His role as the righteous Rajesh Kumar may have come to an end, but Jack Devnarain isn’t ready to give up on his acting career.
Devnarain, an actor of 29 years, spent 15 of them on the SABC3 local TV soap Isidingo.
“My character had a very entertaining run on the show with lots of stories. It was fulfilling, but I just reached a point where the show and the character needed to progress,” said Devnarain.
His character will still be on screen until March 21, when some sad and disappointing circumstances convince Rajesh to leave Horizon Deep and go back to a life less stressful. Rajesh finds the hiking boots that he used when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and finds himself wanting to try the Himalayas as a new adventure.
“I have known for a while that I’ll be leaving and I’m glad because, over the years, I’ve continuously kept in touch with what’s going on in the industry. Even while on Isidingo, I still did other work, so for me, it’s always been about challenging myself and not remaining stagnant,” he said.
Devnarain said he was given a great send-off: all the cast and crew watched from the background as he delivered his final lines. One of the most memorable storylines for Devnarain tackled the issue of love versus integrity.
“The most powerful storyline for me was between Rajesh and his arch-enemy Barker Haines (Robert Whitehead) – when Rajesh created ON TV and was going to expose Barker for his wrongdoings, even though there was an unfulfilled love story between Rajesh and Leone (Lee). It was a story of integrity,” Devnarain said.
Speaking about Ashley Callie, who played Leone Haines, Devnarain said he felt that her death in 2008 was a profound and tragic one.
“We all felt we were robbed and cheated. It was such an injustice to her and the industry. She had the ability to be a serious industry player on an international level. Her death was completely unfair,” he said.
Devnarain said that in his 29 years in the industry, he had met many people who had had an impact on his life as an actor. Two that specifically stood out for him were Zane Meas, who played Jack van Onselen very early in the soapie, and his co-star Whitehead.
“I’ll never forget when Meas said to me, ‘We spend our whole lives as actors learning how not to act,’ which was utterly true, although he was a master at making acting look easy and honest. And, on the other hand, Robert would say, ‘are you having fun because if you’re not, you shouldn’t be doing this’.”
What’s next for Devnarain?
He is going to spend his time at the South African Guild for Actors, where he is currently the chairman. Last year, Devnarian lobbied for the SABC to review contracts with independent producers and artists. He asked that performing actors get paid royalties for their work.
“I really want to see more South African talent being developed. I always asked the question: ‘Why does South African talent not have opportunities or a rights forum?’. “So now it’s my opportunity to create that opportunity for SA talent in all aspects, be it in comedy, art and drama.
“There is a lot of work to do this year. Currently actors don’t get to own their work and some broadcasters do pay, while others refuse. So my aim is to follow up with our initial submission to Parliament. It’s a long process but it needs to be done,” he said.
Later this year, he will also be starring in a movie, but he would not give away any details.
“My work on-screen is not yet done. I have amazing and supportive fans that give me reason to stay and create more stories. I do have an interest in movies and fans can look out for one later this year where I’ll be playing a villain.
It was a wonderful opportunity to remind audiences that I am still an actor and am versatile with roles,” said Devnarain.