An employee of HMT for nine years, he entered the filmfield through 'Trisula' as a villain. Later he continued as a villain and became a hero. He continued to be in this glamour field doing many illogical roles. And in the process, he was branded as a 'policeman' of the screen, since he played many such roles. Now after a decade and half of his career, he feels that there is enough scope for him to change the track, from action roles to some off-beat roles. A brief interview with dynamic hero Devaraj, reveals his mind:
Q: Despite your first three films 'Trisula' Koogu' and 'Sikku' still lying in the cans, how could you come so long in this field?
A: I was stage artiste in HMT for long. And for any artiste entry in the film field and success of the first film is important for his survival. But for me all my first three films didn't release. But luckily for me director K.V. Raju has given a police officer's role in the film 'Indrajith'. Though this was an average hit, it paved away for my later films.
Q: Earlier you did lot of negative roles, but finally ended up as a hero, like many of your predecessors. From which film did this take off occur and how do you feel this transformation?
A: True. Initially I did appear in many supporting roles and later in villain roles. Some such roles even got me awards. (Best supporting artiste in 'Aganthuka' '27 Maavalli Circle' and as a villain in 'Navabharatha' from Filmfans' association). I got the state govt.'s best hero award for my negative role in the film 'Veerappan' (wherein I played the anti-hero role of the forest brigand). But the first film wherein I did the leading role was 'Avesha', from where I never turned back. And for any artiste it is like a promotion to do hero's role from that of the villain. Coming to the transition from the villain to the hero I would say that so many villains have turned heroes before me. Whether it is the hero or the villain, I think as long as the character is good, and you perform your role well, you need not bother about your image. The viewers will decide for themselves. There is however, a serious drawback for the hero. The villain need not worry about the success or failure of a film, but when you become a hero, your future depends on the success of the film. At times this can be harmful for the growth of an artiste. You tend to play safe and avoid risks. Being a hero is not an easy task, I feel. But for me my success and recognition came through police roles only.
Q: But over a period of time, you have appeared in many police roles and was branded for such roles. Do you justify being branded like that?
A: It is not my fault. I am sure, the filmmakers had their own reasons for casting me in such roles. Films like 'Lockup death' 'Circle Inspector' where I played a police officer, were highly successful. Besides the makers probably thought that my rough and tough looks suited only policeman's roles, if not negative ones. Later though I did sport such roles in a few films, they were not that successful. And I too thought of changing the track. Because for an artiste, branding in one type of roles does no good.
Q: What sort of roles did you sport after that?
A: A film director, in whose previous film, I did a negative role, had appreciated my sentimental role in his later film. Following that I played a few sentimental roles in films like 'Bangaaradamane', 'Choobaana' 'Yudha' 'Huliya' 'Daayaadhi' etc. Though these roles satisfied me, they were not successful as expected. If they had been successful, my career would have changed for the better.
Q: Does it mean that you have no say over the roles you play?
A: Of course, I do suggest alterations to my role at times. Accepting or rejecting them is left to the filmmakers. But sincerely speaking I am not in a position to insist on having the characters re-written my way, when my attempts a playing other kinds of roles have back-fired at the box-office. And I don't think I am big enough to make such demands. When a filmmaker approaches me with a role, who am I to refuse? He is confident about me and the film, and if it works out, both of us would benefit. I'd be turning down roles only at the risk of losing the few others that keep coming my way.
Q: Which would you rate as your best performances?
A: I am game for any kind of role that offers me scope to perform. Anything, in fact, except sadistic and negative roles, which I'm now convinced influences the audience in a negative way. I would rate my roles in 'Uthkarsha' (a sadist), 'Veerappan' (as the sandalwood smuggler), 'choobaana' (a journalist), 'Agnisakshi' (an anti-hero), 'Huliya' (an innocent rural youth), 'Daayaadi' (an elder brother in a joint family) among the best. Playing contemporary men like Veerappan (in 'Veerappan'), police officer Ashokkumar (in 'Circle Inspector'), police officer ('Sangliyaana--III') were challenging too.
Q: Of late many multistarrer films are being produced. Does it not amount to ego clash?
A: Though it is termed as 'trend' among the industry circle, in fact it is not so. It concerns the psychology of the audience. When the filmmakers feel that the audience cannot be satisfied with the presence of a single hero, they go in for the second or even third hero. Each hero's role is well thought out and screenplay worked on that lines. Each performs his role. As long as the role is satisfying for them, where is the question of 'ego clash'. And this 'trend' is always for the 'business' aspect only. And while making a film, no barrier or limitation is necessary.
Q: What sort of roles are you sporting now?
A: Though I cannot totally reject the 'cop' roles, occasionally I had to do them in a few films. Besides I am doing a don's role in 'Bhoogathadore', a politician in 'Mathadaana', an action role in 'Asthra', a sentimental role in 'Haalusakkare' etc. 'Neelaambari' 'Jenugoodu' are yet to be launched. Though dashing roles were coming my way earlier, now soft roles are coming to me. Leaving these aspects apart, I feel, working without a logic, does no good to anybody. Earlier I accepted whatever role came my way, of course, just for survival. Now atleast after working for a decade and half, I feel I should choose roles, that satisfy the artiste in me. This is a good change, I feel.
Q: What do you feel about the present trend of films?
A: Now there is no trend as such. Action-oriented films are very few, now. Comedy and family sentiment films are on the increase. With the success of many love, comedy and family subjects last year, the industry too had decreased the making of action films and concentrating on the former variety. Many successful other language films are being remade now. But as long as the subjects are good and contribute to the growth of the industry, why not they be taken, from whichever source they come from.