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OTTplay Awards 2022: Know Your Winners - Guru Somasundaram wins Breakthrough Performance of the Year (Male)

Tamil actor Guru Somasundaram won the award for Breakthrough Performance of the Year (Male) at the inaugural OTTplay Awards

OTTplay Awards 2022: Know Your Winners - Guru Somasundaram wins Breakthrough Performance of the Year (Male)
Guru Somasundaram
  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 06.08 AM, Sep 15, 2022

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For a superhero to spring out of the screen and into the hearts of the audience, the film of the genre would need three main ingredients – a captivating story, a brilliant performance from its lead and a supervillain that accentuates the hero’s abilities. Director Basil Joseph had the initial two with Minnal Murali writers and Tovino Thomas, but it needed a superlative performance from Guru Somasundaram as Shibu to bring it home.

While Tovino was lauded for his portrayal as the desi hero Jaison aka Minnal Murali in Netflix’s biggest Indian release last year, it could be argued that Guru equally benefitted from the movie. Critics had even mentioned that Minnal Murali works so well because Shibu’s story was as fascinating and heart-rending as Jaison’s. In fact, within a week after the Malayalam film’s release on the streaming platform, the veteran Tamil actor, who made his debut with Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s National Award-winning movie Aaranya Kaandam in 2011, confessed to OTTplay that his social media following increased eight times. His performance was so striking that Guru, who had prior to Minnal Murali only worked in 20 films in 10 years, has already completed shooting for 11 Malayalam movies in 11 months.

Mahesh Narayanan, Guru Somasundaram and Siddharth Roy Kapur
Mahesh Narayanan, Guru Somasundaram and Siddharth Roy Kapur

So, it’s no surprise that the jury of the inaugural OTTplay Awards, which was held in Mumbai on September 10, picked Guru’s portrayal in Minnal Murali for the Breakthrough Performance of the Year (Male) award.

Guru, who had been active in theatre as part of the Chennai-based Tamil troupe Koothu-P-Pattarai till 2011, has made a habit of standing out in big films that he has been part of, irrespective of the length of his roles. His theatre experience and the consequent preparation he does for his roles are major contributing reasons to this.

The actor was spotted by Thiagarajan during one of his plays in early 2000s and had offered him an opportunity to be part of his debut film. This didn’t materialise till 2008, when the filmmaker eventually roped him in to play a drunkard named Kaalaiyan in Aaranya Kaandam . Being his onscreen debut, Guru went the whole nine yards to ensure that he made the most of the opportunity. He shed close to seven kilos and made radical changes to his hairstyle and body language – all of which were noted and lauded by critics.

Since then, Guru appeared in small roles in big films such as Kadal, Jigarthanda and Thoongaa Vanam. But it’s his performance in Raju Murugan’s 2016 political satire Joker , which also won a National Award, that once again thrust him into the spotlight, with people appreciating his talent. Guru played a stoic villager named Mannar Mannan who declares himself the Indian president. The actor attributed the nuances of his performance to the lengthy pre-production in which the filmmaker had ensured Guru was involved in extensive script sessions as well as discussions on how to shape the character for the screen. It seems to be the procedure that works for the 47-year-old actor, who is known for adeptly portraying characters of any mould.

For Guru, cinema was a natural progression. The actor, soon after his winning speech at OTTplay Awards, told us that he hailed from Madurai, which had close to 90 functioning theatres when he was growing up. So, watching films occupied most of his time during his formative years. And this also meant that he knew what he had to do when he was given a pivotal role in a massive film like Minnal Murali.

When the film’s director Basil Joseph narrated the story, Guru took it upon himself to learn Malayalam. “I wanted to be confident while conversing with the team. Before entering a new industry, I wanted to know more about the language – its structure and modulations. I also wanted to read the script and that helped me a lot,” he said. The actor also said that he could shape his body language according to the demands of the superhero film due to his experience in theatres. “I learnt a lot of martial arts during my theatre days. I am not a martial artiste but I know a bit of kalaripayattu, silambattam and tai-chi. All of that helped in the climax sequence,” he said.

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The veteran actor, who is now at the peak of his career, says that Minnal Murali’s worldwide release on Netflix, in 60-odd languages, has now catapulted him from being a “Tamil actor in a Malayalam film” to a pan-world actor and he has only the OTT platforms to thank for.

Though Minnal Murali was his first big OTT release, the actor had previously done a series called Topless that released in 2020. He had also starred in the recent Sony LIV series Meme Boys. He is next set to play the lead in Pa Ranjith’s associate Dhinakaran Sivalingam’s debut film and also has a part in Kamal Haasan’s Indian 2.

Guru Somasundaram and Biju Menon in a still from Nalaam Mura
Guru Somasundaram and Biju Menon in a still from Nalaam Mura

In Malayalam, the actor has several upcoming movies lined up including Biju Menon’s Naalam Mura, Mohanlal’s Barroz: The Guardian of D’Gama’s Treasure, Mathew Thomas’ Kapp, Urvashi’s Charles Enterprises, Roshan Mathew’s Chera, Sreenath Bhasi’s Chera and Asha Sharath’s Indira.

Despite the size of the film, Guru, as he rightly remarked in his speech at OTTplay Awards, knows “how to play within it” and stand out just by the skill of his craft.

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