He is undoubtedly one of the best actors the Indian film industry has seen. He is an actor known for his inimitable body language and articulation and is considered one of the best exponents of method acting in Indian cinema. Today, he stands tall in the Indian film industry after he won the National Level Best Actor Award for the year 2008, superseding other strong contenders of the likes of Sharukh Khan and Amir Khan.
Yes, Prakash Rai, the versatile actor known for his inimitable style, has made the Southern film industry extremely proud, not just that, he has made Mangalore too proud simply for the reason that he is a Mangalorean by birth. “This is the sweetest of all awards won by me because I won it for a starring performance,” says a visibly pleased Rai. He had earlier won the Best Supporting Actor award for his ‘Iruvar’ in 1998 and also a special Jury Award in 2003.
Born in Mangalore, Prakash Rai did his schooling at the St Joseph’s High School in Bangalore. His skills in acting were honed during his school days itself when he was known as a talented boy. He later joined St Joseph’s College of Commerce in Bangalore. Rai enacted in several Kannada plays during his college days and was also a good debater.
He made his foray first in the small screen particularly in Kannada serials like ‘Guddada Bhootha’ on Door Darshan before acting in a string of Kannada films. He shifted base to Chennai when offers began to pour in from Telugu and Tamil film industry. His breakthrough role in Kannada however was ‘Harakeya Kuri’ directed by KSL Swamy and ‘Nagamandala’ by TS Nagabharana.
Prakash’s ambition to enact in the renowned director K Balachander’s film was realized when he was cast in Duet in1995. It was during this occasion that Balachander changed his name from Prakash Rai to Raj keeping in view of the then prevailing tension between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Cauvery row. He eventually even set up his own production house — Duet Productions as a tribute to his mentor and also because Duet happened to be his first Tamil film. His productions including Dhaya (2002), Mozhi (2007) and Abhiyum Naanum (2008) did not fail him as apart from good box office returns, the films also won critical acclaim. After making a mark in Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam cinema, Prakash’s first Bollywood foray –Salman Khan’s “Wanted” in which Rai plays a villain is expected to hit screens soon.
One of Prakash Rai’s greatest hits was his role of villain in the Telugu film Okkadu, where he plays the role of a gangster who is in love with a girl. “I believe that all the roles I played have shown one or the other human being who lives in some corner of the world. When I am the actor my sole concern is whether I can do justice to the role offered,” a confident Rai says.
The Best Actor Award, according to him, is the faith in “good cinema” that Kanchivaram has infused in both film-makers and fans.” The film “Kanchivaram” directed by Priyadarshan was selected for “presenting a rare portrayal of Kanchi’s silk weavers’ community in the pre-indepdendence era. With a vibrant story and technical excellence the film gives the viewers a total cinematic experience. The movie is the story of a non-political weaver who leans towards communism and soon becomes a revolutionary leader who is caught between personal needs and his pursuit of social equality. The intense struggles in Vengadam’s personal life are also effectively portrayed in the film. In fact Kanchivaram has portrayed Rai in a different role than his usual role of a villain.
Prakash Rai rightly feels the honour is a “recognition for passion” that went behind making of the movie. “It was mind blowing professionally as well, since I had to unlearn all that I had learnt as an actor, “he makes an observation.
The immensely talented actor attributes his success to the Tamil industry. Though he put up splendid performances in the few Kannada films which he enacted it was the Tamil industry which ultimately gave him the much needed spotlight and today, he owes the credit of his achievement to the Tamil Industry. Probably, even Sandalwood would now be pleased to say this actor belongs to it and may shower him with good roles that would bring him much more applause.