It was in the year 2012, I clearly remember watching English Vinglish: a Sredevi starrer directed by Gauri Shinde. I would have watched this movie at least 5 times since then. First time for its story, second time for Sredevi and rest of the times: for the character ‘Ramamurthy’. The role of the software engineer in the movie was played by a man with a serious disorder, a man with MPD (Multiple Passions Disorder): well if not treated the disease can carve deep impression in creative minds and ignite spark of happiness in all. Our protagonist is none other than Bangalore based ‘what-not’: Rajeev Ravindranathan.
Living in the same city, I didn’t want to miss out on interviewing him. He is always my favorite actor on-screen and on- stage. The way he enacts a south Indian in the movie ‘English Vinglish’: who can speak poor English is not what caught my attention. Its the way he jots down everything and anything (a typical south Indian classroom behavior), trying to be a know-it-all- better student, nodding to everything others says and being a person who misses his idlies & mother more than anything else in the world, amazed me. I am sure he would have watched and learned the nuances of classroom behavior by a South Indian. I have met people like Ramamurthy in my life . Who always want to show the peoples that he is ‘Mr. Ramamurthy’ (* in the context of a dialogue from the movie). I am intrigued by his acting skills and I am sure my readers would love to know more about him. So, here is the interesting interview of Rajeev Ravindranathan, one of the rarest cases of MPD reported in Bangalore. Read On…..
Everybody knows Rajeev Ravindranathan as an actor, but how is your normal day like?
Let me correct you there. The accurate statement is ‘Rajeev Ravindranathan acts as well’. I have MPD, Multiple Passions Disorder. I derive creative satisfaction from a sum of many parts and not the whole.
A regular is very much a regular day. It starts around 6.35am (that’s the time I set my alarm for). Mornings are usually about pushing my girls to get to school on time. I have yoga sessions at home after that and then spend at least 15 minutes on average in my garden. I love composting and growing fruits and vegetables. I’m out of home by 10. I run an advertising agency and a film-making company – together these two firms, our brands, projects and clients throw me a steady stream of mental and physical challenges through the day. A new addition to the routine is a 25 minute session at the end of the day where everyone in the office gets together and meditates. It’s a wonderful end to the day (when we actually get down to doing it.
I like having dinner with my family and end every day with a movie or a show on Netflix without which my day feels hopelessly incomplete.That’s pretty much a normal day. Aberrations include rehearsals, auditions, voice recordings and of course firefighting at work.
Where did it all start, the passion for acting?
I’d have to say, with my Dad. He isn’t a trained or professional actor though. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and festivals were a big deal for the sparse Indian community. So we’d all get together, mallus and gujjus and sindhis and tamilians, hindus and muslims and christians and atheists, and celebrate the daylights out of every festival. This usually meant gathering in a giant auditorium and performing music, dances and skits followed of course by copious amounts of food and drink. I’ve grown up watching my Dad and his close friends (my extended family) on stage and I loved the sound of audiences applauding and laughing and heckling.
I’ve been on stage since every year of school and college, every year after – acting, singing, dancing, making an ass of myself and loving every moment of it.
You are a multiple interests person, what is your new found hobby?
I’m working with Centerstage, Bangalore in their live comedy show called The Improv. It’s the most frightening thing I’ve put myself through. Improvised Comedy’s structure is the perfect opposite of everything I’ve learnt as an actor. Being in the moment when that moment doesn’t last for more than a few seconds, trusting your co-actor blindly to fill in the vacuums that will inevitably be formed on stage and somehow entertaining an audience that’s waiting to see what comes next – it’s all heady excitement and gut-melting fear at the same time. I just made my debut a couple of days ago and after a long time, I’m enjoying that virginal thrill of doing something for the first time. I’m not yet good at it but I’m learning, the team’s been a great support. And for someone like me who likes to be in control of a creative process, it’s cathartic to be in an environment where I’m all at sea.
I also got myself a Djembe recently after falling in love with it at a workshop. The big plan is for my kids and I to jam for our family some time. The older one attends keys and voice classes. The younger one chose drumming. So let’s see how that goes!
Acting in 3 idiots, English Vinglish and Waiting; which is your favorite character and why?
Tough question. I love the character in Waiting a lot. He’s a bit of a fictional chap, a person who’s good for other reason than to be good. English Vinglish was a real guy with real insecurities. Frankly, both were rich characters that could have been brought to life by any actor because they were written so well. 3 Idiots’ ragging senior was me being what I was in school. Not a character I liked but one that I enjoyed playing. I mean I got to rag AK, Maddy and Sharman. As for the performances, I don’t like any of them. I feel there’s a lot more I could have done in each performance which includes editing certain aspects of how I played them. But as an actor, it’s pompous of me to judge my own performances. The directors of all these films knew what they wanted and curated a performance out of me that they were happy with. So, I guess I should be too. Thing is, I’m not!
Tell us more about your advertisement firm and if you are to advertise your acting skills, what will be the tag line?
The agency is called People and believes in building relationships between brands and people. The film-making company is called Fullmeals, meaning we’ll put out the full thali of film solutions for your brand. They’re both heavily influenced by my love for acting and entertaining and I try to bring that philosophy to advertising as well.
My twitter description sums me up nicely I think. Rajeev Ravindranathan: Entertainer, Foodie, Nutcase.
What do you enjoy the best, theater or acting in films?
Film is a collection of several non-sequential moments. It takes several months sometimes, to construct these moments. For an actor, especially an infrequent one like me, that can be a frustrating challenge. Keeping one’s energies and character constant in spite of everything going on in your life over is difficult. The skill sets involved in that sense are very different from theatre.
Theatre is a stream of consciousness. There is no pause button. And it’s only over when it’s over. And that’s why I enjoy it so much. There are no second chances. Time is this unstoppable entity that you’re riding with and you can’t get off until the audience applauds, or boos, you.
What are your upcoming projects?
Friends and people I respect are busy writing their next films. So I’ve got my fingers crossed. It’s difficult to land work in films from here in Bangalore. Out of sight really is out of mind for an actor. I audition for ads and short films but I haven’t shot anything for a while which is fine. I’m working with my team from Fullmeals on branded video content for a few brands. I’ve been directing ads for a while now so this is one of the upsides of having your finger in so many pies. The downside is your fingers are always dirty. There’s no break. A good day in People can easily be balanced out by a challenge at Fullmeals. The high-fives at the end of a successful day of filming an ad are compromised by news of a lost part in a movie. I’m not complaining. But it is a weird combination of exhilaration and disappointment. It keeps me pragmatic and grounded. Pomposity has no room in my scheme of things.
In most of your movies, you portray stereotypical south Indian character; are you really in love with the south! And are you a typical filter coffee person?
Dear readers look what I found,
an extra dose of Mr. Ramamurthy..
I’m a South Indian. So I don’t know what it means to be anything else! I’m a Malayali born in Bangalore. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria (huge Indian community) and I’ve been living in Bangalore since 1991.
To break it down, I’ve played a Tamilian in English Vinglish and a Malayali in Waiting – the accents and mannerisms are different. But the distinctions are not as obvious as between a Delhiite and a chap from Kochi for instance. But it’s not the accents but the characters’ personalities – shy, reserved, introverted – that tends to give me the image of being stereotyped.
By the way, in 3 Idiots and Shamitabh, my characters could have been from anywhere in the country.