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The real act

Published Mar 14, 2016, 12:00 am IST
Updated Mar 14, 2016, 7:04 am IST
Placing non-actors in mainsteam cinema has become a trend as seen in movies like Amoeba, Action Hero Biju and Maheshinte Prathikaram.

Director Manoj Kana had taken years researching the subject for his film Amoeba and had a clear idea of the character portrayals. Manoj’s film dealt with the physical and mental turmoil of endosulfan poisoning victims and he wanted unknown faces to portray his characters.

He had earlier worked with Adivasis in Wayanad, making them act in his drama and so this time around, he was not looking at only experienced actors to play key roles in Amoeba. He also had an apprehension that commercial actors might want to speed up the filming process because of date issues so decided to cast non-actors and real life endosulfan victims in some crucial scenes.


Sindhu, a victim of the ‘spray of death’ acted in the film; she cannot get up or walk but her heartrending performance brought tears to the viewer’s eyes. She was not acting but living her role. Vysakh, a young boy with no hands, is another victim of endosulfan poisoning and he too put in a stirring performance in the film. Karthiyani of slight frame and haunting eyes is a labourer. Manoj searched high and low, zeroed in on her, went to her workplace and convinced her to act the part. These examples show the lengths filmmakers go to, to infuse reality in their films and not always for commercial gains.


Says Manoj, “I see films as a social commitment and I want actors or people involved in my film also to feel that same involvement and imbibe that commitment. I did not want actors but characters to speak.” Manoj’s film won the state award for second best film this year.

Adds actress Anumol, who played a role and interacted with the victims as her co-stars, “What most of us think about are physical deformities of the endosulfan afflicted, but I got to understand up close and personal the mental turmoil of the victims. The women are scared to get married or indulge in physical intimacy for fear of begetting children with birth defects. It was emotionally very upsetting for me because you are only human and tend to get affected!”


Films are seeing real life men and women with zero film experience playing noteworthy roles alongside seasoned actors. Director Jayaraj cast a real life fisherman Kumarakom Vasudevan as the lead for his film Ottal and it went on to clinch many state and national awards.   

Coming to the recent hit Maheshinte Prathikaram shot completely in Idukki, director Dileesh Pothan wanted the film to be as real-life as possible. Based on a true incident, Dileesh chose the location where it unfolded and used the acting talents of the natives who were familiar with the incident. He explains, “I wanted a real feel in each frame of the film, be it the rustic ambience, the clothes or the accent. If I had cast only actors in all the roles, the reality would have been compromised. I made the natives act in whatever clothes they turned up in and casting real people made the film and storyline realistic.”


He gives an example of his quest for perfection, “The costumes that Fahadh Faasil and the others wear in the film are all second hand! We bought new clothes for the local people and got their old clothes for the cast.”

The challenge for Dileesh only laid in getting the non-actors to forget the camera and act. Lijomol, who acted as Alancier’s daughter in the film, is a native of Idukki who faced the camera for the first time. A PG student, she was selected after audition. She says, “I have no connection with films and was petrified to act with Fahadh and Soubin; but they made me very comfortable. Dileesh told me to behave like how I would at home and to not think that I was acting.”


Abrid Shine discovered folk singer Suresh Thampanoor and cast him in Action Hero Biju that had him sing the song Muthe ponne pinangalle, which went on to become a runaway hit. Abrid opines, “My film revolved around the interactions between the police and the common man and it is a realistic movie. I wanted as many real life people as I could manage. Some roles required seasoned actors but some needed fresh faces. I zeroed in on Suresh after auditioning 4,000 people and found that my choice was absolutely apt for the role!”