For someone who grew up watching My Dear Kuttichathan, O Faby and Sakshal Sreeman Chathunny, playing the lead in a fantasy movie is surreal. Asif Ali finds his surreal moments in Iblis, in which he pairs up with director V.S. Rohit for a second time. The movie that hit the screens on Friday has been garnering amazing reports. Asif couldn’t be happier.
“I had fallen in love with the script the moment Rohit started narrating it. I knew it was going to sweep the audience off their feet,” says the actor, who has undergone a mindblowing transformation to get under the skin of Vaisakhan in his early 20s.
Having lost oodles of weight, Asif has turned more vibrant and cheerful. A self-confessed foodie, it wasn’t an easy task, he admits. “I had complete trust in Rohit and was sure that he would bring magic to the screen. I decided to give my all to the role; it was worth the effort. Regular workout and intense diet for two months are all it took for the transformation,” says Asif.
The movie, he adds, is a fantasy with a ‘kiddish’ narration because most of it is told from the point of view of children.
“Vaisakhan is a boyish character oozing innocence and naivete, so much so that it is his grandfather, played by Lal, who introduces him to various emotions. He has a love interest, Fida (Madonna Sebastian), who is bolder than him. What interested me to it was the magical, out-of-the-box script,” he says, showering praise on Rohit.
The last time he collaborated with Rohit, what followed was a stream of controversies when the movie Adventures of Omanakuttan failed to attract much footfall and an emotional Asif reportedly blamed it on himself.
Laughing it off, Asif chooses to clarify, “I have never tried to degrade myself. What I meant was people preferred superstar films to mine as it was they who had more fan following. That is natural; even I would choose a popular actor or a favourite hero over another. I was emotional at the time because I had put in a lot of effort for the character and when I felt it was all in vain, I was upset. What I tried to say was wrongly quoted everywhere.”
Iblis is another adventure – with loads of fantasy and magical realism. “Without being judgmental, people need to watch the movie and I’m sure they will be blown away by its novelty of treatment and path-breaking ideas. Set in an imaginary village, the people, unique getup and curious customs are sure to offer a visual treat. It will be a very rich experience,” the excitement is high in Asif’s voice.
He also gives a disclaimer: “The film and characters bear no resemblance to the living and the dead. You need to watch Iblis to know what I mean.”
The collaboration with Rohit has been a game-changer, admits Asif. “After Omanakuttan, I have been very choosy because that’s when I realised I had the freedom to decide a script. Till then, I had been greedy and many of my choices were very bad. I was so excited I never let go of any projects that came my way. I made mistakes like Asuravithu; that was a character I couldn’t carry off well, not even at this stage.”
Each fall was a new lesson learnt. “Now, I have started asking questions and taking suggestions, something I learnt from experience. I place myself as the character while listening to the script and think over it before committing. As they say, once bitten twice shy,” he stresses.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Asif is well aware of his limitations and his rising career shows how carefully he has been treading the path, taking it slow, improving bit by bit — as proved by Take Off, Sunday Holiday and Kaattu. “I have limited the choices and make sure all the characters I play have an identity,” he explains.
So, is it time to explore other industries? “Not yet. Malayalam has an upper hand over other languages in terms of the quality of movies produced. I want to earn a space here first and after that, may be... if the offer is that enticing,” he says.
Now his brother Askar Ali is two films old, how does Asif help him? “The only suggestion I have given him is to attend every call,” he laughs, adding, “I have never had any help when I came to the industry and all the experiences have shaped me up. I hope he too learns from his experiences. I don’t know if he expects more from me.”
Asif’s upcoming movie is Mandaram, which he calls ‘a love story devoid of clichés’. The film is expected to hit the screens on September 7. Also coming up is Vijay Superum Pournamiyum, his next with director Jismon after Sunday Holiday and Bicycle Thieves. It’s an exciting phase and he wants to take it slow. As he puts it, “I would rather be known as an actor than a star.”...