I’m Trying To Follow In The Footsteps of Mammukka and Lalettan: Tovino Thomas

The actor opens up about his understanding of arthouse films and whether he’ll turn a full-time producer in the future, ahead of Adrishya Jalakangal's release
Tovino Thomas
Tovino Thomas

Tovino Thomas is on cloud nine with the industry blockbuster 2018 (2023), which is also India’s entry into the Academy Awards this year. The actor has an array of big-ticket films to his name coming out next year, but he is now focused on indie drama Adrishya Jalakangal (2023), which will be out in theatres on Friday. The film, written and directed by National Film Award-winning director Bijukumar Damodharan, will see Tovino in an unrecognisable avatar. The film is touted to be an expansive exploration of a metaphysical, cosmic fantasy world that opens up to a common man, whose life changes in the blink of an eye. The film, which won laurels after its prestigious screening at various international film festivals, became the first Malayalam film to be screened at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (TBNFF), a rare honour. 

Tovino recalls, “I am not someone who was familiar with the existence of the so-called art films or serious cinema. I think I have seen many of these films at a young age itself on TV, but had no idea about these distinctions. I remember watching Oru Cheru Punchiri (2001), which left a mark on me. But, in those days the attitude towards more serious cinema was labelling it “Award Film”and setting it aside as it was considered to be films that would bore you to death or change your perspective and way of thinking. Everyone in that generation, especially in my age group, had this aversion to parallel cinema as it was deemed slow.”

Tovino Thomas in Adrishya Jalakangal
Tovino Thomas in Adrishya Jalakangal

The actor also adds that he started hunting down arthouse films after he began attending IFFK in Trivandrum. “But that experience changed my perspective on art house films. Even though many films that I saw there went over my head, I still remember this Belgian language film Hasta la Vista (2011), that I really loved. Black Blood (2011), a chinese film was yet another movie that made me feel things even though I knew that there was no entertainment value in those films. I also remember watching Mathilukal (1990) back in the day,”

The Adrishya Jalakangal actor also is clear on his plans for producing films and his career roadmap, “In terms of production, I am not someone suitable to be a full-time producer. I don't think I am just made for that job. I see myself as someone who can lose a lot of money if I turn into a full-time producer. My head doesn't work that way. I am currently doing the thing I love the most in the world. So I don't see a reason to turn a producer for its sake. Even in films like Kala (2021) and Vazhakku (2022), both of which I was a production partner in, I gave up my own salary.”

Tovino adds that in Adrishya Jalakangal, too he is only taking half of his salary. "The rest is my investment in the film. None of these films are losses for me as my major investment is my time and effort. My aim is to help these small films that will need my assistance to get the project off the ground. I have no plans to produce commercial films as I am not cut out for that process.”

With regard to his attempts in following the career trajectory of senior super stars like Mammootty and Mohanlal, Tovino has his own take on their longevity and legacy. “If they simply pursued only stardom, they would have ended up being like Burj Khalifa...But they are like Mount Everest now! No wind can bring them down. That's the reason they are still standing tall. The main reason behind their longevity is this balance that they’ve maintained in their films till now. They did all kinds of films. All our leading stars used to do that in the past. That's what made them superstars as well great actors at the same time. I am also trying to follow the example they have set for us.”

Tovino Thomas in Minnal Murali
Tovino Thomas in Minnal Murali

Tovino also shares the logic behind his career choices. “I am really enjoying this new phase in my career. After Minnal Murali (2022), I could see things more clearly and got this clarity as to what kind of films I should attach myself to. I have started working on my basic understanding of films and learnt martial arts for a film like Ajayante Randam Moshanam. These are new things for me. With age I feel I am getting a little more mature and I'm balancing my career. I have not been able to work with many senior directors as I have not gotten calls from them as much. I have been offered roles by these new directors and my friends.”

He notes that there’s a sense of comfort in working with people you know. “I have always seen myself as a team player, so I am dependent on my writer and director for any film to work. So I try to collaborate with all my directors and try to understand what they want me to do and learn the technical nuances of filmmaking on the go. This way, I am able to see things more clearly and live the life I always aspired to have in the first place. It's all good now.”

Adrishya Jalakangal, which co-stars Nimisha Sajayan, Jayashree Lakshminarayan and Indrans, will be released on 24 November.

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