Captain Raju passes away: The accident that was devastating
A veteran of over 500 films, the actor predominantly worked in Malayalam cinema but also had memorable roles in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada
The first thing I noticed when I met Captain Raju at his first floor home at Padivattom, Kochi a couple of years ago was how tall he was. At 6'2” and with large, broad shoulders, he looked towering. The second quality was his wide smile. He was so welcoming and gracious. And like a true host, there was a spread, set up by his wife Premila: halwa, a Gujarati dish, chips, pickle, bananas and a cup of coffee. “First eat and then you can do the interview,” said Capt. Raju.
Later, hobbling a bit, he took me out to the spacious balcony. There was a large overhanging tree nearby. The leaves rustled; the sparrows chirped, and the wind blew a little. From the distance, there was the sound of traffic.
“My leg is giving me pain,” he said. “I am getting it massaged daily.”
And it was sad that Capt. Raju was still suffering the effects of what happened on the night of October 12, 2003. He was travelling in a car, with a driver and an assistant, from Thiruvananthapuram to Salem to take part in the shooting of Vinayan’s War and Love. Just after Thrissur, the car hit a culvert, went over the wall, and fell 40 feet. “There was no tree to stop the vehicle,” says Capt. Raju. “So, the car had another fall of 100 feet.”
Capt. Raju had multiple fractures on his legs, damaged his ribs, and had a head injury. A few months later, he suffered a stroke which numbed the left side of his body. It was only after months of physiotherapy that he recovered. But things were never the same again.
A veteran of over 500 films, Capt. Raju predominantly acted in Malayalam but also had memorable roles in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. While he had many memories of his career, those at the beginning were as always his most memorable.
In the film, Raktham (1981), Capt. Raju had a fight sequence with Madhu at the Rama Varma club at Kochi. The crew had placed small sheets of wood (the pattika) of an old house on the floor. As Madhu hit Capt. Raju, with a shovel, the latter fell on the wood. Mollywood legends Prem Nazir, Soman and Srividya were watching silently.
Once the shot was over, Nazir called the actor aside and said, “Captain, look carefully at the wood. There are numerous nails sticking out. I understand your anxiety to do well. This is your first film. But you have to be careful. If you fall and a nail enters you, especially if it is your face, then what will happen? Director Joshy will say, ‘Pack up’. Then you will have to be taken to the hospital to be given a tetanus injection because the nails are rusted. And your career might come to a stop before it has started.”
A moved Capt. Raju said, “Which superstar will tell something like this to a newcomer? I have never forgotten it. Prem Nazir sir was a star with so much of humanity.”
And so was Captain Raju.
We will miss you, sir!