NF Varghese: Actor, Villain, Supporting Actor –One of The Memorable & Powerful faces of Malayalam Cinema
What makes the hero in a movie more gallant and a man among men? Or makes the hero vulnerable which takes the movies to amazing levels? Or the paladin in the movie? See the guy in the picture above, it is this guy who make all these impressions at the same. Make no mistake he is not the hero of the movie, but the smooth, well-dressed, knavish – villain. N.F Varghese is the actor who perfected it in Malayalam, with the role of Manapally Pavithran. Well take the movie Narasimham for reference, where the hero is not even in the people’s good list, and even hollowly calls him ‘a lost cause’ by proponent of Manapally Pavithran with the “drishti onnu pathinjal mathi….” dialogue delivered by Moopil Nair ( played by another great actor Narendra Prasad ). This throws light on the weight of villain which is not an easy-peasy role for any actor to handle. The way N.F Varghese played it is what actually makes more the whole role memorable, whose career lengthening from mimicry to playing leading roles in movie, television series giving a remarkable footprint to Malayalam Cinema.
Varghese in his initial days was a mimicry artist worked with the Siddique, Lal, Dileep, Harisree Ashokan, who were so prominent on stage even before entering into movies. So this makes his face so familiar on television much before playing roles in movies. He was also into compering events in and out of film because of his voice. In film premises he is widely known under the acronym ‘N.F’. The voice of Varghese was also made a huge impression on several writers and directors in Malayalam, namely Dennis Joseph and Sibi Malayil (to name a few, for the movie Akashadoothu). N.F was friends with many in the film industry, while he was still in Harisree, before getting his breakthrough role of Keshavan ( a negative role with a subtle nature which does not require actors playing huge villain roles ). Within a decade he had already conquered heights in the industry before his untimely death in 2002, leaving an impression of ‘gone too soon’ for many and someone who should have been brought to movies earlier than expected.
N.F Varghese is a stand out element in Malayalam, is because of the variety of roles he had played within a decade. Ranging from good guy on bad side like Pillai the police constable in Spadikam to rock-bottom villain like Manapally Pavithran. Even the bully type characters like Lahayil Vakachan in Praja, IG of Police James in Crime File, Intelligence IG Menon in Commissioner to name a few , are also masteries of this actor.
The capacity into blend into any given role is a gift. If you break it down the constituents of his acting are – sound, modulation, dedication for the role and the use of props in the shot. Sound works in many ‘ways for different actors, necessary one for a main role in a movie (an element that made evolution of movies). N.F had a rather a distinguished voice that knocked doors of Dennis Joseph and Sibi Malayil, which landed him a role in Akashadoothu.
Dennis Joseph sharing his experience in a TV show on Safari, elaborates an event where N.F unknowingly partakes in a film centred discussion between Mr Joseph and Mr Malayil and N.F later on leaving them on their own, Mr Malayil already felt that he had zeroed in on the role of Keshavan in Akashadoothu, for which the discussion was going on. N.F had created a lasting impression of his voice or sound (in film jargon) for both . And what was the result? Industry got an actor who went on to playing supporting roles to negative roles where the character’s threat is plain as day. Modulation of his voice according has created wonders. Dedication to role was something Mr Joseph commented about N.F on context of Akashadoothu, where N.F took truck driving lessons to confidently enact his role of Keshavan who drives a truck in many scenes throughout the movie and knocks out characters in the movie out of spite, from injuring to even killing the Johnny (played by Murali). Using the props is well explained from the roles he plays, from walking around the set to a variety of hand gestures from finger-pointing to swinging arms according to the scene. So if to try to remember N.F all his specials come all together irrespective of any character he has played.
For a small industry in back in 80s and 90s, Malayalis didn’t hesitate to produce actors like N.F Varghese to fore front. Even till today he is remembered, and his death as mentioned ‘gone to soon’ feel in the entire industry. For an actor with such tremendous feat and his easy as a ninja acting what is lost entirely is the space for such actors or the idea N.F . The TV channels have been screening a number of Malayalam movies which are a score years old with N.F in them, for 30 plus olds N.F is a gem. Does the same stand for the 90s and 00s kids? Or they have stereotyped N.F?