There’s a notion many carry, that dreams have an age limit, that aspirations grow old with us. Ramesh Vethanayagam wasn’t one of them. He embodied the spirit of a young man eager to soak up the world, much like the very first time one gazes upon a movie screen with wonder.
On the surface, Ramesh might’ve appeared as any other Tamil man in his 50s – a diligent accountant, perhaps one my parents would have introduced to me at a social gathering as another ‘Uncle’. But that’s where the conventional ends and the extraordinary begins. Ramesh was an actor. Not just any actor, but the star of our debut feature, The Rajini Effect. The tables were delightfully turned when it was us introducing him to our parents as our friend.
Making The Rajini Effect was no small task. With almost no budget, our vision rested on passion, sheer will, and exclusively weekend shoots. While the weekdays were filled with spreadsheets for Ramesh, weekends painted a different picture – one of scripts, sets, and scene rehearsals. We couldn’t offer much more than covering his expenses, yet Ramesh brought with him a wealth that was invaluable: commitment, energy, and an unwavering belief in our story. He was there every weekend for a whole year for the love of making movies.
There were times when the weight of producing an indie film bore down on us. Moments when we questioned if our dream was too big, our resources too scanty. It was in these moments that Ramesh, often fresh from his weekday job, would fuel our spirits with his infectious energy. His stories of mimicking Sivaji as a teen brought smiles to our faces, while his constant support and optimism pushed us forward, even in the face of obstacles. And when we tried to steer him in new directions with his acting, he embraced the changes with the enthusiasm of a fresh film school graduate, reminding us that learning and growth truly have no age bar.
But more than an actor, Ramesh was our film’s staunchest advocate and our greatest ally. He celebrated every small victory, from sharing every interview we did to introducing us to people who could help our film reach a wider audience. His faith in us was so unwavering that it often felt like we were riding on his shoulders.
The beauty of Ramesh’s journey was in his undying belief that it’s never too late to chase your dreams, to dive into passions, to learn and to grow. He defied norms, age, and expectations, becoming a living testament to what passion and dedication can achieve. The journey might be long, the path riddled with challenges, but with persistence and passion, even weekends can be turned into legacies.
While the curtains have sadly drawn on his act, the legacy Ramesh leaves behind is rich, full of warmth, inspiration, and lessons. In our film, there’s a line that goes, “There are two types of people. Those who watch it happen and those who make it happen.” Ramesh didn’t just make it happen, he lived it, with every breath, every scene, every laugh. And in doing so, he left us with memories that will warm our hearts and moisten our eyes for a lifetime. Thank you, Ramesh. You were, and always will be, our star.
Written by Nelson Sivalingam, a London based filmmaker, bestselling author and tech entrepreneur.
Photo courtesy of Baba Luxy