The actor discusses playing a septuagenarian in his 25-year journey in Malayalam cinema, directed by Sanu John Varghese in his upcoming film
Biju Menon surprised audiences repeatedly with his roles. But the actor had stopped himself when cinematographer Sanu John Warughis chose him to cast as a 73-year-old man under his direction, Arcarium (Who knows the meaning?). The film starring Parvati Thiruvothu and Sharafuddin is set to release on 1 April.
In an interview with Metroplus, Biju talks about the challenges involved in playing the character and looks at the roles he likes. Edited excerpts:
On playing a role in Arkkaryam …
I acted [Shyamaprasad’s] Electra (2010) in which Sanu was the cinematographer. We didn't talk much after that. One day he called me to discuss the project. Once I went through the script, he asked me what role would you like to play? '. I didn't understand what he meant because I put myself in the role of a character in his character. But Sanu had planned otherwise. The character is Itiawaria, a retired Maths teacher, and a widower living alone in his house at Pala in Kottayam district. They have a daughter, Shirley, who settled in Mumbai with her family.
Were you comfortable with the idea?
Not at all. When Sanu said that there would be enough scope for my performance, I was skeptical about pulling it. I could manage to be a 40 year old but certainly not a 603! I thought it would look weird with makeup and other things. However, Sanu finally convinced me, though I knew it would be a difficult path. We tried several ways and I was also provided some pictures of his father.
Talk to us through change …
The look and costume took hours to finalize. The biggest challenge was becoming Itiavera. I had to do a lot of work on the body language of the character, the way he walks, speaks and whatnot. It was the sync sound, which made it more difficult. My voice had to match my age. But when I got it right, something would be wrong with the dialect. It took me three to four days to get a grip on the character. I have never gone through such stress for any other role in my career. We have tried to keep it real and I must thank the cast and crew for the support and encouragement.
What can you tell about the story?
The narrative is set during lockdown. Itiavera's daughter (Parvati) and her husband, Roy (Sharafuddin) come to live with her. The events that take place in his life form the root of the story.
You played the role of Asif Ali's father Anurag Karikin Vellam And now Parvati's…
I don't see it that way. My concern was only about doing justice to that role and not about anything else. really when Arcarium The announcement was made, with many not asking why I took the role. Perhaps, the surprise factor was no longer because I had already worked as Asif's father! For Parvati, she is a brilliant artist. Since we had a limited crew due to the COVID protocol and because the film has very few actors, we all did well in a few days. I had the best experience of my career with that team.
How would you compare your role to Ayyappan Nair Ayyappanam koshyum with this?
Age-wise, Ayyappan Nair was not a difficult role. He is in his late 50s and due to retire; I am 50, although I do not look old! ()Laughs)
You have completed 25 years in the industry. How has your attitude towards films changed?
Undoubtedly. In the early days, I only got fame, which came with the roles. I did not go into the specifics of any role. In fact, I rarely found such characters. But movies like I think And Meghamal I understood that I should take a serious approach to acting. That is why I started taking better offers from the lots coming my way. In between, I tried my hand at Vinod and was somewhat successful. Even then I never made a conscious effort to play a good role.
Actor Prithviraj once remarked that you are one of the most satisfied people around. On the other hand, people also leave you behind to not advance yourself as an actor…
I have always gone with the flow. This is the condition of everything in my life, including my studies. It is not that I do not want to try new things. But then I start doubting my abilities and wonder how I would look in that role. That is when I opt for a comfort zone.
Actually, after we finish Ayyappanam koshyum, [director] Saiki told me, don`t look back now and just do good roles. Suddenly he left me before we left. But unfortunately some large projects had to be postponed due to the lockdown.
I finished Lalitam Sundaram Manju Warrier along with the director will debut the pair's debut project.