The actor, who plays a 18th century prime minister in Nivin Pauly’s Mahaveeryar, talks about the experience of learning horse-riding for the Abrid Shine directorial
Last Updated: 05.54 AM, Jul 23, 2022
Ever since Abrid Shine’s Mahaveeryar released, people have lauded Malayalam star Asif Ali, who played an 18th century prime minister in the film, for never looking out of place in the fantasy courtroom drama that could so easily have been a costume drama if the makers had got it wrong.
A key reason for this is director Shine’s unwillingness to compromise in any aspect of the film – be its costume, context or even the horse used in the film. In an exclusive interview with Asif, the actor tells us about learning horse-riding for the movie, something that he was least prepared for when he landed in Jaipur last year to shoot the movie.
“Right after I reached the hotel in Jaipur, Shine chettan called me. I told him I had just landed and I want to take some rest. He said that’s fine and that we can meet at 5pm and go horse-riding. I was thinking that we are in Jaipur and so, we are going to watch horse-riding,” says Asif.
The actor was taken by the team to the polo club opposite to his hotel in the evening, he says. “The people there talked to me about horses. I hadn’t even touched a horse in my life; so, they gave jaggery to feed it. Apparently, that’s how you establish a connection with the animal and only if you have that, it lets you mount it. But within five minutes of trying to ride the horse, I realised it was impossible for me,” says Asif.
What further reinforced this belief, he says, was when he saw what happened to actress Shanvi Srivastava, who had previously learnt to ride a horse. “On our way to the polo club, Shanvi was motivating me. ‘We would think that it’s tough but once we get the rhythm, the horse will take care,’ she said. On the first day, they let me sit on the horse as someone else held it and made it strut. That itself was hurting me. And then when I looked for Shanvi, I saw that the horse had already thrown her off its back and she was laying on the floor,” explains Asif.
The actor says that it wasn’t Shanvi’s fault and had more to do with how determined Shine was to make a quality film. “Usually, they bring horses that are trained for film shooting purposes; those horses know what to do when they hear ‘action’ and ‘cut’. If you put a mark, they will stay fixed at that point. But for Mahaveeryar, Shine chettan didn’t want to compromise at all. He wanted the prime minister’s horse to have a certain grace and appear regal. The problem with that is that horses with such features are the ones used for polo and they are aggressive,” he says.
Asif said that the training hours also didn’t help him one bit, with him learning the task 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the evening. “When you bring the horse in the morning, it’s coming with the intention of burning off all its energy after being stuck in the stable the previous night. So, it was really hard to rein it in,” he says. “But I learnt horse-riding in a week and now I can ride solo.”
Mahaveeryar, which has Nivin Pauly, Lal, Lalu Alex and Siddique, released in theatres on July 22.