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Adrishya Jalakangal star Tovino Thomas on the lessons he learnt attending his first film festival

Malayalam star Tovino Thomas opens up about his latest movie Adrishya Jalakangal and the lessons he learned from attending his first film festival almost 15 years ago

Adrishya Jalakangal star Tovino Thomas on the lessons he learnt attending his first film festival
Tovino Thomas

Last Updated: 05.36 PM, Nov 22, 2023


Since the pandemic, the kind of films that Malayalam star Tovino Thomas has been part of would make any actor proud. It’s also worked wonders for him, winning national as well as international acclaim. But more importantly, the successes of films such as Minnal Murali, Thallumaala and 2018: Everyone Has a Hero have also paved the way for him to back movies such as Kala, Vazhakku: The Quarrel and Adrishya Jalakangal.

In a candid chat with OTTplay, Tovino, who is just back from the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia, where Dr Biju’s Adrishya Jalakangal was screened, talks to us about the movie, its relevance and also the lessons he learned while attending his first film festival before he broke into the industry.


Every actor would aspire for appreciation for every work they do. The past few years must have been fulfilling in that regard, with your last film, 2018: Everyone Is A Hero, winning universal acclaim and your latest movie, Adrishya Jalakangal, being screened at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia.

In our previous interviews too, I mentioned that it would have been great if our films had gotten international acclaim of sorts. It’s not necessary all the time but it gives you something to aspire for. I am now happy with the kind of films that I am doing. I prepare well for all my films, understanding exactly what their content is. So, in terms of promotions too, I try to make the audience aware of what kind of film to expect. For Adrishya Jalakangal, our audience would know it’s not the kind of film that they should rush into theatres on the first day first show. But I am delighted with the response we got when it was screened in Estonia. I am aware of how I began and compared to that, I think it’s a huge deal for me.

Tovino Thomas in a still from Adrishya Jalakangal
Tovino Thomas in a still from Adrishya Jalakangal

Dr Biju often strives to simplify the most complex of themes. Adrishya Jalakangal is about anti-war sentiments and is a surrealistic drama. How much did its core theme resonate with you, especially given what’s happening in the world right now?

The movie has surreal fantasy elements, which could have been told in a commercial way. But we have used a particular method to accentuate the content that the movie addresses. My character doesn’t have a name in the movie, like in most of Dr Biju’s other films. It’s set in a place that is plagued with war, but the characters asks what the need for a war is and has no idea why it’s waged in the first place. So, these people are least involved in the decision to wage a war, but are the most affected. That’s what we are trying to convey through the movie.

Lidiya and Tovino at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival
Lidiya and Tovino at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

You being part of such a film definitely increases the reach of the film, especially with the kind of audience that has come to love your movies since the pandemic.

My wife Lidiya and I watched the movie together when it was screened in Estonia. She’s not someone who watches a lot of movies. So, I asked her if she thought it was boring; she said no, she liked it. So, basically, I think the audience’s reaction to a film depends entirely on what they are expecting from it.

I believe Adrishya Jalakangal will be an enjoyable experience for the audience, who can understand and discern what the movie is about. It’s one of those movies that can have a lot of interpretations and, hence, make way for great discussions between the audience. We have tried to steer clear of gimmicks to convey these layers and information.

Your films, such as Vazhakk: The Quarrel and this, have been screened first at film festivals. What is your experience of being at such film festivals?

Fifteen years ago, director Mohan sir was our neighbour, and my father knew him. So, when I told him about my film aspirations, my father asked to go meet him to figure out how to try to enter the industry. Mohan sir told me that the most important thing is to watch a lot of movies, especially international films. He said it would be good to attend the International Film Festival of Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram, which happens every year. What I was thinking, then, was that I could go and cultivate a few contacts that would make my entry into cinema easier.

But when I attended IFFK, I saw cinema that I had never been exposed to before. It showed me that such films could be entertaining as well. It changed my outlook on so-called ‘award’ films because they were just like every other film. So, it opened up my mind to watch every film without any preconceived notions.

When Vazhakk was screened at the IFFK last year , there were people outside fighting to get a chance to watch the movie. It gives a lot of joy because there is a section of the audience that ardently wishes to watch, enjoy and appreciate such movies. This is more common in Kerala. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them have to turn up to theatres to watch it on the first day, first show.

Tovino in a still from Vazhakku
Tovino in a still from Vazhakku

How would you qualify these audiences, because they are as important as those who watch movies just for entertainment?

When I attended IFFK, I made a lot of friends – they didn’t come to find a way to enter films or wanted to do anything with that. They weren’t reviewers either; they were just there to enjoy movies. They were people who were employed but took leave to attend the festival and watch these films. That was eye-opening for me because I went there with the selfish purpose of building my network to enter films. But they were there with the selfless reason to just appreciate films; later, it made me feel like they were the ones that we truly had to impress. And these films are my effort to do exactly that.

For me to do such movies, which have a limited audience, I must also have the support of commercial cinema. As an actor, I have to balance doing both.

Tovino Thomas in a still from Adrishya Jalakangal
Tovino Thomas in a still from Adrishya Jalakangal

True. Only when artistes view cinema as an art form do they see more room to evolve and improve...

For artistes, cinema is an art form; for producers, it’s business; and for the audience, it’s a mode of entertainment. In my view, it has to satisfy all three aspects. But it’s also important to have different kinds of films where there is a variation in these elements.

Adrishya Jalakangal, which also has Nimisha Sajayan and Indrans, is set to hit theatres on November 24. The movie's OTT rights have been bagged by Netflix

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