ALAPPUZHA: Rajan P Dev has left the world, perhaps with the feeling that he did not get what he deserved.
It’s fact that he had not been given a chance to play ‘Kochuvava’ in the movie ‘Kattukuthira’, the character that he had immortalised in the play of the same name. No doubt, it had frustrated him, though he was scaling new heights in his career by acting in hundreds of films in several languages.
When director P G Viswambaran made ‘Kattukuthira’, Thilakan bagged the role of the main protagonist ahead of Dev. “It was the greatest disappointment in his life, which Rajettan shared with me on many occasions”, said Benny P. Nayarambalam, who was introduced into the world of theatre by Dev himself.
Theatre was something that Rajan P Dev and his sister Rani were associated with, since their very childhood. For their parents S J Dev and Kuttiamma were running Raja Rani Theatres.
Inspired by his father, Dev started to write, direct and act in plays from childhood. He staged many amateur plays during his school days at Holy Family High School for Boys in Cherthala.
Fired by the aspiration to become a renowned actor, Dev approached the legendary N N Pillai. That Pillai was his father’s friend made things easier for him.
Pillai gave him the chance to act small roles in his plays. Honing his skills at Pillai’s troupe, a confident Dev started his own troupe ‘Malayalam Nadakavedi’ and penned its first drama ‘Radham’. It was a disaster, to say the least, and it threw him to serious financial problems.
Then, he got an offer in 1983 that changed the course of his life. S L Puram Sadhanadhan, who inaugurated Dev’s drama troupe, invited him to act in his drama ‘Kattukuthira’ for the troupe ‘Suryasoma’.
The rest is history.
‘Kochuvava’ proved to be a milestone in Rajan P. Dev’s drama career.
It was staged on over 3000 stages in a short span across the state. The fruitful association with S L Puram lasted for around three years.
After leaving ‘Suryasoma’, Dev did make-up for Cochin Harishree Theatre. During the period, he received his first state award for best actor for portraying a mentally challenged character in the drama ‘Mullapookal Chuvannappol’.
Fuelled by his success on the stage, Dev started a drama troupe ‘Jubilee Theatres’ in Cherthala in 1987. ‘Adithayamangalam Aryavaidyasala’ was the first play to be staged by the troupe.
A year later Dev introduced Benny P Nayarambalam to the world of drama. He directed Benny’s play ‘Athyunnathangalil Daivathinusthuthi’ for which he bagged his second state award for best actor.
“Rajeettan directed 16 of my plays including ‘Arabikadalum Adbhuthavilakkum’, which later became ‘Chantupottu’. It was he who gave me a good opening, and we kept on working together both in films and dramas”, Benny told Express.
Though Rajan P Dev had a tight schedule in the tinsel world, he never forgot theatre, his roots. He sold his house ‘Jeruselam’ in Kurupankulangara and shifted to Karukutti in Angamaly in 2008.
Dev was engaged in giving a new lease of life to his ‘Jubilee Theatre’ this year. The troupe staged the drama ‘Amminipuram gramapanchayat’ in July 12 this year.
He brought audience back to theatre
KOCHI: “Rajan P Dev bid adieu to film wrold, theatre, which was his passion, and to the world itself. In the eighties, mainstream theatre in Kerala was in a confusion. People were talking about the end of this powerful art form, which once decided the fate, life and times of Keralites. Then plays were not having the same pungency as it used to have in the sixties, leave alone the red fifties. The themes and the structure of plays were not appealing anymore, the performance style had become stale and naturally the audience turned away from theatre.
Everyone was desperate and was looking for a new style, form and vigour”, said director Chandradasan.
“It was at this juncture that Rajan P Dev made his entry as ‘Kochuvava’ in ‘Kattukuthira’, written and directed by S L Puram Sadanandan for Suryasoma Theaters. The play dared to shift to a different mode of narration from the run-of-the-mill plots, developments, and characters. The theme of the play remained progressive and proletarian, but devoid of a hero who was a young idealistic, straightforward, chocolate face. The hero was substituted by an anti-hero, with a darker history, with vengeance crystallised inside as venom and who did not care about the set moralities and codes of conduct of the establishment.
The birth of this kind of a protagonist needed a new actor with a totally different approach to acting and characterisation,” he said.
Dev was confidence personified, says T M Abraham
Kochi: “As a theatre personality, Rajan P. Dev was confidence personified.
I would say that the ‘rude face of a villain’ was Dev’s plus point as well as the minus point. At the age of 20, he was successful in portraying the character of 60-year-old ‘Kochuvava’ in ‘Kattukuthira’, a play by Suryasoma Theatres. However, when the play was remade into a film he could not portray the character of ‘Kochuvava’, which I would say was a great loss to his career,” said playwright and director T M Abraham.
“Later, Dev moved to ‘Harisree Theatres’ to act in the play ‘Mullappoovukal Chuvannappol’(when the jasmine flowers turned red). The mentally retarded character in that play won him the State award for best actor. During his 6-7 years of association with theatre, he had set up his own troupe. However, he was not interested in experimental theatre. He was able to establish himself as an actor both in theatre and films very fast. When he moved on to films, I thought he would come back to theatre,” Abraham said.