The #Home actor talks to OTTplay about working in the Amazon Prime Video release, his fears and how he’s enjoying his work in this phase of his career
Rarely does a State Award-winner with about 40 years of experience in the film industry admit that he still feels scared when filmmakers entrust him with lead characters. But when Mollywood actor Indrans tells us this, we are inclined to believe, for he sounds earnest and genuine just like his character Oliver Twist in Rojin Thomas’ #Home, which is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
In the past week, Indrans has been flooded with messages of appreciation from fans and those within the industry for his portrayal of a technologically-challenged father in the movie. It’s also the first time that the actor is playing the lead in a commercial film, an aspect he humbly acknowledges. “What the film deals with is something that has troubled me too and I have faced similar experiences, so I could relate to the story when the director narrated it to me,” he tells us.
Bring up the compliments on social media about how moving his performance was in the film and Indrans deflects it with his usual modesty. “Everything was a bit dry. #Home was shot after the lockdown and that too indoors. So, those part of the team couldn’t go out and outsiders couldn’t enter. It wasn’t all merry and celebration as you see in the film when we were shooting it. So, all of us including the cameraman consciously injected life into every scene in the movie,” says the veteran actor.
For Indrans, the past few years, especially since receiving a Special Mention at the Kerala State Awards for his performance in Apothecary in 2016 had presented a new lease of life to his career, this time with a plethora of character roles. The actor, however, tells us that the change actually happened with Kathavaseshan in 2004. “That’s when people also began thinking I can play character roles,” he says.
Till then for the major part of his career, Indrans has been synonymous with comedy roles in Malayalam cinema, with his slender physique being used for humour. Ask him how he compares the two phases of his career and Indrans says, “I am enjoying the current one. However, even when I was doing comedy at a stretch for years, I used to be enthusiastic about those ventures. Because of my physical features, I rarely got character roles in the past and even then, they wouldn’t be for commercial films. I only got offered strong roles in films helmed by directors who thought differently. So, now when I get these opportunities, I try to study the characters to do justice to them. Even though my physique has not changed much, I make my mind evolve with the characters.”
Another heartening change, he says, from the 90s when he used to rush from sets to sets is that he gets to enjoy his work more now. “When I used to do comedy, I only had to allot about two days to a film and if there’s some minor change in schedules, I would have to shuttle between sets. Now, I relish doing roles more because you have to spend more time playing a character; this also allows me to dedicate myself to the character,” he says.
Indrans began his career as a costume designer and an actor, and had also worked with stellar filmmakers such as P Padmarajan in movies such as Moonampakkam, Aparan and Innale. In the recent past, it’s the young filmmakers such as Midhun Manuel Thomas, VC Abhilash and Rojin who have made the best use of Indrans’ talent.
“In the past, there were a lot of legendary directors who made their movies based on what was available to them,” says the actor. “Today’s filmmakers are thinking much beyond that and astonishing us. They extract performances from us that we think are impossible by giving precise instructions per shot. It’s a delight just to listen to them. You don’t feel that they are youngsters, they make us do big things.”
On the kind of preparations he does for his character roles, Indrans explains, “If it’s a serious subject, the director would brief me about the role beforehand. That also allows me to understand the filmmaker’s approach to his craft and also prepare accordingly for the character. Before such films, I try to free up my other commitments and be available for them so that they can mould me better for the movies.”
While he has been lauded for his turn as a character actor, Indrans admits that there’s “a certain amount of eagerness and fear when I play these roles because there is a chance due to my physical appearance, the graph of the character could change”.
His trepidation, however, is not stopping filmmakers from approaching him for major roles these days. “When people say it’s a major role in the film, I still feel scared. If it’s a minor role, you can do our bit and then leave,” he says. “But if it’s a central character without other popular cast members, then you have that fear and also carry the burden of being responsible for the film. That’s when I try to seek out more details of the role. If it’s all there in the script, I take it up.”
Indrans’ work has been noticed – with the Kerala State Award for Best Actor in Aalorukkam in 2018 and felicitations for his performances in Dr Biju’s Veyilmarangal being the recent highlights. Ask him what the Best Actor award meant to him and he says, “Even when I used to do theatre for competitions when I was young, there was always that motivation to win a prize. I have always loved to compete. Though I craved to work in films, I didn’t think I could survive for long in the industry; comedy roles didn’t have too many possibilities and hence I didn’t wish for an award in films. So, it was unexpected to get the honours for Apothecary and Aalorukkam.”
Incidentally, the performances that were most lauded in the past two Malayalam OTT releases on Amazon Prime Video, Kuruthi and #Home, were of two veteran actors, who were known for comedy roles in the past and have now transitioned into character roles – Mamukkoya and Indrans. Point this out to Indrans, asking him about the opportunities that streaming platforms present to actors like him and he says, “I didn’t know too much about OTTs, just like my character in #Home was with smartphone. I had watched only a few films on OTTs with the help of my son. So, in my mind, there was that worry that if our film too releases the same way, many wouldn’t be able to watch it. But now I am aware that a lot of people were able to see the movie with their families at their convenience.”
For the audience who loved his performance in #Home, Indrans is part of several upcoming commercial fares including Aashiq Abu’s Tovino Thomas-starrer Naradhan, Joju George’s Madhuram, Fahadh Faasil’s Malayankunju and also off-beat movies such as Silent Witness.