When the were announced in July 2022, the team of the upcoming film were doing their costume tests and happened to watch the ceremony on television together. Interestingly, many of the artists in the film won awards for their previous projects. This included the Dileesh Pothan, Fahadh Faasil and Syam Pushkaran (producers of Thankam) and actor Biju Menon (playing Muthu, a gold smuggler).
“It was a one-of-a-kind experience. We started the shoot with a crew selfie,” happily recalls Menon who says that there were many memorable moments while shooting for Thankam. Calling the crew a dream team, he admits that he has always wanted to work with them as he found their earlier films (, Maheshinte Prathikaaram and , to name a few) to be sensible and realistic. “I was very happy when they approached me with Thankam. Now, after working with them, I can say without any doubt that I have never felt this comfortable working in a film. If we had a bad day, they made sure we felt comfortable and gave us that space. They would even push the shoot to the next day. Besides, the shoot took place in chronological order. For an actor, having that acting continuity is like being in a comfort zone,” notes Menon.
But breaking out of comfort zones and stereotypes with his choice of films is also what Menon is known for. For instance, when the actor first heard the story of Aarkkariyam (2021, for which he won the State Award), he thought he was supposed to play the role of Roy (essayed by Sharaf U Dheen). Instead, the director Sanu John Varghese told him that he will be playing Ittyavira, the widowed father-in-law of Roy. “He said Ittyavira had more scope for performance. I thought about it for a day and agreed to do it.” But it took some time for the team to crack the perfect look. “I shared with them a photo of my father and credits to the team, we corrected the look. After that, we had to reshoot the first 2-3 days. In cinema, everyone should provide and only when everyone comes together does the whole process turn out beautiful,” the actor says.
Menon and his character Ittyavira are very different, but they share a common trait: their composure. In a competitive industry, Menon appears to be rather tension-free and at ease, especially in all of his interviews. He agrees and says it is because he leads a very simple life. “Stardom is just a part of my profession. When you think about it, cinema as a profession might look grand, but other than that, I am a middle-class person who has a simple life, and that’s how I was raised by my parents.”
Most of his characters are very relatable and are similar to the people we see around us. Menon observes that he likes doing more such characters and he is slightly hesitant to do a mass hero role. He adds, “I would like to do a mass hero kind of a character but only if the project is good and I am convinced by the subject. I will not do such a role just for the sake of it.”