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Exclusive! Indrajith: I’d rather do something different than give the audience what they are expecting

Indrajith Sukumaran, who has two movies running theatres this week – Kurup and Aaha, talks to OTTplay about what went into his characters, his slew of upcoming police officer roles and the challenges that drive him as an actor

Sanjith Sidhardhan
Nov 24, 2021
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Indrajith Sukumaran

For Malayalam actor Indrajith Sukumaran, 2020 was the year that he was most looking forward to. The actor had admitted that he had done some of his best work in the year prior and was awaiting the release of his films Thuramukham, Kurup, Aaha and Halal Love Story. While the pandemic delayed the films with Halal Love Story finding its way to OTT, Kurup and Aaha released back-to-back this month in Kerala theatres and has been received well by the audience, making it seem that “the wait had a purpose”, says the actor.

In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Indrajith talks to us about what went into playing his recent characters, the challenges that drive him as an actor and the road ahead.

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Indrajith in a still from Kurup

How excited are you about the feedback of the two of your films – Kurup and Aaha – that are running in theatres right now?

It's a happy moment for me personally and as far as Malayalam cinema is concerned, it’s a milestone because theatres are active once again after a gap of almost two years. In that regard, for two of my films to release in cinema halls within a week, soon after theatres reopened, is a big deal for me. As for the films and my characters being noted, that’s the cherry on the cake. So, despite there being a long delay, it feels good that the wait had a purpose.

Both Kurup and Aaha are of two different genres and the characters too are poles apart. I consider it a blessing that I could offer that to the audience.

Tell us about essaying Kochu in Aaha who, much like DYSP Krishnadas in Kurup, is inspired by a real-life person.

The film is about Aaha Neeloor, the team that were vadamvali (tug of war) champions for 15 years. My character is inspired by Roy (Neeloor) chettan, who was part of the team. Though it’s not exactly his story, the backdrop and where he lived are inspired from his life. Roy chettan was there with us throughout the shoot. He was their star; he would guide us about the sport and provided a lot of help. He is there in the movie too; in a lot of matches, he’s the one sitting on the table.

The good thing was that it was a learning process throughout the shoot. The teams that we were pulling against us were Kerala champions and we could learn a lot from them through their stories and the history of the sport.

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Indrajith in a still from Aaha

How draining was it physically?

Vadamvali is not an easy sport. If you stay in the position where you are dragging the rope for even a minute, you get exhausted because you are pulling with all your strength. In real matches, they stay in that stance for 15-18 minutes, people puke and even faint by the end of it. The most difficult aspect was that you can’t act like you are competing in a vadamvali match, you have to exert yourself to film it. All of us had injuries on our spine, back and knees. That’s all part of the game and at the end of the day, when people are talking good about the movie, the hard work has paid off.

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Krish S Kumar and Indrajith in a still from Kurup

Did you have to research anything while playing Krishnadas in Kurup?

The entire script was written based on research material. Srinath Rajendran and team collected a lot of material from Haridas sir about the modus operandi of the investigation. So, it was all there on the paper and I just had to talk to Srinath and the writers. It’s a character who walks the middle path – on one hand, he sympathises with Chacko and family and on the other, he isn’t able to apprehend Kurup. So, he’s in an emotional dilemma too and it had to be underplayed.

I never thought that the character would be getting so much appreciation. People, who haven’t called me for long, got in touch to talk about the role and so, I am really happy about it. I know doing cop roles is my forte and I have done many police officer characters too. But to bring in a difference in each character is not easy and when people say that Krishnadas is different from the previous roles I have done, that makes me glad.

In the recent past, you have played many characters inspired by real-life people including in Virus. Is there a particular way of approaching these roles, be it mimicking them or some other aspect?

I did Queen in which I played a character inspired by MGR. I can’t play it entirely different from who he was, so I did it while incorporating his body language and gestures. But I have never tried emulating that person because when you do that, the performance falls flat. What I look for when I perform is what the character’s mindset was when he faced that particular circumstance.

There’s still Rajeev Ravi’s Thuramukham coming up next month.

Actually, I have back-to-back releases in December too. I have Thuramukham and Vysakh’s Night Drive coming. I play a stylish cop in Vysakh’s film which is again different from all the previous such characters I have done. In fact, I have a police marathon coming up. I am playing cops in M Padmakumar’s Pathaam Valavu, Rathish Ambat’s Theerpu and Vishnu Vishal’s Mohandas. So, there are a lot of cop roles in store and I have put in a lot of effort to make them different from one another. Also, the stories and backdrops they are set in are different.

You are one of those actors who try to bring subtle nuances to differentiate your characters rather than have an image makeover or a drastic physical transformation. Is that a challenge sometimes?

Rather than giving the audience what they are expecting, it’s always best to do something different and take them with you. That’s how you pave a new path. It’s not that I have not done loud characters but when you get a chance to underplay, why not do it? So, I try to take those chances where I can convey things through my eyes, minimal expressions and dialogues. For the actor in me, that’s more challenging. I don’t go with the prerequisite idea about how to perform my character; I communicate with the director and writer, and perform accordingly.

You are also part of films like Article 19(1)(a) that were initially conceived for the OTT space. Is there any difference in terms of how you approach a film based on its platform of release?

No. We put in the same amount of hard work and dedication for every film, irrespective of the platform. OTTs are global platforms; not that the effort is going to be any different but then the exposure that a film gets will be huge when it releases. However, I feel some films have to be watched on a big screen. One reason people came back to theatres is because cinema returned with a big bang through a massive film like Kurup, which would have posed a totally different experience if we had viewed it on a phone. So, both OTTs and theatres will go hand-in-hand.

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Indrajith Sukumaran

Over the past two years with the lockdowns and breaks in between, did you also take stock of your career so far to decide what you will be doing in the next phase?

I have not done any major re-evaluation. The good thing is that I had already done some good films such as Kurup, Thuramukham, Aaha and Theerpu. So, the thought was how to go ahead. But as an actor, you can’t chase projects; you choose from what you get. So, be it Vysakh’s Night Drive or Mohandas, all of these have interesting screenplays and characters and they came my way. I don’t think you can chart your career in cinema. But when you have worked for about 20 years, the question of what next is always on your mind. My future commitments will try and address them.

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