Published: 22nd May 2020
Remember Swamy from Malgudi Days? This is what he is doing in life now!
With Malgudi Days returning to the silver screen, We caught up with Manjunath Nayaker, who played the role of Swami, and took a trip down memory lane with him
When I heard that Malgudi Days is making a come back on DD National, I was transported back to those days when all the children in my locality would sit in front of the TV and maintain pin-drop silence just to watch beautiful characters like Swami, Rajam, Mani and many more. Needless to say, I am sure everyone loved Swami's character, played by Manjunath Nayaker, the most. The actor, who was popularly known as Master Manjunath, currently lives in Bengaluru and works as a PR Consultant for the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project.
After spending a decade acting, Manjunath's interest drew him to pursue Economics and he completed his graduation from Mysore University. He pursued his Master’s in Sociology and began working in the corporate sector. But his love for Malgudi Days lives on in his heart. Manjunath, now 43 years old, continues to adore the character of Swami and appreciates author RK Narayan's imagination and the way he wrote the different characters of this story. He says, "If you see the characterisation of Swami, he is a simple and innocent boy. He has two friends, Rajam and Mani. While Rajam hails from a rich family, Mani is a poor boy. He also has his own challenges at home after his mother delivered a child and his parents are busy showering their love on the new member. I felt it was a nicely woven character for a boy who is only 10 years old. He has nothing to worry about. He need not be serious about education like the 10-year-old kids we see these days."
Master Majunath with his son
Recently, Manjunath watched the series during lockdown with his son who is also 10 years old. "I was really concerned about whether he would be able to connect with that era or understand the story but after watching it, my son asked me why teachers beat students in those days. He also asked me why Swami's father was strict and so on. I made him understand that this is how things worked back then unlike these days, where parents and teachers are not allowed to beat or abuse children. Now, he seems to have become a bit serious about his studies," he shares and laughs. Not just Manjunath, Rohit Srinath (Rajam) and Raghuram Sitaram (Mani) are in different jobs too. But the three musketeers have made it a point to stay in touch after all these years. Recently, they caught up on Facebook to promote the retelecast of Malgudi Days. "It feels so good to be back with these people with whom I had spent a major part of my summer vacations doing all sorts of mischief," he says happily.
This story, written by RK Narayan and directed by actor Shankar Nag, is loved by people of all age groups. The TV series was shot across three different seasons and Manjunath was only nine years old then. He explains, "The first episode was A Hero and I was very young when I shot this. A major portion of Swami and his friends was shot when I was 10 years old and there was a third season in which I played the character of a snake charmer's son, I was 11 years old then. All these seasons were shot during summer vacations. About 95 per cent of the series was shot in Agumbe in Karnataka, which is famous for its traditional houses and unique atmosphere. A small part of Malgudi Days was shot in Bengaluru and the outskirts." Curious about how Manjunath got into acting, we ask him and he explains, "I have acted in more than 68 films out of which seven were with Shankar Nag. I was a fairly established child actor. But how I got into acting is an interesting story. My mother and father worked in Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited and one of their colleagues was a part-time production manager. He needed a kid who could speak well and was bold enough to face the camera. He felt that I was most suited for that role and gave me an opportunity. One thing led to another and I started bagging continuous projects."
Master Manjunath's major challenge was speaking Hindi and English in Malgudi Days. "I did not know a single word of Hindi and could speak only broken English. I would take the help of my parents or some seniors on the sets to translate the sentences in Kannada to help me understand the meaning. Since Shankar was directing it, there was no room for mistakes. Similarly, technology was not developed back in the 80s. They would have a limited set of reels to shoot and we were required to act without many retakes," says Manjunath who, post-Malgudi Days, went on to be offered bigger projects like Agneepath where he played the role of young Amitabh Bachchan. So, does he plans to return to acting? "For now, there are no plans. But if I get that kind of story and script that would be worth making a comeback for, then I would surely take it up," concludes Manjunath confidently.