Tovino Thomas speaks about how he became a part of Kala, what he thought about getting an 'A' certificate for the film and how he feels about watching himself on the big screen, in this interview with Baradwaj Rangan. Edited excerpts…
People generally don't prefer an 'A' certificate for their films because it reduces the family audience. But you were thrilled about it in your tweet on Kala. Why?
I wouldn't say I was thrilled. My team was concerned about the 'A' certificate as it might restrict people from coming to the theatres, especially during this pandemic situation. We didn't want our movie to go unnoticed. We got good reviews from the censor board but they also suggested not to cut off any scenes just for the sake of getting a U/A [certificate]. In Kala, director Rohith VS had tried a raw way of storytelling, and we didn't want to change the essence of it, so we went ahead with the movie in an interesting way.
How do you choose your movies? Let's take Kala, for example. How do you know that a movie is right for you? Do you read a script or do you listen to the narration?
I do both. I read scripts, but I prefer listening to the narration from the director or writer, so that I get to know what they are going to do, what contributions they want me to make for the movie, on what scale they are planning to do the film in, and what aspects will be emphasized. However, sometimes, in a situation like the lockdown, that won't be possible. In Kala's case, during the last lockdown, Akhil George, the DOP of the film — with whom I had previously worked with in Forensic — called me up and said that Rohith wanted to narrate a script to me. Rohith, Akhil and I had worked together for short films back in 2011, so we were very comfortable with each other. Rohith then sent a few voice notes to me, narrating the whole idea of the film, also mentioning the politics of the movie. He was so passionate and convinced about it. After that, we had long telephonic conversations and discussions. Then, I said yes.
One amazing thing I noticed about your career is that you never shy away from sharing screen space with other actors. Sumesh Moor's name was listed above yours in the cast list, and you were fine with it. Both of your characters are central. Is there a competitive element in a corner of your mind?
I agree that there is a healthy competition, but there is no need for insecurity. In all the reviews I read, people said that I have done justice to my character, that's what matters to me. When Rohith narrated the script to me, I clearly knew the character I was going to play. I could've never played the character Moor played, and Moor could've never played the character I played, because of the politics in the film. In fact, we were concerned that people would tend to like my character more than Moor's just because I am a known face. It was a concern for us actually, because only if people loved Moor's character more than mine, the politics portrayed in the film would be conveyed convincingly. As one of the producers of the film, I wanted my film to work.
You said that you always wanted to feature on the big screen. Do you watch yourself on the big screen?
Yes, I do, not only my own films, but films starring my contemporaries and seniors as well. I love going to the theatres; I'm a big movie buff. I believe that I watch myself on screen as a self-assessment process. Only if I watch will I come to know where I went wrong and where I did right. I might not be able to enjoy the film like a normal audience as I've been a part of the entire filmmaking process, read the script, been to dubbing, but still I watch it for self-assessment. I make sure that I watch all my movies a couple of times.
Are you one of those actors who says, 'I could have done that scene better' after watching the movie? What are the movies you felt you have done the least number of mistakes in?
Yes, I do it every single time. Actors are never satisfied and always crave to improvise. Coming to the least number of mistakes I made in my movies, I would pick Mayanadhi and Kala. I wouldn't say my performances were perfect, but I made the least number of mistakes in those films. And The Oskar Goes To… is another film that can be included in the list.