Compliments are pouring in and he honestly doesn’t know how to take it all. ‘The Dosa Story’, read as Aashiq Abu’s new film ‘Salt N Pepper’, has indeed thrown up a big surprise not just for actor Baburaj, but the audience as well. He has stolen many a heart as the affable cook Babu and is being touted as the “surprise package” of the movie. This artist, who, in his 17-year-old acting career, had to be just there on screen to get bashed up invariably, is in fact all embarrassed when fans call him up from all across Kerala.
His first fans’ association is all set for launch, according to Dileep Kunnumal, who has been with him for the last 14 years. “My God! People are calling from Kozhikode, Thrissur, Kannur etc saying they are my fans... I blush hearing their complements. People who made fun of me are calling up to appreciate my work. It feels great! This has never happened in my career,” Baburaj says from his heart.
It was Aashiq Abu who was very particular that Baburaj should do the role. “In his film ‘Daddy Cool’ (Aashiq’s debut film) also, I could do a bit of humour. However, when he gave me the role in this movie, many had doubts whether I would be able to carry it off. Aashiq was damn confident. Once I went through the script, after 2-3 scenes I was sure that this was going to be the role of a lifetime for me. It is not easy to do humour and it feels nice to hear that people are breaking into applause when I come on screen,” Baburaj says.
Interestingly, in real life too Baburaj is an excellent cook. “I cook well, be it Indian or Chinese. Of course, I eat well too. That’s anybody’s guess!,” Babu laughs aloud. “I don’t cook much vegetarian dishes. But, yes, I can cook some great non-veg dishes, be it beef, chicken or fish... ,” he says with pride.
‘Salt N Pepper’ has been more of a relief for Baburaj. “After ‘Thanthonni’, I have not done any movie since only capsule roles were coming my way. I had to come on screen just for the fight. It is not that I am against villain roles. People generally have this impression that villains are idiots, they are the less-talented ones. I wanted to break free from that typecasting. I prefer to do something like what K P Ummar and others did. They played villains who were essential for the flow of the movie.”
Baburaj had his debut as a villain, in ‘Bheeshmacharya’, directed by Cochin Haneefa. “I was doing my LLM when (Babu is an alumni of Maharaja’s College and Ernakulam Law College) Haneefa’s brother Naushad asked me whether I would do a villain’s role in the movie.” Why villain? “Well... maybe because of my looks! I was quite a ‘decent’ guy, you know...” Babu stops on a mischievous note.
Many films followed, all he had to do was just get beaten up. “In fact, there are so many movies, when I didn’t have to utter a word...I only had to take all the beatings! I remember an incident in the connection. Once, on the sets of Priyadarshan’s movie, actor Vijayaraghavan told that he would like to do something on the lines of Kamal Hassan’s ‘Pushpaka Vimanam’ which had no dialogues. I couldn’t control my laughter on hearing this. I told them, ‘I don’t have such a wish at all! I have done enough of that...’”
More villains came his way. In between he was busy with his practise as a criminal lawyer, under one of the best in the field, T V Prabhakaran. It was when he grew sick of the villain image that he switched over to production and made four films- ‘Gajarajamanthram’, ‘Adukkalarahasyam’, ‘Kulirkaattu’ and ‘The Gang’.
“The Gang’ had Napoleon and Vani (Vani Viswanath) in the main roles. It was on the sets of the movie that I got to know Vani more and fell in love...” The couple has two children- Aarcha and Adri.
In 2009, he directed ‘Black Dahlia’, a thriller. “People approached the movie with a pre-conceived notion. They had doubts about my skill, which was quite natural. Once it came out, many told me that it didn’t look like the movie of a debutant.”
His second directorial venture ‘Manushyamrugam’, produced by wife Vani Viswanath, will reach theatres today. He has written the story and screenplay of the movie, which revolves around Johny (played by Baburaj himself) and his family comprising his mother, wife Lissy (Kiran), their daughter and Lissy’s sister.
“The movie has got a realistic approach, since it touches upon many incidents happening around.” A murder mystery, it also has Prithviraj and Kalabhavan Mani in important roles. “Managing writing, direction, production and acting has not been an easy task. Still, I love the job of a director.”
The release of the movie could not have come at a better time. “The appreciation I got for ‘Salt N Pepper’ is a bonus when ‘Manushyamrugam’ reaches theatres.” For the time being, he would like to go on a break, to spend time with family. “Vani has not seen ‘Salt N Pepper’. She can’t believe that my work is appreciated so much.”
And one complement that has touched his heart is that of Naushad, Cochin Haneefa’s brother. “He had introduced me into films. He called me up after seeing ‘Salt N Pepper’. There is one scene in the movie, where I say, ‘Poda panni...’. That is one dialogue made famous by Haneefikka. Naushadikka told me that the scene reminded him of his late brother. ‘Now, you take his position in the industry’, he said with a lump in his throat. That was a heart-warming moment.”