Jacob Varghese went to see a friend of his in Mumbai. There, he met a strapping young man, Raju, who had come to Mumbai to join the Army. They spoke for a while.
A few months later, by coincidence, when Jacob was returning from Kerala to Mumbai, Raju was also on the same train. They began talking and this time they became friendly. When Jacob was thinking about getting a husband for his daughter, Premila, he approached Raju. Raju met and liked Premila. It was the same for the young girl. “He was tall, slim, and handsome,” says Premila. “He spoke well. I found him attractive.”
And that was how Premila ended up marrying Captain Raju, one of the stars of the Malayalam film industry, on November 26, 1976, at the Mar Thoma church at Santacruz, Mumbai. “I never imagined that my husband would be a star one day,” says Premila. The actor had entered the film industry at the age of 31.
Today, the couple lives in a first floor apartment at Padivattom, Kochi. And both husband and wife are friendly and hospitable. So there is halwa, a Gujarati dish, chips, pickle, and cups of coffee on the table. “First eat and then you can do the interview,” says Captain Raju.
Later, Premila sits outside, in the large spacious balcony, with overhanging trees, which has several chirping sparrows on its branches. Thanks to a cloudy sky, there is a nice breeze blowing. And Premila talks in a quiet voice about her husband’s plus points. “Raju has always given me the freedom to go anywhere,” she says. “He is an understanding person and straight-forward also. If I have done something wrong, he will tell me, and will not keep it within himself.”
One example is if the food is not made properly, Captain Raju will immediately tell her. Since the actor’s weakness is good food, Premila ensures that she makes all sorts of dishes, including Gujarati and Maharashtrian food, apart from Kerala dishes, which he likes the best. “The Kerala fish curry is his favourite,” says Premila.
About his negative traits, Premila says that Captain Raju is short-tempered. “He also wants me, as his wife, to respect him,” says Premila. “In Kerala, women are supposed to be submissive. I did not find this a problem. So, I got adjusted to it.”
Interestingly, even though Captain Raju has acted in more than 500 films — Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam — Premila has not seen all of them. In fact, the other night she saw the Malayalam film, Kabuliwala (1993), for the first time, on TV, sitting besides her husband. “I gave a running commentary,” says Premila. “Raju was dancing well, but the facial expressions looked a bit funny.”
But there was nothing funny about what took place on October 12, 2003. Captain Raju was travelling in a car, at night, with a driver and an assistant, from Thiruvananthapuram to Salem to take part in the shooting of Vinayan’s War and Love’. Just after Thrissur, the car hit a culvert, went over the wall, and fell 40 feet. “There was no tree in sight to stop the vehicle,” says Premila. “The car had another fall of 100 feet.”
Raju had multiple fractures on his legs, damaged his ribs, and had a head injury. “It was a most painful moment,” says Premila. “I had to pick up courage and stay strong for our son.” Incidentally, their only child, Raviraj, works in Bangalore. A few months later, Captain Raju suffered a stroke which numbed the left side of his body. It was only after months of physiotherapy that he recovered, to Premila’s great relief. “I felt happy that God looked after my husband,” she says.
Premila is also happy about the public response to Captain Raju. “The moment people see him, they come up and say, ‘We are so glad to meet you,’” says Premila. “Initially, he used to play negative roles, so the fans were hesitant to come and talk to him, thinking that he might be a tough person. But once they start talking to him, most of them are impressed.”
And, inevitably, the fans will ask to take photos with the 6’ 2” actor. In between, they will give Premila a glance. “That is when Raju says, ‘She is my only wife,’” says Premila, with a smile. “Most people have never seen me.”
Interestingly, the wives of most of the stars of Mollywood rarely go for public functions. “They are always in the background,” says Premila. “This is in contrast to Chennai where all the wives mingle with each other and are seen in public.”
Meanwhile, when asked for tips for a happy marriage, Premila says, “If a woman is working, both spouses should adjust and help each other. A girl cannot say, ‘I am more powerful’.
In Indian culture, women are supposed to be submissive. Both spouses should sacrifice for the happiness of the marriage. If a husband and wife split up, the impact is felt on the children. So, spouses should always think about the children’s happiness and make the necessary adjustments.”