Lost and Found: The Boy Who Played Swami in ‘Malgudi Days’
Swami then and Swami now; meet Manjunath Nayaker
Swami then and Swami now; meet Manjunath Nayaker (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker)

Lost and Found: The Boy Who Played Swami in ‘Malgudi Days’

(This article was first published on 14 May 2015. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the death anniversary of RK Narayan.)

Today, 10 October, is the great Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami’s (more popularly known as RK Narayan) birth anniversary. Arguably India’s most famous English-language writer, the man brought to life a small little delightful town called Malgudi and its varied characters to life. And one of the most memorable characters from his Malgudi tales is the boy named Swami.

RK Narayan and his timeless tales of Malgudi and its people
RK Narayan and his timeless tales of Malgudi and its people

Also, remember Malgudi Days on TV and the lilting title track that opened the show? 28 years later, we traced the bright-eyed boy Manjunath Nayaker who played Swami, the Malgudi boy is all grown up and now a PR consultant in Bengaluru.

Manju Nayaker remembers his famous character Swami (Photo Courtesy: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/mastermanjunath">Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker</a>)
Manju Nayaker remembers his famous character Swami (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker)

Here’s what Manjunath told The Quint about his experience on Malgudi Days and his life after it:

Life Post Films

(Photo Courtesy: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/mastermanjunath">Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker</a>)
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker)

Post films, I finished my education, and like every other Bangalorian I too got into IT. But I am a people’s man, couldn’t do a 9 to 5 job so I joined another firm where I worked for 14 years. Today I am happily married and have a 5-year-old son and now I work for myself as consultant in Public Relations.
– Manjunath Nayaker, Actor who played ‘Swami’

Meeting RK Narayan

Master Manjunath with Girish Karnad (Photo Courtesy: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/mastermanjunath">Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker</a>)
Master Manjunath with Girish Karnad (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker)

I have had two very brief interactions with RK Narayan. Once was just before Malgudi Days was shot. He had just walked into the auditions to see all the kids being cast. I didn’t know who he was then. The second time was when Malgudi was a success and there was a celebratory function in Bangalore where I bumped into him and he gave me an awesome compliment, he said, “You are exactly how I had imagined Swami to be”. This was the highlight for me. It was a much bigger award for me than many other awards I got.
– Manjunath Nayaker, Actor who played ‘Swami’

Being Swami

Manjunath with RK Laxman (L); scene from Swami and Friends (Photo Courtesy: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/mastermanjunath">Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker</a>)
Manjunath with RK Laxman (L); scene from Swami and Friends (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker)

I had already done 23 movies in the Kannda film industry by the time Malgudi happened. I knew Mr Shankar Nag (Director of Malgudi Days) very well and I had already done some 6 to 7 films with him, so he kind of cast me as Swami. That time I probably couldn’t appreciate the quality writing of Mr Narayan. But later in my life I realised it. I am very fortunate to have played such an important role in his series. I am very privileged to be known as Swami. I played Swami 28 years ago and after 3 decades you guys are still talking to me, I would be lying if I say I don’t enjoy it.
– Manjunath Nayaker, Actor who played ‘Swami’

Favourite RK Narayan Book

Manjunath is a father to a 5-year-old son and is working in Public Relations (Photo Courtesy: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/mastermanjunath">Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker</a>)
Manjunath is a father to a 5-year-old son and is working in Public Relations (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Manjunath Nayaker)

Till today I have never read the book Swami and Friends, and I don’t want to either. I have a very special copy of it in my head and I want to leave it at that. Because I am sure if I read it, I’ll feel that I have not done justice to it, so I am selfishly not reading it. Most of his other writings I have read. And my all time favourite is A Horse and Two Goats.
– Manjunath Nayaker, Actor who played ‘Swami’

Remembering RK Narayan (Photo Courtesy: <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=r%20k%20narayan&amp;src=typd&amp;mode=photos">Twitter/@AdvicetoWriters</a>)
Remembering RK Narayan (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@AdvicetoWriters)

R K Narayan died on 13th May 2001, at the age of 94 in Chennai, but his works will continue to live on forever, whether through books, television series or artistes like Manjunath Nayaker who will always have stories to tell us.

(The Quint is now available on Telegram and WhatsApp. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to our Telegram and WhatsApp channels)

Follow our Entertainment section for more stories.

    Also Watch