Edited experts from an interview between Kunchacko Boban and Vishal Menon.
What changes do you see in the kind of scripts that are coming your way after the massive success of Anjaam Pathira?
Surely, this has happened from both sides. My approach towards the scripts I seek has changed too apart from people seeking me out for a wider variety of roles. For example, you see films like Nayattu or #Home getting made today. These were not too common a few years ago and this is a welcome change. If you see how films on the OTT space are doing, you will surely notice how Malayalam films are always in the top 5 space. Because of that, we have become a quality-driven entertainment space. What this shows is the quality we have in our scripts.
Have you ever had a phase where you wondered why a certain, edgy kind of script was not coming your way? If you did, how can one change such a perception? Should it happen by proving your capabilities in the films that are coming your way or by actively pursuing writers and directors whose work you want to be a part of?
We have to open ourselves up. We have to also take the effort to make those changes in our performances. It’s a combination of effort and desire. Like Paulo Coelho says, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” This is true with interesting scripts too. Someone asked me what kind of scripts I want to be a part of. But now, the scripts that come my way are way beyond my imagination. I couldn’t even have thought of such roles in my limited thought process.
Do you feel the same excitement when such roles sound almost extremely other-worldly?
Surely. As an actor we strive for that. Instead of complicating the decision to do it, we have to first analyse if we can justify the character through performance. We have to take all the emotional and physical efforts for it. If I think I can do justice to it, then I’m up for it.
When you go back to watching your older films, especially from the late 90’s, do you analyse those performances? Would you have done it differently now?
It’s a combination of two things. I see myself as an actor who kept on working on my craft to improve. But it’s also true that I started falling in love with acting itself somewhere along this line. When I see some of my older films, I doubt If I’d put in my complete effort back then. Maybe I didn’t do enough to keep evolving. If you see my appearance, I will look the same across all my films. You will notice this similarity in my performances and the kind of films I used to do back then. Even if I did try something different, it wasn’t accepted by the audiences. As for now, I have put in that effort and the whole ecosystem too has changed to make use of that.
Does this mean that we will soon be seeing you in a villain role soon?
If it excites me, I will surely go for that.
Even your character in Bheemante Vazhi has some dark shades…
Yes. Bheeman is not a very neat, decent guy. It’s different from the roles I’ve done so far and I have also done things in it that I haven’t done before.
But has your process of acting become too intense and serious now compared to how it was earlier?
More than putting in hours of thought, I try to see if there’s an in-depth organic development to that character. For example, Praveen Michael in Nayattu. We shot the film in order and it was sync sound too. When we work like that, I find myself being able to naturally enter into both the character and the situation. If there’s such an opportunity to shoot films in order, I would surely prefer that. As an actor, it makes me more rooted to my characters and their surroundings.
Does it mean that you give yourself corrections when you watch older performances?
I do. Acting is a process you can keep improving as you go along. There is no one right way to do something so you can always learn more and do more. You learn from experience and you absorb nuances and variations as you go along. So when you watch older films, you give yourself notes.
When you look back, are there many films you’ve worked on that didn’t get the appreciation it deserved?
Chirakodinja Kinavukal. I don’t think people got the intention behind a spoof. It’s only when people started watching it on TV did I start getting calls and messages telling me how much they liked it. I remember one midnight after it was aired on TV when I kept getting messages and calls from people who had discovered it. I sent them to the producer and he was getting them too. But what’s the point then. It was perhaps ahead of its time.
What about your films in the immediate future? Are you able to maintain that variety into the next year too?
Yes yes. Pada has both a stellar cast and crew. It’s also based on true events and it’s realistic. Then I have a film with Arvind Swamy called Ottu, a bi-lingual and it’s my biggest film yet. That’s more of an entertainer. I’m also working on a film with Mahesh Narayanan, which is also a film I’m producing. I’m excited about all these films.
Lastly, you’ve often mentioned Kasthuriman as a film and a character you can relate a lot to. Is there another one like that? A person who thinks and makes the decisions like you would?
I think Raman from Ranjith Shankar’s Ramante Edanthottam. That too is an underrated film.