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Director Siddique reminisces about late actor Rizabawa, who perfected the iconic character John Honai

The North Indian villain with a pair of chained spectacles, is someone who Malayalis can never forget

Megha Mukundan
Sep 14, 2021
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Siddique, Rizabawa

Rizabawa, a Malayalam actor popularly known for his character John Honai, in the 1990 comedy blockbuster In Harihar Nagar passed away at 55, leaving the entire industry in shock. 

The actor who was also noted for his roles in movies like Malappuram Haji Mahanaya Joji and Dr Pasupathy, has played many negative roles in the ’90s, though he started his career with positive roles.

Siddique, director of In Harihar Nagar, recalls late actor Rizabawa as a strong and confident actor who excelled as John Honai in the film. Though the crew had initially cast Tamil actor Raghuvaran, due to the actor’s other commitments, the role ended up being played by the iconic Rizabawa, who literally nailed it.

In a chat with Onmanorama, Siddique further talked about how the actor was not interested in playing the villain as he had just finished the titular role in Dr. Pasupathy. He seemed to be worried about his career getting affected due to the antagonist role. 

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Rizabawa as John Honai

But later, when he explained the story and the character, Riza agreed readily, even though he was a bit sceptical about pulling off the look. The director recalled taking the actor to a salon and trimming his hair for a North Indian look and giving him a pair of chained glasses, which later turned out to be the iconic look. With special makeup and further expensive costumes, the team could craft a perfect villain, who could never be replaced. Riza felt he looked different, said the director, and so, he was told to act like a different person.

Siddique remembers Riza as someone who always had a smile on his face. John Honai was done right by him not only with his looks but with his style and body language too. He overcame the reluctance, the actor gained confidence in two days and could adapt and understand Honai better, gradually. 

The filmmaker ended on a sad note, saying that the actor could have excelled in many other unique roles, had he survived his illness. 

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