The true success of an actor is when he steps outside his comfort zone and takes on a new challenge. For Malayalam superstar Nivin Pauly, playing the boy next door in the love/comedy genres has always been his speciality since he made his debut in Malarvaadi Arts Club in 2010. With an desirable opus including blockbuster hits such as Thattathin Marayathu, Neram, 1983, Ohm Shanthi Oshaana, Bangalore Days and Premam, the actor is now all set to reinvent himself in a period film based on the life and adventures of India’s Robin Hood, Kayamkulam Kochunni, a tarnished highwayman who thrived in Kerala during the early 19th century.
In his interview, Nivin Pauly impressed us with his ease composure. Here’s what he said about his filmy graph to doing different roles in explaining his desire to enter the Hindi industry.
1. As the story of the film is based on Kerala legends, how did it make you decide to be a part of the film?
Kayamkulam Kochunni was a dream role and it was an honour to be able to portray him. It was also a huge responsibility as he was very much the Robin Hood of Kerala; stealing from the rich and giving to the poor and I wanted to do justice to him. Of course, being from Kerala, it was very close to my heart.
2. How do you think it will appeal to a wider audience like the other parts of the country?
Kayamkulam Kochunni’s story is such a huge part of Indian folklore. In this film, both his fearless as well as the vulnerable side has been portrayed and I believe it reveals layers to this hero that we have never seen before. I think it is a film that transcends language barriers and I am confident that it is a story that will be appreciated all over our nation.
3. How did you prepare for this particular role because earlier we’ve seen you in a comic or as a lover boy role so how did you train yourself in ‘Kayamkulam Kochunni’?
It was a very physical role which required a lot of preparation unlike that which I had done for any other character. I undertook Kalaripayattu training which was extremely challenging but also very rewarding and it helped me immensely in the action sequences.
4. And we heard that you got injured during the shoot, so can you tell us exactly what happened and how the shooting got affected?
While performing a stunt sequence, I sustained a minor fracture in my arm. Thankfully it wasn’t too severe but I had to take rest for a few weeks so shooting had to be suspended during that time.
5. There’s something very special about the movie because you were seen sharing screen space with the legendary actor Mohanlal, so how was that experience?
It was an extremely surreal moment for me because I have grown up watching his films and like everyone else, was always in awe of him. To be able to work with him was a dream come true and it was very inspiring to watch him on set. He is such a dedicated actor and really made me comfortable despite my nervousness.
6. How is the experience working with the director Roshan Andrews as it is your first-time involvement?
I have always admired Roshan sir’s work and to be able to work with him on such a huge film was definitely a big career moment for me. He is an extraordinary filmmaker and helped me every step of the way while tackling this role. It was a wonderful collaboration and a great experience.
7. Bahubali is one of the recent movies which moved the audience across India as a Pan-Indian movie, so do you think your movie is also going to attempt that category?
Bahubali was an inspiration to filmmakers and actors all over the country and I think it has opened the door for more opportunities like that. I hope that this film resonates with audiences all over the country because it is a story that is a part of our country’s legends. I truly believe it is a story that everyone should witness.
8. So this film is rumoured to be the biggest budget movie in Malayalam and also in the overseas, so are you proud to be associated with this film?
I am extremely proud of this film because everyone associated with it has worked very hard on it and have put all their energy and creativity into it. The big budget puts a lot of pressure on us but I am confident that we have collectively created an epic film that people will appreciate.
9. We’ve heard a lot about the crew going through a lot of hardships in terms of location, sets, so what was your experience like?
It was very challenging at times and we all felt that but everyone on set was so cooperative and helpful that it made the whole experience unforgettable. Our director and all the crew members worked hand in hand to make sure that the difficult locations did not adversely affect the film we were making and it only made the work more rewarding.
10. In terms of experience, any funny or adventurous incident that you can recollect while shooting?
I think performing the stunt sequences were very challenging and also the most exciting for me. I enjoyed the physicality of the role and those sequences were very rewarding. Also, every moment I got to work with Mohanlal sir was unforgettable.
11. This is a particular phase kind of movie so how difficult is it to market a period movie to a very modern or present-thinking audience these days?
I think the audience these days are open to all kinds of cinema and appreciate movies of all genres. As seen with Bahubali, it is clear that audiences enjoy these types of films. I think even the youth are very interested in watching such films because it allows them to experience the events of different time periods in such an entertaining way.
12. So, is it that you are set to make your Bollywood debut as your next film is bilingual so do you think it is important for a South Indian actor to have a Pan-Indian film?
I am very excited to be doing Moothon, which is a bilingual film for which I underwent a lot of training to speak Hindi fluently. It’s got stalwarts like Geetu Mohandas, Rajeev Ravi and Anurag Kashyap behind it. I would love to work with filmmakers all over the country and I think that we are extremely fortunate to be working in this age where that is a very real possibility and language barriers are no longer an issue.
13. Do you have a pre-release ritual?
I usually spend time with my family and the people I have worked with on the film and although I feel nervous, I’m usually more excited that our film is finally going to be delivered for the audiences to see. It is also satisfying to finally have all our hard work be seen and appreciated by the audiences.
14. Are you a Marxist in real life?
I don’t think my political views have any bearing on the film and I try to portray every character with all their beliefs without being influenced by my own.
15. Premam established you as a star in the Malayalam film industry. You followed that with Action Hero Biju and Jacobinte Swargarajyam; films that have shades of comedy and romance. What is your favourite genre?
I love all types of genres and roles and I enjoy playing such varied characters. I have been extremely fortunate in my career so far to have been able to play a wide range of characters and I have enjoyed every single one of them.
16. What other genres or roles would you like to try?
I want to constantly expand and grow as an actor and so I am open to all kinds of genres. I want to keep challenging myself and push myself out of my comfort zone so that I can keep improving my craft.
17. What’s more important to you: profitable success or serious acclaim?
I feel both are important because, as an actor, I want to know what people think of my performance so that I can always improve. At the same time, I want the audiences to love and appreciate the film because everybody who works on it puts in an unimaginable level of effort into it. It’s important to me that a film does well both critically and commercially because it is always the product of a lot of hard work.
18. You turned producer with Action Hero Biju. Would you like to try out other aspects of filmmaking?
I would love to learn more about all the other disciplines involved in filmmaking. Right now, I am focussing on my acting and trying to perfect it.
19. Can you tell us as an actor what are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
I think my performances are always elevated by the people I work with and I have been fortunate enough to have worked with brilliant filmmakers. I try to stay true to their vision and do justice to the characters they create and bring the role to life in the way they want it. I still have a lot to learn. Every film I work on has taught me something new and influenced my craft. Sure, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes, but more importantly, we learn the most from our mistakes. It’s all a part of being human.
We wish him all the best for his upcoming releases.