Veteran Malayalam actor Captain Raju passed away at the age of 68 on Monday morning at his residence in Kochi, Kerala. He had been under medical care since he suffered a stroke during a flight to America a few months ago.
The actor, whose real name is Raju Daniel, entered the film industry in the 1980s after serving in the military for five years. He made his screen debut with Raktham (1981) and never looked back. With more than 500 films to his credit, Raju had appeared in both serious and comedy roles. His towering frame with broad shoulders made him a popular pick for villainous roles. But, his shining moment as an actor was his performance as a flamboyant ‘professional killer’ Pavanayi in Nadodikkattu (1987).
His character Pavanayi was styled in order to parody a stereotypical image of a ‘gangster’, with a knee-length overcoat, fedora hat, dark glass, a stiff posture, and a poker face. Tasked with the responsibility of murdering Ramdas (Mohanlal) and Vijayan (Sreenivasan), who have been mistaken for CBI officers by the criminal gang led by Ananthan Nambiar (Thilakan), Pavanayi employs all the fancy ‘lethal weapons’ in his work suitcase and fails terribly. Finally, he lures his targets to an isolated spot to stab them to death with ‘Malappuram kaththi’ (Malappuram knife), only to fall to his own death.
Raju’s screentime in Nadodikkattu as Pavanayi doesn’t exceed more than eight minutes but it became a landmark in his acting career. It was in fact considered his first break as an actor. It even inspired a spin-off titled Mr. Pavanayi 99.99, which was directed by Raju, besides playing the lead role. He again reprised his popular character for a cameo in his last film Masterpiece (2017), which had superstar Mammootty in the lead.
“An honest gentleman, he used to be emotionally attached to his work. I got the opportunity to work on his last movie Masterpiece. Although he was under treatment, he was willing to take up work,” Mammootty told Manorama News.
Raju has shared screen space with Mammootty in several movies including Oru CBI Diary Kurippu (1988), Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989) and Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (2009) to name a few.
“I can still hear Rajuchayan’s voice in my ears. He only knew how to love everyone. The ‘Captain’ of Malayalam film industry will now live on in our memories. My condolences,” wrote Mohanlal on his Facebook page.
Mohanlal has worked with Raju in titles such as Nimishangal (1986), Hello My Dear Wrong Number (1986) and Guru (1997) among others.
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“RIP Captain Raju sir. Will always remember Pavanayi fondly. Thank you for the memories. We will miss you! (sic),” said Nivin Pauly on his Facebook page.
“Rest in peace Raju achaya. And thank you for the memories. It’s a privilege to have known you and worked with you!,” posted Prithviraj Sukumaran.
“RIP Malayalam Film Actor #CaptainRaju I will never forget the time that I spend with you, enormous number of films you lived as real life character etched in our memory..(sic),” tweeted Oscar-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty
Condolence messages have been pouring in from the Malayalam film industry since morning.
Not just in Malayalam, Captain Raju has acted in a slew of films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and even in English. He played Inspector Ramiji Raj in Cotton Mary (1999), which was directed by Indian-born filmmaker Ismail Merchant.
Rahu is survived by his wife Prameela and son Ravi Raju.