Fahadh Faasil on his Varathan role
Varathan directed by Amal Neerad, stars Fahadh Faasil and Aishwarya Lekshmi
Malayalam actor Fahadh Faasil talks about what attracted him to Amal Neerad's thriller Varathan, out in UAE theatres this weekend
The tag of an 'outsider' (Varathan) is not something that sits easily with Malayalam actor Fahadh Faasil. Son of the illustrious director A.M. Fazil who has given us gems like Manjil Virinja Pookal (his debut as a director, which also marked Mohanlal's entry into Malayalam films), Ente Mamaattikkutiyammakku (1983), Nokkethadhoorathu Kannum Nattu (1984) and Manichitrathazhu (1993) among others, Fahadh by all accounts should have had an easy entry into movies. But at the age of 19, in 2002, when he burst into the big screen with Kaiyethum Doorath helmed by his dad, there were no takers. In fact the film failed so miserably that it took a good seven years before he made a small-scale but impactful return with the anthology film Kerala Café in 2009.
Then followed hits like Chaappa Kurishu, Akam, 22 Female Kottayam, Diamond Necklace, Annayum Rasoolum, Bangalore Days, Iyobinte Pusthakam, Take Off, Maheshinte Pratikaram, Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum for which he won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor and many other movies, each of which had one defining character. They all showcased Fahadh in a never-seen-before avatar, proving beyond a doubt that here was an actor who was bold and fearless when it came to exhibiting his versatility and taking chances with the roles he signs on.
Married to Malayalam cinema's sweetheart, Nazriya Nazim, Fahadh is now back, after his role as a maverick treasure hunter Siby in Carbon early this year, with Amal Neerad's thriller Varathan that has been garnering great reviews ever since it released in Kerala before making its way to UAE theaters this weekend.
Excerpts from an early morning telephone conversation with the elusive actor who is busy shooting his next film in Kerala:
How excited are you about Varathan releasing in the UAE, considering it is already garnering positive reviews post its Kerala release?
I believe Varathan is a film made for all Malayalis so if it works here (Kerala) I feel it will work everywhere. I'm not tense. It's a movie that I feel people can associate very well with. It was shot there (in the UAE)- so I am excited to see what people think about the film there. More than anything I'm curious to see how people there will take to the film.
You are one actor who has always managed to wow fans with new characters and interpretations. So what attracted you to this role in Varathan?
This is a story, which Amal (Neerad, director) had told me, during my first meeting with him 5-6 years back. It's been a story I have always wanted to do; I have always been excited about the idea of an outsider.
Abin (the character he plays in Varathan) is someone who was born and raised in Kerala, who is a Malayali. He left home to find a job in Dubai, worked there for 5-6 years and then he comes back. I didn't understand when someone leaves home and then comes back, how can he be an outsider? That always puzzled me.
The idea is to keep doing work that you have not attempted yet. Varathan is not something I have done earlier. Unless I feel fresh about things I don't think people watching me will feel fresh about watching the film.
My idea was to do something I had not tried before.
Actors are known to be partial to roles that are proven to work well at the box office. But in your case, there has always been an attempt to do something different in each of the roles you have taken up. Has that been a conscious decision from your side?
It's nothing like that. What makes a difference for me is the people I associate with, be it the directors, the writers, the cameramen or the technicians. when you keep interacting with such talent I don't think it will get repetitive. So there is no constant effort from my side. I just want to be excited about what I'm going to do or what I'm going to shoot. Nothing else matters to me.
Do you identify with the title Varathan (Outsider) on a personal level?
No, I didn't even know that people know me that well. They know I'm a director's son and married to an actress. I don't think they know more about me. And it doesn't matter.. I'd like to believe that I worked my way up. I had no privilege of being a director's son. A lot of films (I did for family) didn't work for me. Things took its time to fall into place. I wasn't given any prerogatives.
So do you laugh at the term 'nepotism' that's thrown around so carelessly in Bollywood?
Just look around. There are many star kids or directors' kids who haven't made it yet. They are still struggling. so I think it is pointless. I don't know how Bollywood works, to be honest, but from what I know, there is nothing like that here (Malayalam film industry). Unless you have a point to say, I don't think you will be heard. If you have a point, you will be heard.
All the characters you have done are flawed in certain ways while there are so many actors who prefer to do only 'whitewashed' roles.
I believe in the basic goodness of human beings. The rest of it is my freedom to narrate a story. That's it. It is no reflection on any human I have met. I believe in the basic goodness of people. It's a combination of all these that make someone human.
If you look at it from a cinematic perspective you need all these shades to narrate a story. As a filmmaker or being in this business, my idea is to tell a story in the most entertaining way. Its not a reflection on any image I'm trying to get. it doesn't have any other intention. I don't think that what you act on the screen has any reflection on your personal life. I have never heard anyone say, 'I'm going to live a better life because I saw a good film'. Just watch the film and leave it there. I don't think it should be taken home.
Malayali audiences are lucky in that every time they visit the theatres they are able to experience different types of movies and characters. Is that a recent development?
Even when I started my career I had said in my interviews that what is important is not actors coming up and acting, it's directors and writers wanting to try different actors. If all the directors decide to do films with those who are stars or those who do minimum business, then it will be difficult.
What's important is filmmakers coming in to do a film that they believe in and I think it is very visible around the world. Two favourite films of mine this year in India are both from debutant directors. One is Sudani from Nigeria and the second is Aruvi, a Tamil film. It is new filmmakers, new cast - I don't think there were any known faces in both these films. That's what actually makes a difference, I think.
Do you ever dream of a pan-Indian presence? Recently there were talks of Bangalore Days being remade in Bollywood. Do you see yourself in that space?
No (emphatic). The Malayalam Bangalore Days can go play there. What's the point of remaking a movie, I really don't understand. I don't see the point. a film that was made very well, appreciated all over the country and now it has to be made in a different language to be sold there? It doesn't make sense.
What about some other role in Bollywood?
No. Not really. I'm honestly looking forward to scripts than roles. I read a script... it's not that I work from a character. I work from an idea. The character actually falls into place. It's a process. It doesn't initiate with a character. The initial idea is always the thought.
Post Bangalore Days in which you acted together, you and Nazriya are coming together in Varathan as actor and producer. How difficult or easy was it to maintain the equation on the set?
I have not consciously made any effort. It is all very smooth and beautiful. I have never had this thought process that I have to do all this to make this function. No. It has been happening very organically and smoothly without any effort from my end. And I don't know if Nazriya (laughs) is making a lot of effort. It is very smooth. There are no efforts.
Fans look upon Nazriya as being very fun loving, whereas you have a more serious demeanor. When we spoke to Nazriya during the release of Koode in the UAE, she mentioned how she wishes she could be as hardworking as you. How do you see her as an actor?
Nazriya is very effortless. This is from the films that I have seen of her on the screen... I think she has this way of making it look very convincing without putting in any effort. It looks as if it is very easy to perform.
She always comes across as someone you know. And that is very important for an actor I think. Even before I met her and I watched Neram - the first impression I got was, 'I know someone like her'. That's a very rare and beautiful thing for an actor to have. The sense of identity that an audience has - when you see someone from screen. that's very interesting and I have seen that with Nazriya.
Unlike other actors you keep a very low profile outside movies. Its almost like you don't exist outside the big screen. Is that a conscious effort?
I don't consciously make any decisions in life. This is the way I am. I've never said, I want my life this way or I want to handle my profile this way, no. This is how I function. I wouldn't change for anyone and I wouldn't want anyone to change me. If we can collaborate this way, as we are, then it's brilliant.
Fahadh with his Varathan co-star Aishwarya Lekshmi
Fahadh portrays the role of an expat in Varathan who upon his return to Kerala only feels like an outsider