I will never be able to surpass Rajini sir: Raghava Lawrence
Raghava Lawrence, along with his Chandramukhi 2 co-star Kangana Ranaut, speaks about the respective challenges they faced, getting into their roles, and their thoughts on politics.
It was the year 2005. Actor-choreographer-filmmaker Raghava Lawrence went to the theatres to watch the FDFS of the P Vasu directorial, Chandramukhi. While he was hooting and clapping for his Thalaivar’s Vettaiyan, little did he know that he would end up playing the same character 18 years later, in its sequel. “Chandramukhi did not feel like a Rajinikanth film until Thalaivar’s entry as Vettaiyan. I have celebrated Rajini sir’s Vettaiyan. And here I am playing Vettaiyan myself,” says an elated Raghava adding that life comes a full circle.
Having learnt cinema by watching his mentor, Rajinikanth, Raghava faced a huge challenge in Chandramukhi 2. “I had to unlearn Rajini sir’s body language. Every time I wore the Vettaiyan costume, I would automatically embody Thalaivar,” says Raghava, adding, “Every time my performance exuded Rajini sir’s mannerisms, Vasu sir would remind me that I needed to just be Raghava Lawrence.”
There’s no doubt that Raghava will be compared to Rajinikanth when the film finally hits theatres this Thursday. “I am aware that I will never be able to beat Rajini sir at his art,” says the actor whose only goal was to do his best with the given character. However, Raghava is not the only actor who will face comparisons.
Kangana Ranaut, who plays the titular character in Chandramukhi 2, is stepping into the anklets of Jyotika from the first instalment. In fact, Kangana too agrees that she was initially sceptical about taking the role because of the parallels that would be drawn. “While I had my reservations, Vasu sir told me that I play the original Chandramukhi who possesses Jyotika’s Ganga in the 2005 film,” says Kangana revealing that the film will showcase Chandramukhi’s origin story.
But has she ever met Jyotika in real life? “I’m a huge fan of Jyotika and it’s an honour to be a part of a franchise she belongs to. I have not met Jyotika yet, but I saw an interview in which she named me as her favourite female actor. This happened even before I signed up for Chandramukhi 2,” says Kangana, also revealing her wish to set up a meeting with Jyotika soon.
Having grown up idolising Rajinikanth, and even turning a dancer thanks to the help of the Superstar, it wouldn’t have been easy for Raghava to play a character immortalised by his mentor. “I first spoke to Rajini sir when I was offered the role. He wished me the best and gave me all his blessings. A day before the film went on floors, I went to his house and sought his blessings in person,” says Raghava. However, he needed to speak to the veteran once again on a very important day. “When I first got into Vettaiyan’s costume, I was very nervous and decided to call the expert himself. His advice to me was to ensure I didn’t go overboard or undersell it,” the actor says sharing that those were more than just words of encouragement.
Raghava not only bears the weight of Rajinikanth’s performance but also that of Vishnuvardhan and Venkatesh from Aaptharakshaka and Nagavalli, respectively. The actor says, “I am aware that a lot of pressure and expectations are placed on Chandramukhi 2 now, because of the original’s reputation. I’m used to mouthing lines like ‘Hey Chandramukhi, va inge.’ But I had to get myself used to saying lines like, ‘Un viralgal en kaiyil pattu, kaamam kalandhu...’ That was tough, and I had to practise a lot.” No matter what, Raghava is confident that the second half of the film will live up to all the expectations.
As a predominantly Hindi cinema heroine, doing a period role in a commercial Tamil film would have been quite a contrasting experience for Kangana. The actor says she is at a point in her career where she wants to try something different. “I’ve not been a commercial heroine and I usually stick to women-centric films on our fights and struggles. Chandramukhi was a welcome change, as it was wonderful to do a film with songs and dance sequences,” she reveals.
While she is known for her performances, Kangana is also famed for her political slant and views. The actor, who is currently working on her directorial, Emergency, reveals that she has no aspirations to enter politics anytime soon. “I speak a certain way because I am an aware and responsible person. People think I speak this way because I want to be a politician. But that’s not true and I have no ulterior motive. I’ve been working from the age of 16, and starting another career from scratch seems like such a tiring job. But I’m not entirely ruling it out either,” Kangana explains.
Well, Raghava is not fully estranged from politics either, as he is always making headlines for his social welfare deeds. When asked if he desires to join politics, he asks, “What is the purpose of politics? To think and indulge in activities that act as welfare measures for the common man, right? Well, I am already doing that, so, what’s the need for politics?” He signs off by saying, “Politicians take from the common man and give back to them. I try to do good for them with my own money, so, that’s a difference.”