran went on to brilliantly portray an alcoholic in Oru Manithanin Kathai, a television soap based on Tamil writer Sivashankari’s novel.
A role, which is often described as hugely biographical.
A few memorable performances:
In this Mani Ratnam film that was released in 1990, Raghuvaran played the anguished dad of Anjali, a mentally-disabled little girl. He was a surprise choice for he had been doing lots of villain roles during that period. Raghuvaran’s character – Shekar – is someone who hides a bitter truth from his family. There is an emotionally-charged scene in which he slaps his son for making fun of a mentally-challenged man in the neighborhood. A brilliant moment where he articulates the repressed angst of a father with an autistic little girl.
2. Yaaredi Ne Mohini
This 2008 Dhanush-Nayantara starrer had Raghuvaran playing the hero’s dad. This was his final film where Raghuvaran played the affectionate-yet-aloof dad. The scene in the movie where he meets Nayantara, requesting her to marry his son, deserves special mention. It is quite poignant, thanks to Raghuvaran’s fine performance as the fragile, loving old man.
3. Daivathinte Vikruthikal
This 1992 Malayalam feature film, directed by Lenin Rajendran, had Raghuvaran in the lead role. He played Alphonso, an Anglo-Indian magician living on the banks of river Mayyazhi in Kerala. Raghuvaran’s striking portrayal of the financially and emotionally devastated man brought him critical acclaim and that year, he was considered for the National Award for best actor.
In this 1999 political thriller directed by Shankar, Raghuvaran played the villainous chief minister who plots against the hero (Arjun). Typical, typical Raghuvaran, the white mane notwithstanding.
Raghuvaran was pitted against Superstar Rajinikanth in this blockbuster film. His character Mark Anthony, a devilish underworld don, was perfect foil for Rajinikanth’s ‘man of the masses’ Baasha.
6. Lal Badshah
In this Hindi remake of Baasha – which had Amitabh Bachchan in the lead – Raghuvaran reprised his villain role. Although the film bombed at the box office, Raghuvaran’s performance was widely praised.
7. Puriyatha Puthir
In this 199o thriller film directed by KS Ravikumar, Raghuvaran played a sadistic psycho who tortures his wife and rapes other women. The scene where he murderously searches for his wife (Rekha), who is hiding from him, is spine-chilling. His character – both a victim and a perpetrator – was well-layered. Although Rahman is the hero in the film, it’s Raghuvaran who steals the show.
8. Love Today
In this 1997 romantic film, Raghuvaran was seen in an entirely different avatar. He played the affectionate, supportive father to Vijay. It was quite refreshing (at that time) to see him play a genial dad.
He repeated this in 2002, when he played the amiable brother-in-law to Madhavan and a loving husband to Anu Haassan in Run.
Not just that, he even managed to evoke some genuine laughter.