Venu Nagavally | The Actor

Venu Nagavally in Chillu Venu Nagavalli, in his avatar as an actor, played diverse characters in close to 30-odd films, but he was always  bracketed (pigeon-holed/slotted) as this brooding, melancholic hero who was always doomed from the beginning, ploughing through the proceedings to his inevitable sad and painful ending . Curiously enough, it was a slew of movies, starting with his debut film, Ulkadal (1978), that reinforced this stereotype , with the same kind of characters following suit, at least for the next decade.

The ultimate irony (or insult, whichever way you want to look at it) was the lead role in the Malayalam version of  Devadas (1989), Sharatchandra Chatterjee’s classic ! But, even in them, he shone, and you had to grudgingly admit, none could make it more ‘painful’ than him.

Here is the list of his movies, as an Actor, courtesy IMDB.

Bhagyadevatha (2009)
Roudram (2008)
Anchil Oral Arjunan (2007)
Baba Kalyani (2006)
Photographer (2006)
Pathaka (2006)
Pauran (2005)
Deepangal Sakshi (2005)
Kaazhcha (2004)
Sathyam (2004)
Wanted (2004/I)
Harikrishnans (1998)
Minnaram (1994)
Devadas (1989)
Moonnam Pakkam (1988)
Vartha (1986)
Oru Katha Oru Nunnakkatha (1986)
Sunil Vayassu 20 (1986)
Adhyayam Onnu Muthal (1985)
Ente Ammu Ninte Thulasi Avarude Chakki (1985)
Meenamasathile Sooryan (1985)
Uyarukm Njan Nadaake (1985)
Arante Mulla Kochu Mulla (1984)
April 18 (1984) ( Thanks for the reminder, Rajesh!)
Adaminte Variyellu (1983)
Lekhayude Maranam: Oru Flashback (1983)
Prasnam Gurutharam (1983)
Chillu (1982)
Ithiri Neram Othiri Karyam (1982)
Yavanika (1982)
Aniyatha Valakkal (1980)
Shalini Ente Koottukari (1978)
Ulkatal (1978)

Characters that identified with, and meant for Venu Nagavalli ran their fulfilling cycle in the first half of his acting career, according to me. In his second coming as an actor after a break of 6 years after  Fasil’s Harikrishnans(1998), it was for  run-of-the-mill ‘senior’ characters, which could sadly be played, well, with just any senior actor.

My favorites from his early years.

Shalini Ente Koottukari (1978)

Venu Nagavally in Shalini Ente Koottukari (1978) Shalini Ente Koottukari (1978), directed by Mohan, and written by Padmarajan, it was a beautiful tale, with its quirky characterisations and narrative that was familiar Padmarajan territory. Venu Nagavally played Prabha, the elder brother of Shalini (Shobha), a tormented soul, exceptionally gifted in poetry, loaded with helplessness for not yet being able to come to terms with his father’s remarriage, , self-loathing for being unemployed and the most loving brother any sister could have for – in short a tortured soul who chooses a tragic solution to his torment. Padamrajan, Venu Nagavalli recalled in one of his interviews, was his best well-wisher and  was always there to encourage and egg him on till the time he was around. This film was also the beginning of the beautiful friendship with Shobha, who would also  ironically, chose an equally painful solution for matters of the heart that she felt were spiralling way out of control in her life.

The beautiful “Himashaila Saikatha”, rendered by P.Madhuri from the movie.

Chillu (1982)

Venu Nagavally in Chillu Chillu (1982) would be the movie that reinforced the image of the angst-ridden, tortured soul that his acting career had come to symbolize. Venu Nagavally played Ananthu, this gifted artist, exceptionally brilliant, best friend of Annie (Shanthikrishna) whose platonic relationship in misconstrued by her possessive, madly in love, immature sweetheart Manu ( Rony Vincent in his debut ). It was bitter-sweet to say the least, and exactly everything you would come to expect out of a character enacted by Venu Nagavally- he always seemed to carry this invisible miasma around his head, almost like wearing his grief like a crown. You could read a tongue-in-cheek and frank appreciation of the movie here.

One of the most memorable compositions from the ONV – MBS team

Lekhayude Maranam: Oru Flashback (1983)

Venu Nagavally in Lekhayude maranam Oru FlashbackLekhayude Maranam : Oru Flashback by KG George was a very clever production. Though it denied any connection to the actress Shobha‘s tragic life, the screenplay just stopped short of being an unauthorised biopic, though with certain ‘liberties’ taken by the director. It would have ( I am speculating here) been a very piquant position Venu Nagavally found himself in, being part of a thinly veiled project based on the life of his dear friend, a warm camaraderie that began from the days of Ulkadal.

Prabhamayi, lyrics by ONV and set to music by MB Srinivasan.

April 18 (1984)

Venu Nagavalli in April 18 (Thanks Rajesh for reminding this one). Though this was not a lead role, it was actually an equally significant supporting role of the main character, played by Balachandra Menon. Venu Nagavalli played Advocate Thomas, the neighbor-dear-friend-cum-sounding board to the volatile lovebirds living on the next floor, and along with Unimary playing his wife, completed the two different perspectives of looking at married life in this wonderful movie. id you also know that Shobhana, who debuted in April 18, began her career in Malayalam Cinema with the screen moniker, Meera! Atleast that’s what the title cards say ! Venu Nagavalli would also go on to lend his voice for Balachandra Menon’s Ente Ammu, Ninte Thulasi, Avarude Chakki along with acting , in 1985. So sad that his playback career died an early death. Maybe he was destined for his creations, made beind the camera than the sound studio.
Here is the beautiful Kalindee Theeram Thannil from April 18.

Meenamasathile Sooryan (1985)

I have written in detail about the movie here.

( Minnaram) 1994

This must have felt like home for Venu Nagavalli, as everyone associated with the project had been a part of his career, and he had also been instrumental in reviving the flagging movie careers of a lot of them. Does anyone remember that the greatest laugh-riot in Malayalam cinema, Kilukkam was scripted by Venu Nagavalli? Venu played the elder brother Baby to Mohanlal’s (Bobby), whose dark past comes to wreck havoc in the family and Bobby’s personal life. The movie seems to have been inspired from the old Prem Nazir hit, Brahmachari.

Here is an excerpt from the movie.

Amma Thamburatty for TV

Venu Nagavalli and Srividya in Sreekumaran Thampi's AmmathaburattyHe also enjoyed a very successful stint in TV with Sreekumaran Thampi‘s hugely popular Ammathamburatti on Asianet, telecast in 2006. Strangely, none of the reports carry a mention of that.

{The publicity shot is used with kind permission of its Director, Sreekumaran Thampi}

In his second coming, post Harikrishnans, I feel there wasn’t anything substantial as a role that completely did justice to the talent of Venu Nagavalli as an Actor, save for Sreekumaran Thampi’s Amma Thamburatty. Amma Thamburatty was also a breath of fresh air amongst the stereotyped tearjerkers that was bringing in the TRPs of those days, maybe the team of seasoned veterans – Venu Nagavalli and Srividya in the cast and Sreekumaran Thampi as Director ensured it stayed far above the trite.


Next : Venu Nagavalli | The Director

11 thoughts on “Venu Nagavally | The Actor

  1. Also seems to have acted in Swantham Sharika (Sarika). 1984. Directed by Ambili. Seems to be a lead role. Has a nice song : “Aadyachumbanathil”. Available on Youtube.

  2. I’ll be honest; I saw the profiles when I first visited your site, and deliberately didn’t click on Venu Nagavally’s profile. He was responsible for so many dreary Fridays, when my sister, my cousins and I would wonder why we wasted our money so we could go watch a film and come back depressed. :))

    This is a very nice write-up though. I don’t want to see films like Chillu and Aniyatha Valakal again – once was enough, and life is depressing enough as it is without making it more so – but it did bring back memories of my college days.

    You are right about Shobhana’s screen name – Balachandra Menon introduced her as ‘Meera’, though she reverted to her real name soon thereafter.

  3. Dude, forgot to mention. Your series of tributes has to be one of the best that has come out. I expected some tributes and memories in Manorama online but didnt see to the extend of expectations. Good Job!
    Meanwhile the print edition of Manorama had a write up by Jalaja. It was a small one but a good read. She mentioning how both used to joke about the type of roles they were being offered etc. Didnt find that in online edition

    1. Hi Rajesh,
      Manorama by virtue of its network and the very leader in media it has come to be, has a huge reservoir of content resource.But, on most instances, they seem to falter when it comes to web sensibilities. The micro-site is a good read, but it is all regurgitated from the earlier articles. And their news web portal tech structure is a joke as far as content programming is concerned.Anyways its our best available now. I have archived Jalaja’s remembrance note too..CM

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