Every year, a multitude of actors make their debut in mainstream cinema but a select few stand out, thanks to their onscreen charisma and talent. There is also the luck factor and being in the right place at the right time. And what one has are breakout performances, rather than one-off sparks.
What are the chances of lightning hits striking a person again and again? In Nivin Pauly’s case hits seem to have become his bedfellows. Nivin, clad in a light mundu and black shirt, swaggered his way into a million hearts with his mega hit Premam breaking all-time records. It would have been easy for the actor to just stick to the commercial format, but he chose to break away from his comfort zone by signing Rosshan Andrrew’s Kayamkulam Kochunni and Geethu Mohandas’s bilingual Moothon. And the one he is currently busy with is Haneef Adeni’s Mikhael.
The actor’s choices are eclectic and experimental and he would not want it any other way. “I try not to repeat my roles consciously. An actor grows only when he is ready to experiment, both with roles and different directors. It is not only about hits or misses but about evolving as an actor.”
Kayamkulam Kochunni, based on the legendary thief who lived in the 19th century, is one of Mollywood’s most expensive films. Elaborating on the reasons why he chose to try out the historic genre, Nivin says, “I had immense belief in the director. Rosshan is someone who has done path-breaking films in the past; added to that was the Sanjay— Bobby combo and a character which I have never attempted before.” These were the immediate reasons but what also allured Nivin was giving life to a thief the whole of Kerala was acquainted with — at least through films, folklores and books. “That excited me — to play the Robin Hood of Kerala,” he says, adding, “As the script grew so did the canvas and the budget and that gave me an extra responsibility as an actor. This is the biggest film of my career in terms of budget,” he adds.
The shoot took a long nine months, “I did not take up any other film during this period and gave my complete attention to KK.” Getting into the skin of the lovable thief of Kayamkulam also demanded learning new skills. “I had to learn kalari, horse riding, sword fighting, and all of which was challenging.”
The responsibility that Nivin spoke of earlier is a gargantuan one, if you consider the significance of Kochunni in Kerala history. There have been films made on Kayamkulam Kochunni earlier and Nivin had specific instructions from the makers that he should not see those films. “KK is someone born out of the mind and pen of Rosshan and Sanjay- Bobby. We are not recreating him from any book or film— so there are fictional moments, fights and dramatics. I just studied who and what Kayamkulam Kochunni was. The film takes reference from Kottarathil Sankunni’s Aithihyamala and Amar Chitra Katha but it is fictionalised.”
The actor even suffered an arm injury on the sets. Nivin names the fight sequences as risky. The horse riding sequences too were not easy and challenged the actor in him. “Normally, an actor trains on a single horse and keeps on training till the actor and the horse are familiar with each other. Here since we were travelling to different locations we could not bring the same horse to those locations. I was almost thrown off a horse on two occasions but managed to stay put,” he recalls.
Working with Mohanlal in KK was also a revelation — one which he never thought would happen so soon. “I shot with him for 12 days and those days were the best in my career. I learnt a lot about professionalism and how to perfect a scene.” So what did the captain of the ship Rosshan teach Nivin? “Rosshan is like my brother. Professionally, he is a brilliant director who does his home work thoroughly. For example, the fight sequences were already pre-visualised and animated so it was easy to shoot just by following those sequences. The amount of detailing he gave to each aspect has to be seen to be believed!”
Rosshan, he says, was not ready for any compromise be it the props or sets or details. “He has a special knack for getting the best out of his actors,” Nivin adds. “At the end of the day cinema should not suffer due to compromises!”
Doing films like the upcoming Love Action Drama where he shares screen space with Nayanthara or Hey Jude where he worked with the lovely Trisha, he says, feels like a dream. He reveals he was Trisha’s fan since Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa and recalls. “She never had any airs. She is very friendly, silent and down to earth and a very good friend of mine now. Trisha is someone who has a pure heart!” He is just getting acquainted with Nayanthara since the shooting has just commenced but says the actor is a thorough professional.
Moving on to the Hindi –Malayalam bilingual Moothon, Nivin says that was a film he never would have seen himself acting in. “It is very realistic. Director Geethu is brilliant, who sees beyond the actor’s vision and pushes him to go the extra mile in a constant effort to make the scene better.” Mikhael is the story of a brother and sister and he is currently busy with the shooting of the film in Kozhikode.
Nivin never had any film background to fall back on. All he had was a burning desire to get into films that made him shun a career in the IT field and head over to tinsel town. “If one has the passion and the ability to never lose sight of your goal, I believe that one will ultimately reach that destination. Of course, one has to get the right scripts and directors too.” Nivin also believes in his intuitions. “I pay heed to my intuitions and whenever I have chosen to ignore it, I have paid the price!”
Before signing off, he says, “Learning and evolving are also part of the actor’s life!”...