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Exclusive! Tovino Thomas: We have made Dear Friend without underestimating the intelligence of our audience

The Malayalam star talks about his upcoming theatrical release, which also has Basil Joseph, Darshana Rajendran, Sanchana Natarajan, Arjun Lal and Arjun Radhakrishnan

  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 07.22 AM, Jun 09, 2022

Exclusive! Tovino Thomas: We have made Dear Friend without underestimating the intelligence of our audience
Tovino Thomas | Credit: AthmiCapture

Rarely would you see a star, especially after the stupendous success of a film like Minnal Murali, be part of a film with an ensemble cast featuring relatively young talents. But considering it’s Tovino Thomas, it’s hardly surprising. The Kaanekkaane and Naradan actor has now made a habit of sorts to pick what the audience is not expecting from him and then ace that.

In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Tovino talks about his upcoming theatrical release Dear Friend, which is helmed by actor-director Vineeth Kumar and has a bevy of young talents including Darshana Rajendran, Basil Joseph, Arjun Lal, Arjun Radhakrishnan and Sanachana Natarajan. Excerpts…

Dear Friend was a movie that you had shot after you had taken a break during the pandemic. This was the time when you said that you had sorted your priorities and wanted to be unpredictable again. How much did does Dear Friend align to the goal, considering that it’s still a movie that releases after you have scaled new heights with Minnal Murali?

The biggest tension I had after the Minnal Murali’s release was whether I could still be free to decide what I want to do. I didn’t do Minnal Murali hoping to achieve superstardom. I always wanted to do a superhero film, so I chose Minnal Murali. I want my films to do well and, in this case, it did. But the success and failure of a particular one lasts only for a limited time. You should be known for your current film. That way if I have to do a variety of roles, I have to break that superhero image of Minnal Murali.

When we began shooting Minnal Murali in 2019, we had a few expectations that it would turn out this way. So, I wanted my next films to be very different from that. Ultimately, no film’s success or failure should become a burden to you. We aren’t here just to be known by one film alone. You can’t sustain a career just by doing sequels of a successful movie; it will become tedious for the audience as well as yourself.

I had signed Dear Friend, while I was shooting Minnal Murali. I believe it’s a movie that doesn’t follow the usual template. There’s an element of experiment. Our audience keenly follow international cinema and so we have tried to present this film without underestimating them.

When you think of a Malayalam film about a group of friends set in Bengaluru, the first image that pops up would be the urban side of the city. How different is Dear Friend in that regard?

This is about a group of friends trying to begin their start-up and the other people that come into their lives. You wouldn’t see the ultra-rich or vibrant side of Bengaluru. In fact, we have shot most of the film in and around Kammanahalli. We used to joke that the most apt title would have been Kammanahalli Nights. The film isn’t the colourful-type; the trailer and teasers reflect the mood of the film. It’s about an incident that happens between the friends and how that leads to the unravelling of several secrets that the others weren’t aware of. It’s made as an emotional drama and that’s my favourite genre.

The casting of the film is again fresh – with Basil Joseph, Darshana Rajendran, Arjun Lal, Arjun Radhakrishnan and Sanchana Natarajan. How important was it to develop a bond between the actors in this film?

Right when we began the shoot, we found out that the onscreen friendships should work for the movie to click. For every development in the story, the equations between the characters were important as the plot is told through that.

We didn’t have to put in much effort to create a bond because all of us were similar age-groups and wavelengths, and shared the same love for cinema. I suggested that it would be good for the film if all of us could spend some time in the evenings together. So, on some days, we used to hang out at my room or where Vineeth ettan and Sameerkka would be. On days when shoot gets over early, we used to go out for dinner together.

This was also a film where I had a much more relaxed schedule. While the entire film had a schedule of 40 days, I only had to shoot for 25. So, I was the main organiser. Guru (Somasundaram) sir had also visited us on the sets because after Minnal Murali, Basil, Sameerkka and I directly joined Dear Friend.

Since the pandemic, there's been this huge gap between completing the shoot of the film and its release. Does that take away from your involvement in the movie because in your case itself, you have shot for Thallumaala, Vaashi and Neelavelicham?

I am attached to the cast and crew of every film that I work with. I see that as a positive aspect. It organically happens because that’s my personality. Also, when you are working on a film, you believe in that team and script. So, I am always excited about my projects. However, I also have a clarity that the audience wouldn’t view every film through the same lens. For instance, Minnal Murali’s audience might not be the ones for Dear Friend, and Dear Friend’s might not be the ones that prefer Vaashi or Thallumaala. But I want to do all types of films. From Kala onwards, I have tried to maintain a variety in terms of the films I choose.