The loathsome Imbaraj from 'Raatchasan' is a Mallu

Tamil movie 'Raatchasan' is having a dream run in theaters across Kerala. The impressive performances by the cast have charmed the audience and the critics alike. Actor Vinod Sagar, who played the role of a perverted teacher named Imbaraj, has earned high praise. Although not the main villain, the audience has loathed Imbaraj the most. However, Vinod, who has his roots in Kerala, is happy that people hate him because he had done an amazing job onscreen. Vinod gets candid about his role in 'Raatchasan' and his passion for cinema.

Malayali roots

Though Vinod’s parents have their roots in Kollam and Ottapalam, he hasn’t been to both the places. The family has been settled in Tamil Nadu for the last 2-3 generations. His father Ananadan was an astrologer and mother Ramani was a homemaker. Both his parents are no more. Manoj Sagar is his only brother. Vinod’s wife Prajisha hails from Kozhikode and the couple have two sons, Rohit Krish and Vividh Krish. The actor says that though he can’t read Malayalam, he speaks the language very well.

The beginning

As a kid, Vinod went to a convent school which encouraged its students to regularly participate in extracurricular activities like dance, singing, theater, mimicry or skit. He says that he was always been interested in mimicry and used to watch a lot of movies as his family too liked films very much. “Like every other child, I used to imitate the voice of film stars. So my teacher made me participate in all the programmes that happened in the school. Later acting or imitating became a hobby for me. Gradually it tuned into my passion. I began my career as a theatre actor. However, my entry into the movies was as a dubbing artiste. For a while I had even worked as a Tamil RJ at the Radio Asia channel in Dubai,” recalled Vinod.

'Raatchasan' is the second movie of director Ram Kumar. Vinod revealed that the role that he played in the movie was not originally meant for him. “I had in fact asked for that role. I share a special bond with Ram Kumar which gives me the liberty to demand such a role. When I asked him to give me the part, he was silent for a while. It was only after sometime time that he partially agreed to it. I have been with him since 2011. But he wasn’t very confident to entrust me with the role. In the end, I was offered it when the actor who was supposed to essay that character couldn’t turn up,” smiled Vinod.

Vinod with director Ram Kumar

Vinod said that the director’s assistants were hesitant about his ability to handle such a significant role. “My looks were different at that time. I had grown a beard and had a roguish look. They naturally doubted whether I could pull off the character of a teacher in the movie. However, when I shaved off my beard and wore a loose shirt and spectacles, I looked perfect for the role,” noted the actor.

The makers liked Vinod’s performance in the screen test. Vinod had in fact acted in different ways and had proceeded with the style which the director thought would suit the character well. He was able to perform well in front of the camera as well and is happy that his scenes didn’t go for many takes. “When I got out of the theatre after watching the movie, I saw that people were angry at me. Some of them were even screaming at me and they looked like they would hit me. But I felt happy hearing all those. It meant that my character has moved them. To be honest, it was when I heard them scream at me that I heaved a breath of relief. The role that came to me because I asked for it, turned out well. While we were filming, I never imagined that my character would create such overwhelming reactions in the theatres. I never felt that we were filming such intense scenes. I was very cool on the sets and did my job with a calm mind. Though everyone was scared of me when they saw me on screen, the set was lively and full of fun,” explained Vinod.

Initial struggles

Vinod opened up about his struggles in the initial days as an aspiring actor. Like many, he too had roamed around studios seeking chances or opportunities to act. He says that he couldn’t take up a full time acting job as his family wasn’t financially secure. Having completed his graduation in corporate secretary, Vinod pursued a career in it to support his family. However, his passion for cinema didn’t die down even when he was doing a different job.

After getting married and having a child, Vinod once again set out to fulfill his dream in the movies. He says that though his parents didn’t seem to encourage him owing to the family’s financial constraints, they had supported and blessed him in their hearts.

Vinod said, “When they saw me upset, my parents used to say that I would get good roles in the movies. It was last year that my father passed away. Both of them were happy that I was doing at least small roles in films. Now my wife and younger brother are my greatest supporters. My wife's ornaments are all pawned in the bank to help me realise my dreams. But she doesn’t bother about all that.”

In his pursuit of opportunities to act, Vinod had taken part in many auditions. That is how filmmaker Ram Kumar spotted him. Though he didn’t land any role in the short film Mundasupatti directed by Ram Kumar, Vinod debuted as a dubbing artist through it. However, when Ram Kumar directed a feature film by the same name, Vinod was offered a role in it. He then went on to star in minor roles in movies like 'Orange Mittayi', 'Kirumi', 'Pichaikkaran' and 'Urumeen'.

Vinod is proud and overwhelmed that he got the opportunity to act in the movie 'Orange Mittayi' directed by Biju Viswanath, who is also a Keralite. The celebrated filmmaker has made movies in many languages and has won global accolades. The actor says that he was chosen after contesting against 60-70 aspiring artists, in an open audition.

“Vijay Sethupathi played the lead role in that movie. More than an amazing actor, he is a great human being. He likes a tutor to the junior artists or technicians and make them feel comfortable. He would do anything to help everyone do their jobs in an incredible way,” Vinod doesn’t hesitate to praise the Kollywood superstar.

Rave reviews from Kerala

“After the preview show, everyone told that my role would be noted and appreciated. I had thought that it would be a hit only in Tamil Nadu. However, we are receiving an overwhelming response from Kerala after the movie released there. We never expected that our movie would be well received in Kerala. Imbaraj could be found anywhere. Though I hadn’t personally met anyone like him, he may be lurking in a bus or train. He may be troubling a child in your neighbourhood. So it is important to be vigilant. Observe everyone with compassion and kindness. Then you will be able to recognise whether they are preyed upon by someone like Imbaraj. If I ever get my hands on someone like him, I too would thrash him like the audience in the theater have said,” Vinod explained.

Keen to act in Malayalam

Vinod on the sets of Raatchasan

Though he had not been to Kerala much or doesn’t know how to read Malayalam, the actor in Vinod surely got inspired by Malayalam movies. He reveals that his favourite actors are Mohanlal in Malayalam and Kamal Haasan in Tamil. He still wouldn’t miss a movie of Mammootty and Mohanlal. 'Sadayam', 'Kireedam', 'Chenkol' and 'Thalavattom' are some of his favourite films starring Mohanlal.

Vinod also admires the unique acting style of late actress Philomina as well.

“There are a handful of talented character artists who perform brilliantly. I really admire all of them. In many of my auditions, I have said dialogues from Malayalam movies. The only difference is that I would translate it into Tamil. If it is an emotional scene, then I would say the dialogue delivered by Jayaram to Kaviyoor Ponnamma in the movie 'Uthaman'. Similarly, if it is a mass dialogue, I would then perform the scene from 'Black' in which Mammootty says some thrilling lines to the character played by Babu Antony. It is my great wish to act in a Malayalam movie. If someone offers me a role in Malayalam, then I would catch the next bus to Kerala immediately after he hangs up the phone,” concluded Vinod.

The team Raatchasan during audio launch event
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