Suraj Venjaramoodu sets a new high with the role of a septuagenarian in his latest film Android Kunjappan Ver. 5.25

Winning the National Award for Best Actor in 2014 was a high point for actor Suraj Venjaramoodu, it changed the course of his career and intensified his desire to do more as performer. Until then the actor had been a staple in comic roles. “I wanted to do more and not be stereotyped. The roles coming my way were getting repetitive,” says the actor. Not many had seen Dr. Biju’s Perariayathavar, and friends jokingly asked what he had done to get it. Awards are great, especially a National Award, but a performer craves acknowledgement from the larger audience.

As comedian he had nothing to prove, but now he wanted people to see this, serious turn. “I love comedy and I’ll never give it up. But I was at a point where I was getting stereotyped. I wanted to do more as an actor…do the kind of work actors such as Thilakan chettan had done,” he says. He confesses he has been selective toward that end.

He got his chance and all it took was barely five minutes. In Abrid Shine’s 2016 film Action Hero Biju, we saw, his portrayal of the heartbroken mason Pavithran, a completely different side to the usually slapstick comedian. Abrid warned him it would be challenging but told him to give it a shot. Suraj’s understated performance was gut-wrenching. The ‘how-did-you-even-get-the National Award’ question finally got a rest. There has been no looking back since, roles-wise for the actor.

Shape-shifting through diverse roles such as Prasad (Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum), Coach Varghese (Finals), Eldho (Vikrithi), Kuttan Pillai (Kuttanpillaiyude Sivarathri), to name a few recent roles, have established him, without doubt, as one of the most versatile actors among his contemporaries. “The credit goes to what I’d call the ‘golden age’ of Malayalam cinema where all kinds of stories are being told and films are being made.”

No role, it appears, is out of reach now.

His role as the 70-year-old Kunjappan in his latest film Android Kunjappan version 5.25, he says, is his best yet. It brings him back to comedy, after a while. The film, directed by Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval, has him essaying a septuagenarian who has to deal with technology in his otherwise ‘no-tech’ life. “There is a lot of humour in the film – situational humour and in dialogues. And there is drama too.”

Suraj had heard of Android Kunjappan… when it was announced. He was not in it at the time but it was a role he wanted very much. Destiny had other plans, however. Producer Santhosh T Kuruvilla offered him the role, which he gladly accepted. Suraj is all praise for director Ratheesh Poduval, who has also written the script, for his meticulous work on the script. He teams up with Soubin Shahir again, after Vikrithi. “I have known him for years, from his assistant director days. But it is only now that we share screen space, in two films in a row. We have a great chemistry, it was great working with him.”

The actor known best for his mish-mash of dialects spoken in Thiruvananthapuram with the Mammootty-starrer Rajamanickam smiles as the conversation veers to the topic. When told that the film complicated life for those from the capital living elsewhere, he laughs out aloud. “I made people fall in the love with it. Malayalis all over came to know of it.”

Suraj’s tryst with cinema dates back to weekends spent, as a child, outside Sindhu Theatre at Venjaramoodu. Friday evenings were to sit outside the hall, with his cousin, to listen to the films being screened and sneaking in during interval. “Watching one every week was out of the question, we watched a film a year, perhaps. This hall, not more than a shed, was near my maternal grandparents’ house. I would insist on visiting them on weekends. I thought the ticket collector at the door was an important person, someone who knew all the actors.” Listening to films might have had a part in honing his mimicry skills.

Suraj’s tryst with cinema dates back to weekends spent, as a child, outside Sindhu Theatre at Venjaramoodu. Friday evenings were to sit outside the hall, with his cousin, to listen to the films being screened and sneaking in during interval. “Watching one every week was out of the question, we watched a film a year, perhaps. This hall, not more than a shed, was near my maternal grandparents’ house. I would insist on visiting them on weekends. I thought the ticket collector at the door was an important person, someone who knew all the actors.” Listening to films might have had a part in honing his mimicry skills.

Set to follow in the path of his father who was an Army man, an accident and the resultant injury to his hand changed the course of his life. “Initially my father was not very happy with the mimicry stuff, but when he saw that it was giving me direction he had no problems.” Starting out with mimicry, he moved to television and later films. Rajamanickam propelled him into the limelight.

The 43-year-old gets emotional as he speaks of his late father, on whom he has modelled Kunjappan. It is a role very close to his heart. “My father is my hero, and in this film, as the 70-year-old, I mined my memories of him to prepare for the role.”

A whole day was spent to get the look right at the end of which, he says, he looked exactly like his late father. He sent a video with make-up on, lounging in an easy-chair to his elder sister in Thiruvananthapuram asking her to show it to his mother. “My mother was stunned when she saw me…she had tears in her eyes when she said ‘you look exactly like him’. That is all the go-ahead I wanted.”

The conversation returns to awards and recognition. He has won several awards, including a handful of State Awards for the Best Comedian. In fact he was the last one to get the award for that category before it was done away with. Of not getting one in the best actor category, he says, “The Government (State) perhaps likes to see me only as a comedian.”

Source: Read Full Article