On the other side of the phone, Premkumar sounds excited. Just hours ago was he chosen for the 10th Adoor Bhasi Chalachithra Ratna Award, for his contributions to society as an actor and as a columnist who writes about social issues and current affairs. The Premkumar film buffs had known for long is a man of excellent comic timing and memorable humour-packed dialogues. But opening a bag of surprises, he states, “It’s all another person on the screen. In real life, I am not funny at all.”
Premkumar was the star of the 90s – the leading man in nearly 20 films and the comical sidekick in over 150 movies. Since then, there were movies, many of those blink-and-miss ones, till Aravindante Athithikal and Panchavarnathatha, touted as his comeback movies to the forte of humour, happened.
Glad about the reception, he says, “I hadn’t gone anywhere. I was here at my home in Kazhakoottam, playing with my daughter, accepting offers that came to me and putting my thoughts into words.”
The break, he says, happened due to laziness. “I am someone who loves to sit at home watching the rain, reading books and writing down my thoughts,” says Premkumar, who has penned articles in leading Malayalam dailies on subjects that range from crazy superstar fandom to Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha’s standing protest (nilpu samaram) to substandard TV soaps.
A person who started off as a TV actor and shifted to the silver screen, playing memorable roles in movies such as Aadyathe Kanmani, Aniyan Bava Chettan Bava and Puthukkotta-yile Puthumanavalan, Premkumar doesn’t shy away from criticising TV. “I don’t believe in any art that delivers wrong messages. Without self-censoring, the serials these days spew venom and misogyny, which is why I refused to accept the offers from TV soaps. I make sure that whatever I am part of has some virtue to offer,” says the actor, who is planning to bring out a book compiling his articles.
“In films, the real me has been misunderstood. My identity is very different from what has been portrayed through my characters,” he says. Is there a tinge of melancholy in his words? “It is true that I have been typecast in comic roles, but I always consider myself lucky. Growing up in a little village hoping to earn a government job one day, I could scale great heights when people who are more handsome and talented couldn’t make it. Isn’t that lucky?” asks the actor, who lives in Thiruvananthapuram with his wife Jisha and daughter Ponnu.
A Calicut University School of Drama alumnus, Premkumar passed with first rank and his very first movie was Sakhavu, a biopic of Communist leader P. Krishnapillai. “I started off acting as comrade P. My dream, back then, was to portray serious characters like Oedipus, Macbeth and Othello from my drama days. Much later, I got to act in Vasanthathinte Kanalvazhikalil, yet another movie about comrade P, but that movie didn’t see the daylight. Had it come out, my whole life would have been different!”
But he stresses that he has no regrets or worry. “I trust in God and believe that everything happens according to a plan. There’s nothing we can do about it,” says the actor, who is currently shooting for Fahadh Faasil’s Anenkilum Allenkilum, in which he will be seen in yet another comic avatar....