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Exclusive! Dileep: Kesu Ee Veedinte Nadhan gave me a chance to play a rare role soaked in humour after 6 years

The Malayalam actor talks about playing a 67-year-old in Nadirshah’s Disney+ Hotstar release, his brand of comedy and how he perceives his current market value

Sanjith Sidhardhan
Dec 30, 2021
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Dileep | Credit: Anoop Upasana

Malayalam actor Dileep was in the middle of dubbing the Tamil version of his latest movie, Kesu Ee Veedinte Nadhan, when OTTplay met up with him in Kochi today. The film, which has him playing a 67-year-old driving instructor, marks a lot of firsts for the actor. The Disney+ Hotstar release is his OTT debut, it has him dubbing in Tamil for the first time in his three-decade-old career and also marks the first collaboration with his long-time friend Nadirshah for a big screen venture.

In an exclusive interview with us, the actor tells us why despite being a theatre owner, he decided to release the movie on OTT on December 31, what made him take up the role of a sexagenarian even though he wasn’t the initial choice and the role that luck has played in his career.

In the 2000s, your movies, especially the comedy entertainers, have driven the theatres in the State. Kesu Ee Veedinte Nadhan, however, marks your OTT debut. Being a theatre owner yourself, what is your take on the impact of OTTs in the industry now?

It’s been two years since we started working on the film. The reason we held on to the movie this long was to release it in theatres; amid all this, I didn’t try to do another movie just for OTTs. But during this pandemic, there are a lot of limitations. Firstly, theatres have a limit of just 50% occupancy. As far as we are concerned, our movie is an entertainer and it caters to the family audience that includes people of all age groups. We waited for so long for the situation to get better but it just wasn’t happening.

Another aspect is that if you look at the audience turnout for hit films over the years, it’s mostly youngsters who come to theatres in the first week and families would come only after that. But in today’s circumstances, you don’t have that kind of time because there’s a deluge of releases week after week. Also, when you look at the interest rates that have been paid for a movie that has been in production for two years, just getting a two-week run in the theatres doesn’t help. A theatre release would lead to more liability and the movie won’t reach a lot of the people too. So, we foresaw these challenges and that’s why we approached all associations to release the movie on OTTs.

The advantage of releasing a movie on streaming platforms is that everyone in a family can watch it together during the pandemic. And anyone can stream the movie from December 31; we have made the movie reach the audience wherever they are. As far as I am concerned, Kesu is a rare character that I have got to play. It’s after six years that I am playing a role in a film with humour. So, I want everyone to watch it.

Nedumudi Venu was the first choice for the role of Kesu and you were attached as just a co-producer initially. So, how did you eventually take it up?

Initially, they wanted someone between 62 and 65 years old to play the role. We first talked to Venu chettan and then approached Innocent chettan. But the role demanded a lot of physical exertion. The film also has a lot of sequences that haven’t been attempted before. As an artiste, it’s a role that you badly want to do.

So, when we didn’t get any of the actors we had initially approached, I told Nadirshah that maybe I could do it. He wasn’t comfortable with the idea in the beginning because Urvashi chechi was already finalised as the female protagonist.

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Kesu Ee Veedinte Nadhan poster

Your friendship with Nadirshah has spanned almost 34 years now, but why did it take so long for your first big-screen collaboration? Was it partly because of the expectations of the audience in terms of the humour that your works are known for?

Even though I had said that I would do the role out of enthusiasm more than anything else, we had a lot of apprehensions in terms of whether the content of the movie is what the audience expects from us. But after some thought, we decided to go ahead. And now, after watching the movie, we are sure this was the film that we were meant to do. It has a different combo of Urvashi chechi and myself, and it just organically happened. Even the chemistry between all co-artistes worked out so well on screen; that doesn’t happen for every film.

We had a preview show that was attended by directors Sathyan Anthikad, Siddique, Rafi, Shafi and scriptwriters Benny P Nayarambalam, Sibi and Udaykrishna. All of them said that it’s a performance-oriented movie and that they haven’t laughed this much while watching a movie recently. The movie has a steady graph and once it reaches a particular level, it’s a fun ride.

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Dileep

In terms of picking up comedy films, are you now more conscious about selecting the type of scripts – in terms of it not being offensive to any kind of audience?

The only type of comedy that has a long life is genuine situational humour. I am someone who does all types of comedies; I like slapstick comedy and have done that in movies such as CID Moosa. But there are some movies in which the character’s situation is what makes the audience laugh. The character might be going through a tragedy, but the viewer finds humour in it. It’s beautiful to lace together such moments in a movie.

The scope of Sajeev Pazhoor’s script might be limited, but there’s a particular joy in weaving together the situations in it, as we saw in Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum. With Nadirshah and myself involved, the dose of humour is slightly more because that’s what the audience expects from us.

Based on the trailer, a lottery ticket plays a huge role in Kesu’s life in the movie.

Luck is entirely God’s gift. But your time has to be good too. There are people who have won the lottery and because they have planned what to do with the money, they have managed to make the best out of it. But then there’s also people who totally lost it because they became spendthrifts. The main question in the movie is whether Kesu won the lottery or not. He’s a naughty and shrewd person, and so it leads to a situation where people question if he did win the lottery, and if so, what did he do with the money? That will hook the audience.

As an actor, has luck played a role in your career?

I have not made any tall claims about any film, but I share details about how I enjoyed the film. The films that I have enjoyed, have also fortunately delighted the audience. I think it’s a sort of luck that people have accepted these films. For movies to work, I have believed that you need God’s blessing because the audience are the ones that pass the final judgment about a movie and all you can do is give your best and pray.

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Dileep

Director Lal Jose had recently mentioned that you are as much involved in fleshing out the script and characters of a film as the director and scriptwriter. But does that trait make it difficult for you to work with certain filmmakers who don’t welcome changes from their actors?

As an actor, your mind should always be a blank paper and it should become whatever the director or scriptwriter paints. That said, you only get one chance to play a certain character. So, I try to learn as much about the character and do the most of what he is able. Fortunately, I have been able to work with about 98% of the top directors of Malayalam cinema. If the films or the characters have worked well, it’s only because of the chemistry between the makers and myself. They were able to give the answers that I sought about the character. It’s only when what I think and what the director envisioned match, a character works out. Otherwise, you have two different versions of a character and that never bodes well for the film.

You can’t do a film with an actor, just because he has a market value. You have to like the artiste you are working with and I believe only then a director will be able to mould his vision of the character through the actor.

Your strength has been comedy entertainers. But staying away from that genre for six years, doesn’t it dent your market value? How does that affect a star like you?

Fortunately, the value for my entertainers have only increased every time. It’s because the audience continues to watch my films. That’s also why people produce my films; they would have done their market study before approaching me with a role. This is truer in the case of corporate companies. I had worked with Viacom two years ago and Kesu Ee Veedinte Nadhan has been picked up by Disney+ Hotstar, which is a popular platform. They would have looked at these factors before picking my films.

You are also someone who keenly follows films. In the past few years, there have been several new filmmakers who have come out with excellent content that people across the country have taken notice of. Are there directors among these that you want to work with?

Whenever I watch a movie, if I like the director’s or actors’ or the technicians’ work, I call them up and tell them. Recently, I spoke to the director of #Home (Rojin Thomas). He had approached me some time back with a movie but it didn’t work out. After watching #Home, I was moved and I talked to him about it.

I couldn’t watch some of the movies that released recently because I was busy with the work of Kesu Ee Veedinte Nadhan. I will be watching those soon.

You also have Voice of Sathyanathan with Rafi coming up. What can the audience expect from it?

It’s a film based on an incident that happened in real life. It’s again wrapped in humour.

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