The mainstream Kerala theatre of the eighties was in confusion, a standstill, and people were already talking about the demise of this powerful art form, which once decided the fate, life and times of Keralites. The plays are not having the same pungency as it used to have in the sixties, leave alone the red fifties. The themes and structure of the plays were not appealing anymore, the performance style become stale and musty, and naturally the audience turned away. Everyone was desperate and was looking for a new style, form and vigor.
It is at this juncture that Rajan P Dev made his entry as Kochu vava in the play Kattukuthira, written and directed by SL Puram Sadanandan for his company Surya soma. This play dared to shift into a different mode of narration, from the run of the mill plot, development, and characters. The theme of the play remained progressive and proletarian, but devoid of a hero who is in the mould of a young idealistic, straightforward, chocolate face. The hero was substituted by an antihero, with a darker history, with vengeance crystallized inside as venom, and who do not care for the set moralities and codes of conduct of the establishment. The birth of this kind of a protagonist needed a new actor with a totally different approach to acting and characterization. Kattukuthira and Kochuvava became an instant hit, running more than thousand shows. Complimenting the freshness in the script, it is to be acknowledged that it is the actor who delineated Kochu Vava was more responsible for this success.
Rajan P Dev portrayed the character, with rustic simplicity, a wilderness that questioned the inner ethos and sensibility of the audience, a body language accentuated by gestures, mannerisms, stances, and dialogue delivery which shook the hitherto acting pattern in the theatre of Kerala. The blend of villainy, characterization, mannerism, sarcasm, crude, wild and raw nature of histrionics can be summarized as the characteristics of the acting school that Rajan P Dev developed. This new approach in acting he continued in his plays including to those which brought him the best actor awards in 1984 and 86.
Also he had a brief stint as director and producer for his company, Jubilee Theatres.
He was one of the last actors in mainstream theatre who could shoulder a play by his own. And he was one of the last actors that this theatre presented to the film industry.
Note. Written on the request by the New Indian Express daily , and thanks to them for publishing this on 30th July 2009, Cochin edition.