We Are All Mortal. But Cinema Is Immortal: Shane Nigam

What I love is that balance between the artistic element and also a commercial element. If that blend happens, then there is nothing like it…
We Are All Mortal. But Cinema Is Immortal: Shane Nigam

I Believe that our Hearts should have a lot of Romance and Passion: Shane Nigam

There should be an emotional connection with the story and the character. If that is there, then everything will just flow.

Shane Nigam is an actor who predominantly works in Malayalam Cinema. He has a line-up of films in 2022 including Boothakaalam, Veyil and Barmuda. In this interview with Baradwaj Rangan, Shane discusses his acting journey, favourite films and future plans.

Edited excerpts from an interview between Shane Nigam and Baradwaj Rangan after the release of Bhoothakaalam:

BR: I just saw Bhoothakaalam. The film is excellent, you are excellent. After the controversy that you went through, has there been any learning? Is it safe to say that Shane Nigam is finally in a good space now?

Shane Nigam: Yes, I'm in a better space. There was a particular issue that blew up into a controversy. It was a consequence of a series of events that had happened. If I'm going to explain what, the whole interview won't be enough. So all I can say right now is that it was a difficult time. But I don't regret it because I could understand how the industry works more closely. Right now, I'm glad that I had to experience it.

In Bhoothakaalam, you have a very difficult role—you are suffering trauma from the past and your home is not in a happy place. What was the toughest scene for you?

Since we used sync sound for the movie, there were too many interruptions while shooting the climax scene which was also quite an emotional scene. So I found it challenging to keep repeating it. Sometimes while doing the emotional scenes, it is hard to keep repeating it again and again. The scene itself is complicated. It is complicated because there's an emotion to convey—it's a very helpless situation that both of them have reached. Imagine adding the complication due to constant interruptions to the sound. So the climax was the toughest scene.

Do you prefer sync sound or dubbing? One actor says I give my best shot, right then and there and so I want my voice like it is on the set. That is sync sound. There are other actors who say that they improve the performance when they're dubbing? What do you prefer?

Actually, both sync sound and dubbing can be correct based on the situation. I did Kumbalangi Nights (2019) and Parava (2017) in sync sound. For Kumbalangi Nights, it was shot in a more remote area. So shooting in sync was more comfortable. We can capture the rawness of the place. If we are trying to use sync sound in a more crowded and noisy place, then we'll mostly have to concentrate more on the sound, and you might have to compromise on the performances then.

What is your approach to acting? How do you get into a character? Do you read the script and then do you look for one or two hooks that can connect you to the character?

First of all, there should be an emotional connection with the story and the character. If that connection is there, then everything will flow. That's the main thing. I believe that our hearts should have a lot of romance and passion. Isn't that the whole point? That romance and passion will help craft the character.

What is your favourite Malayalam film of all time and do you have a favourite among the movies you have done?

My favourite Malayalam film of all time is Thoovanathumbikal (1987). Everything about the film is so poetic. Even though it is dealing with a sensitive subject, it is portrayed with a lot of beauty and love. My favourite among the movies that I have done is Kismath (2016). It was my first film as lead and the first experience will always be special. Kismath will remain close to my heart.

So Shane Nigam of Kismath and Shane Nigam of today – What's the difference?

There is not much difference. I have learnt a lot and I had a few realisations. For me, while I was doing Kismath, making a movie was all about passion and love towards it. But right now, I'm compelled to realise that there are a lot of other things that come with this process. So I think that's the main difference.

One among the many things I have realised is that there are two types of approaches to a movie. What I think is that cinema is immortal. We are all mortal. Even after we are gone, the film is there. So every scene and every shot for me, it's my life itself. In that perspective, the film is also an art.

There is another angle for films where we just do the business. Films are a show business and everything is correct, but it is also an art. So there should be a softer side while doing this process. There should be a balance between treating the film as art and as a business. If it is completely business or if it is completely artistic, it won't work. That balance should be kept and that's what I'm also intending. That's what I also wish to happen in more films.

Are your future films all mainstream films or are you also looking at maybe a few festival-type films like Nivin Pauly's Moothon (2019)?

I am not in a closed space where I will be only be doing commercial films. For me, it's the story and the character. Also, of course, people should watch it somewhere. Otherwise, it's a painful. But what I really love is that there should be an artistic element and also a commercial element. If that blend happens, then there is nothing like that.

Last question, how do you handle success and failure?

I always emotionally connect with everything. That's the main problem I'm facing. Everything affects me, even the slightest thing. I think that's my nature. But right now, I'm trying to control it. We have to be a little detached while working. That's a good quality that I find attractive about our seniors. They are attached, but they are also detached. That's a nice balance. For me, everything becomes so special and I know that's a weak point of me. But there should be a point of detachment also, otherwise, one gets affected by success and failures.

You say you are a good actor because you are so sensitive and emotional. But then you're also saying that I should learn to be less sensitive and less emotional. So it's complicated…

Yes, it is complicated. Even there, there's a need for balance. I'm not saying I have that right now. But somewhere in the future, I may or may not find it.

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