Actor Raghuvaran's death last week brought back memories of a conversation at Chennai's Besant Nagar Beach. A friend was reminiscing about a booze party with his college gang at night a few years ago. A lone stranger passing by starts chatting with them and says in a reflective mood, "don't indulge yourself too much or you will end up in the same mess like me."
That stranger was Raghuvaran, who, when the fancy took him, effortlessly breathed life into ill-etched roles. The tall figure was mostly confined to villain roles, but stood out especially in Ram Gopal Varma's Shiva as the counterpoint to Nagarjuna. Come the 1990s, overcoming Raghuvaran's compelling presence in Baasha propelled Rajinikanth to superstardom. And then there was the corrupt Chief Minister in Mudhalvan.
It was not just snarls though. Raghuvaran did get the occasional chance for tears, memorably as the hapless father in Anjali. Also sticking to my mind is the oh-so-brief but suave turn as Tabu's understanding boss in Kandukondein Kandukondein.
Pity he didn't do too many Malayalam films. But a couple of them stand out. Sangeeth Sivan's watchable action thriller Vyooham (1990) featured Raghuvaran in the lead as a conscientious customs official. And in 1992, he looked and acted the part of Father Alphonse, a character who drowns himself in drink after the French left Mahe, in Lenin Rajendran's Daivathinte Vikruthikal based on M Mukundan's book. A performance which got him his share of awards.