If someone from within a cemetery calls you to step in, would you go? If ‘Crazy’ Mohan hadn’t, he wouldn’t be the great theatre artist, actor and writer that he is today. If not for his grandfather, he wouldn’t have found his passion for colours. If he hadn’t read great literary veterans like Kalki and
PG Wodehouse, he wouldn’t have found his love for Venba poems. He calls it luck. Sitting in his house, surrounded by his trophies, old photographs and curious paintings, we got the veteran to relive a few cherished moments that changed the course of his life.
“There was a cemetery near my home and when I was 32, I stopped by as there was a shooting going on. Suddenly, something within beckoned me and without hesitation, I entered. That was the first time I met Kamal Haasan, who was shooting for Sathya (1988). Then, one day, a car came to my home to take me to Kamal’s house. He then told me that I was writing dialogues for his next film Apoorva Sagodharargal (1989),” narrates Mohan Rangachari aka Crazy Mohan.
This was when he quit his job at Sundaram Clayton. This is a known story but each time he talks about it, he cherishes it!
But what you may not know is that there is another reason behind his resignation — cynophobia. Mohan is terrified of dogs and if you happen to have a canine in your house, chances are that he wouldn’t step inside. “After my night shift, I used to take off in my two-wheeler and a few dogs would chase me from the Gemini Circle to Stella Maris College where another bunch would join the chase till Music Academy. Once, I asked my friend to accompany me, but he only aggravated them more. I’m pretty sure all the dogs in the world hate me now,” he quips.
Mohan has always lived in a joint family with his grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts. Though there were moments of bickering, they were very comfortable with each other. Did you know that even today Mohan does not handle his bank accounts? His 91-year-old father takes care of his finances. He wouldn’t know what to do in a bank or a post office.
While discussing this, his brother Maadhu enters and Mohan talks about how his family had influenced his career. “I’m lucky I had Maadhu with me.” Though his two sons did not venture into film and theatre industry, Mohan says he is, “fortunate to have a talented brother”. The first script he ever wrote was for his brother’s drama troupe back in college.
Another person who inspired the actor in him was his teacher Janaki. “She used to live next door. She got me the role of Veerapandiya Kattaboman (1959) when I was a child. She would take me to competitions and make me recite dialogues.” Now you know why Maadhu and Janaki are common character names in all his plays!
Two actors who always make an appearance in his story to fame are Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. “I owe all my success to Kamal. He is my visiting card when I do plays and my visa abroad. Do you think I get a red-carpet-welcome because I’m ‘Crazy’ Mohan? You are wrong. It’s only because I’ve written so many films for him — Apoorva Sagodharargal, Michael Madana Kama Rajan (1991), Vasool Raja MBBS (2004), Avvai Shanmughi (1996) and Magalir Mattum (1994). I ask his opinion on everything I do, including this interview. Even if I want to write a letter to my wife, I ask him. Such is the nature of our relationship.”
He shares an incident with ‘the noble soul’ Rajinikanth, of whom he is an admirer. “Rajini is very fond of my father. He would talk to him over the phone at night. I never believed it. So, I called his secretary to find out and was asked to come over. Rajini then told me that he wanted me to write the story and dialogues for Arunachalam (1997). I was elated. Rajini is the bonus in my life!”
Talking about Crazy Creations that was formed in 1979, he tells us that the troupe still exists — his other joint family. “The success of Crazy Mohan is being together,” he says pointing to a photograph of the team, on the shelf. “Neelu, though 80-years-old, is the youngest in our group. He inspires and encourages us. And Kitcha, was the one who sparked the idea of the troupe. During his sister’s wedding, we were eating. That’s when he said, ‘Why don’t we start a troupe, and you write a new play…’ And the ‘Crazy’ madness began.” Over 30 plays, 40 films and 100 short stories…and more to come.
Latest update is that play Crazy Thieves in Palavakkam, is being revived. “While Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap is presented by different troupes for over 50 years on Broadway, our Crazy Thieves in Palavakkam, after 40 years, will be inaugurated by S Ve Shekar this month. Everyone loves it and wants it back on stage.”
We looked through his art work again — hand-painted and digital. He tells us that his grandfather was his biggest critic. “He inspired me. Now I’m 65-years-old and if one day, no one wants me to write anymore, I can always find my bliss in paintings, thanks to him.”