Jayasurya: The star of the year

Jayasurya: The star of the year

Without ado, Jayasurya has clinched the honour as the star of the year with two rousing successes. The actor tells City Times why he picks challenging roles

By Deepa Gauri

Published: Mon 15 Jan 2018, 10:44 AM

Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2018, 1:39 PM

As much as Jayasurya is unaffected by the 'star' tag, India's national media, in its overview of the Malayalam film industry, picked him as the 'star of the year' in 2017. It doesn't come as a surprise for many because Jayan (as he is affectionately known) has brought in an unprecedented first to Malayalam cinema, nay even in the history of cinema: The sequel of a flop movie.
Much credit for that goes not only to Aadu, the 2015 film that flopped at the box office, but in a larger measure to Jayasurya's character, Shaji Pappan, who went on to become a cult hero among youth. Such is the frenzy that when Jayan came to Dubai a few weeks ago, he was greeted outside a restaurant by young men dressed as Shaji Pappan. Kicking up his red-coloured dhoti and twirling on his handle-bar moustache, Jayan and Shaji Pappan walked into the hearts of children too, who warmed themselves to the clumsy and stupid 'hero.'
Directed by Midhun Manuel Thomas, after his successful debut as writer of Om Shanti Oshana, Aadu soon got its own life online. Unspooling like a comic book, with every character a caricature, the film became a sleeper hit sans box office revenues, and it seemed everyone wanted a reprisal of Shaji Pappan. Thus, arrived Aadu 2, the bumper hit of the season, which continues to run to packed houses in Kerala, and will play at theatres in the UAE this weekend.
The idiosyncratic heroism of Shaji Pappan is not just what made 2017 special for Jayan. His home production, Punyalan Private Limited, a sequel to the successful Punyalan Agarbathis had the actor in a more serious avatar - as Joy Thakkolkaran, a struggling entrepreneur up in arms against the judiciary and the chief minister. Diametrically opposite in all aspects, Joy and Shaji are both intuitive performances by Jayan, and are both where the man, the actor, the star disappear to make way for the characters.
From starting his film career as a junior artiste including being spotted in a miniscule fight sequence the Dileep-Kunchacko Boban starrer Dosth (2001), Jayan has traversed an arc of stardom, with over 90 films, as supporting actor, hero, and villain - in Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada. Along the way, he also transitioned into an Indian National Film award-winning actor who constantly challenges himself.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
You are described as the star with the Midas touch and the star of the year. How do you feel about such epithets?
While I am happy to hear such descriptions, honestly, I have always seen myself as an actor, first. And success to me is the success of the character - and by default - the actor in me. 
For someone who started off as a television presenter of comedy shows, how do you see your own transition as an actor and star?
I have not distanced from my past. To me, the bottom-line always has been that I must keep trying to better myself; the moment I stop trying, everything will be lost. As I speak, I am sitting in my office room; there is a TV, which was my first medium, and there is the National Award in the showcase. I attribute it all to a higher power, a blessing that gives you the confidence.
So, is this what you dreamt of when you made your debut as hero in Oomapenninu Uriyadappayyan? Fame, money, success?
I had always wanted to be an actor but it was not for fame or money. I think there has been a change in the way I approach cinema now. I believe I did not see cinema seriously in my initial days. I could have handled many roles with greater involvement. That is the difference now. Today, I am totally involved in every character - from the costume to look and mannerisms. (And support comes from his wife, Saritha who is credited for his much-appreciated costumes in Fukri, Punyalan, Aadu and more). 
What do you look for in a role/film today?
I look for characters that challenge me out of my comfort zone. That is the excitement I seek. I want to evolve as the character, explore it further - and that gives me the real joy.
But Shaji Pappan looks such a breeze - it seems to be a role tailored for you. Where was the challenge in that?
Not at all. I was hesitant to take up Shaji Pappan. I didn't have the confidence that I could pull it off. I was working with people my age or much younger, and Shaji Pappan - despite all his on-screen stupidity - is a hero, and the others need to look up to him. So, it needed a certain level of maturity in me that should make my co-stars see me as Pappan. I had to break that barrier.
Were you disappointed when Aadu flopped?
I was pained because the character into which I put in such an effort went unnoticed. But I cannot complain because ultimately it is the choice of the audience. Then, suddenly, Shaji Pappan started getting noticed. Even in Dubai, mothers would come up to me to say their children loved Pappan. The character was everywhere - on social media. People started asking us to do it again. 
And now we have a sequel to a flop movie.
Yes, it is probably a first in the world. It is even more special to me because people would say, there is no Jayasurya in the film - there is just Shaji Pappan. It has happened before too - after Cocktail, Punyalan, Trivandrum Lodge, Pretham, Iyobinte Pusthakam.
So, there are really two phases to your career: Post-Cocktail and before.
Obviously there has been a transition for me as an actor. But I think it started with a less-noticed film called Kangaroo. It liberated me as an actor but it was Cocktail that had people discussing the change.
 Have you felt that despite such heavily performance-oriented roles, there has been a hesitation to accept you - as an actor and star?
Not at all. For one, I don't really care much about these. To me, the task is to reach the goal I've set as a performer. When I see it that way, there is no anger or malice in me, whether recognitions come or not. And no one can stop me from working hard.
You seem to have matured too - to see success and failure with a sort of evenness.
It happens as you grow; you start an inner search and you realise that external things cannot give you contentment. I travelled to the Himalayas - as part of this inner journey. I realise that a film's success might make you happy but contentment comes from within. It is not to say I am detached from all this; I like to see everything as a witness and not let it go to my head. Isn't it better to just attribute all to that higher power and stay grateful? I don't worry about what I don't have, I don't go after petty things, I don't talk about a third person, I don't see negative films or even read negative reviews. These things trouble me. What is the need for it when we can consciously stay positive?
You also seem to stay out of controversy; in fact, you hardly comment on the goings-on in the industry?It is just a matter of common sense; what is the point in me commenting about something when my words won't change the incident or the past?
You work a lot with the same directors/teams. Is it about the comfort zone that friendship brings?
Of course, there is the comfort of working with friends. But what matters is that we have the freedom to have creative differences; there is so much give and take when there is no ego holding you back.
So, what is next for Jayasurya, the actor, the star?
Honestly, I don't know. I haven't signed up for any new project. Right now, I am just taking it easy, listening to scripts. I will only do a film that excites me as an actor and performer.

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