After Jayasurya-starrer Pretham released, there was a huge buzz over his portrayal of mentalist Don Bosco, who was seen as a mediator between ghost and humans. Many wondered if there was any truth behind the exceptional abilities of a mentalist, who is neither all of a ghost-catcher nor a clearly psychic person? The Pretham character was inspired by a real life mentalist Adarsh Aathi, popular as Mentalist Aathi. Aathi shot to fame among Malayalis when Jayasurya uploaded a couple of videos of Aathi unlocking his phone password and revealing the name of the actor’s first love.
Everyone was in awe to see Aathi giving out the actor’s personal information without leaving any clue on how it was done; the curiosity itself got many to watch the movie. You too might want to check it out for yourself. At his favourite place in town — Cocoa Tree Café — sat Aathi in his favourite spot and he had all the mannerisms of a magician — from a death stare to the easy coin trick he picks out — in his case, it was a thick-ring that rolled so easily above his knuckles, very naturally. But he is clearly not a magician. “The ring roll has become a part of my existence,” says Aathi.
On his role in grooming Jayasurya’s mentalist avatar Don Bosco, Aathi explains, “When I look at you, I should be able to see the reflection of my eyes in your’s. And that was just the start of what I could instruct to mould Don Bosco.” Sharing a good friendship with some of the leading faces of the celebrity fraternity, including Mohanlal and Jayasurya, Aathi says, “During one of our friendly meetings, director Ranjith Sankar was discussing the plots of Pretham before the filming began. Knowing my profession, Ranjith popped up the question — why not we bring in the mentalist profile to Jayasurya’s character.”
“That’s how it all began. But there were definitely character modifications to spice up the story and Jayasurya was really dedicated to learn the art and mannerisms of a mentalist.” Challenges were aplenty. “First of all, not many Malayalis know about mentalism. The real challenge was to mould his character in such a way that the audience should be as convinced as the other characters in the movie.”
Asked if a mentalist can actually talk to ghosts as Don Bosco does in Pretham, he says, “A mentalist, in my knowledge, cannot speak to ghosts. I too have tried, but haven’t got any response yet,” he jokes.
“This is a trained ability. My interest began with my love for Sherlock Holmes. I was a voracious reader and used to explore books of Sigmund Freud and others. Born and brought up in Kanhangad, my family couldn’t have understood my interest in the subject. So I moved to Kochi and did my animation degree as a mask to spend more time in the library and learning about mentalism. Then I moved to New York and finally learned the art. I designed a show called Insomnia and have performed in over 24 countries. The idea behind Insomnia is to explore and exploit the psychology of deception. So basically, my profession is about entertaining, but I also give consultation for the police for investigative and interrogative purposes. As a mentalist, it is based on the skills I have mastered to capture and understand the minutest movement of an individual. People’s response to certain situations are evident in their face or actions, say microexpression, which is a brief, involuntary facial expression that I have learned to understand and that helps me read what emotions pass through others’ minds,” says Aathi.
Aathi is also doing a stage show called Mind and Music with violinist Balabhaskar and illusionist Raja Moorthy for the last three years, and are coming back with a new show next month. “We are updating our show to a new level, titled ‘M’, which is going to be a very different show, combining music and mentalism,” says Aathi.
Before signing off, he was asked whether he had the psychic abilities to read minds and he says, “I am not psychic and I believe there is no such thing as psychic, only entertainers skilled in the art of deception. The stage has to be set, but you never know, there could be some kind of gift.”