The filmmaker-turned actor, who once again charmed the audience in #Home, talks to OTTplay about working in the film with Indrans, the challenges of doing comedy and more
In the past few years, director Johny Antony has turned a new leaf – as an actor specialising in comedy. The filmmaker, who has helmed comedies such as CID Moosa and Thuruppugulan, has been part of some of the much-loved Malayalam films that are streaming on OTTs right now such as Ayyappanum Koshiyum, Varane Avashyamund and most recently in #Home, in which he plays the character of Indrans’ best friend Suryan.
In a quick and exclusive chat with OTTplay, Johny talks about working in the film, what made him choose comedy roles to begin his acting career and his upcoming films that include Mohanlal’s Aaraattu, Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Hridayam and more.
Though #Home is a small film, it’s filled with goodness. It was technically one of your first few films to be shot during the pandemic. What prompted you to take up the role?
After director Rojin Thomas’ Philips and the Monkey Pen released, I got in touch with him and its producer Vijay Babu to appreciate their work. I wasn’t an actor back then, I was only directing films. Several years later, Rojin called me again and said, “Indransettan plays the hero in a film and there’s a character as his childhood friend, who is always there with him throughout the movie.” He said he only needed me for about six days. Soon after that Vijay Babu also called me and so, that’s how I agreed to do the role.
Once I reached the sets, just like the movie’s title, it was a homely atmosphere and Rojin is someone who has the ability to execute his vision well. He is also someone who is receptive; when we tell a joke, he tries to dovetail it into the film and make it work. My character Suryan is a hypochondriac and that’s something a lot of people can relate to. But as an actor, your performance has to be natural and you need to maintain a balance between seriousness and humour. To a level, I believe I could achieve that.
You have directed a lot of comedies in your career, but how difficult is it to perform humour?
What’s interesting about humour is that when you perform, people have to laugh or else it fails miserably. On the other hand, if people don’t cry when you do an emotional scene, that’s fine. Also, for a humour sequence to work, the situation, the character and their emotions – all have to come together. In #Home and Varane Avashyamund, that was possible.
I have helmed a lot of comedies and I have also watched a lot of films from the genre, right from my childhood. I am also someone who can crack jokes at will. Initially, when my friends used to laugh, I used to think they were doing it because I am a filmmaker. But then in other avenues too, people were laughing, so I thought there might be something in it. Ranjiettan (director Ranjith) was the one who urged me to do comedy. I started with Shikkari Shambu in 2018 as a priest. Then in Ranjiettan’s Drama, during the first shot, I slipped and fell. He said, “This guy is funny”. And then based on my performance, he decided to make the character’s arc bigger in the film.
You had acted in some of the most popular Malayalam films on OTT in the past two years – Varane Avashyamund, Ayyappanum Koshiyum, Love and #Home. So, have you prioritised acting over directing now?
I am directing. I have bounced off a thread to Mammukka (Mammootty). It’s a big film that needs a lot of people. We can shoot the movie only when the pandemic is over and there aren’t any restrictions. Two new youngsters are scripting the film. We are yet to reach a stage where we can make an official announcement.
As you have been doing a lot of comedy roles, are those the type of characters that are being offered too?
In Love, though I did just one scene, it was a serious role that a lot of people liked. After watching Love, BC Noufal, who had helmed Oru Yamandan Premakatha, offered me another serious role. They had initially planned a comedy, but after that they changed the graph of the character and it has come out well. I am getting all types of roles now. Humour, as I had mentioned earlier, depends on the dialogues, situations and other aspects for it to work well.
A few days ago, the poster of another project with you in the lead, Thirimali, was revealed. What can you tell us about the movie?
It has Bibin George, Dharmajan and me in full-length roles. It’s produced by Lawrence chettan, who had also backed my acting debut Shikkari Shambu, and it is helmed by Shafi’s associate director Rajiv Shetty. Thirimali has an interesting story set in Nepal and Kerala. We had completed shooting half of the film; I have 10 days of shoot left.
Apart from that, I also have roles in Upacharapoorvam Gunda Jayan, which has Saiju Kurup in the lead. I am also part of VC Abhilash’s Shabash Chandra Bose, Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Hridayam, Jibu Jacob’s Ellaam Sheriyaavum, Meri Awaaz Suno, Sathyam Mathrame Bodhipikku and also B Unnikrishnan’s Aaraattu, in which I will be seen throughout the film with Lalettan (Mohanlal).
A lot of character actors’ performances – be it Mamukkoya in Kuruthi or Indrans in #Home – have been much talked about ever since Malayalam movies have been released in OTTs. What do you attribute to that phenomenon?
Throughout the years, it’s a film’s subject that has always made it successful – be it in theatres or OTTs. Casting was never a factor. Films with superstars have failed and so have those with newcomers. That said, movies like Thaneermathan Dinangal have become superhits. So, I don’t think there’s a difference between OTTs and theatres; good films and characters have always had a space. But as far as someone working in the industry is concerned, it’s always beneficial and happy for us when movies are released in theatres. If #Home released in theatres, we could have been with the audience to see them laughing out loud in the cinema halls.