Even from the black-and-white era, sidekicks have been essential in Malayalam cinema. In fact, it was through such roles that actors such as Adoor Bhasi and Bahadoor could establish their space in M’town. Though such roles were absent in the storyline for a while, buddy roles are back in Mollywood, with more importance.
According to actor-director Lal, sidekick role plays a crucial role in films, especially those which narrate stories in a fast pace. “A story will be created with a chain of incidents. But it can be narrated in two paces — either high or low.”
“Sidekick roles are unavoidable in films which tell stories in high pace, where the events occur back to back,” he says. Lal feels that sidekick roles are not being used in hero-oriented subjects. “A film that completely revolves around a high-voltage hero or ‘ottayan’ does not need a sidekick just because heroes do not discuss anything with anyone. A typical example is Madhavankutty in Hitler. There is another category, which can be completely connected to the common man, like Sathyanarayanan in King Liar. Even layman audience can relate to the activities of such a character as Sathyanarayanan is also a common man. Usually, the audience can easily find fault in such characters. If we place a sidekick role for a hero, the writer/director can easily shoot the doubts of audience through that character,” says Lal.
Actor Balu Varghese, who has been noted for his sidekick roles in Ithihasa, Honey Bee, Style and King Liar, says that many writers are coming up with scripts that give importance to buddy roles. “A few years ago, films had complete space for heroes. Now, as part of experimenting in the side of scripting, sidekick roles also get the importance as that of heros and heroines. In fact, such a change is a blessing for actors like me,” he quips, adding, “I think these roles have much importance in the progress of the story.” When quizzed about whether he would be stereotyped as a sidekick, Balu says, “No, I don’t think so. Many actors, who have essayed these roles, are now noted for their performance in protagonist-antagonist roles.”
Actor Soubin Shahir, who is gearing up to wear the hat of a filmmaker, points out that the duty of a sidekick is not just creating a funny moment. “The friend of the hero is now commonly known as a sidekick. Of course, such a role is an essential factor in Malayalam cinema nowadays. Even in my directorial ventures, there will be such roles. But I don’t think that the ultimate aim of such roles is to deliver the comedy dialogues. Sidhique ikka (actor Sidhique) is noted for essaying such roles, but they have sentimental shades,” he says.
The close buddy role alias sidekick role has many assignments to do in a film. “Such roles are mainly created, not just to crack jokes. In some films, they are being created to project the positive sides of the protagonist. Sometimes, these roles used to give information or instruction to his friend (hero). He is even capable of bringing a twist in the storyline. This mainly happens in action-thriller films,” says director Raffi (Raffi Mecartin).
Raffi points out that there is no rule to use only male actors as sidekicks. “Even female actors can be used for such roles. In some films, the wife of the protagonist is given the above mentioned assignments,” Raffi says.