Musthafa says he was hooked to films as far as he can remember, a time when Doordarshan aired just one Malayalam movie per week. Television was not very commonplace those days and there was none near his home. But that didn’t stop the film-junkie from sneaking away and walking a good distance. “I still remember some family member coming to get me at night brandishing a fire torch,” says the actor who received a special mention at the 62nd National Film Awards.
The actor seems a little uneasy when you ask him about playing the ‘hero’ in ‘Ain’, ‘it’s just the lead character,” he quickly fills in. “If you meant a full-length character by hero it’s okay. ‘Ain’ had a role I could fit in, otherwise I don’t think I have a physique suitable for all kinds of films,” he adds. In ‘Ain’ he plays Manu, a carefree youngster who does odd jobs to make a living.
“It was first conceived as a film set in Kottayam. After reading the script I felt the story was more apt for Malappuram, a suggestion Sidhartha readily accepted,” he says. ‘Ain’, which means eye, is woven around an incident Manu witnesses and the change it brings in his life. “He has a blind grandfather whom Manu briefs on everything he comes across. Though Manu sees things, he is hardly aware of their seriousness. For him they are mere sights and it’s the grandfather who nudges him out his reverie,” he explains.
Though he was part of a string of mainstream films it was ‘Ain’ and the accolades it received that brought him to limelight. But Musthafa doesn’t believe in classifications when it comes to cinema, “there is no art-house or commercial for an artist. As a performer I am open to everything and looking forward for good roles like Manu,” he says. Musthafa started off with an amateur group Bharata Theatres near Calicut University. Most of its members were daily-wage workers glued together by their love for theatre. “Prabhat, an alumni of School of Drama, was our teacher but it was basically a very informal training. In our place theatre is strong and the weekly shows at University Hall are mostly houseful,” he says.
Musthafa says the reality show ‘Best Actor’ is where he got a proper platform to hone his acting skills. “Sidhartha Siva, the director of ‘Ain’, was also part of it. The six months at Amrita TV studio as a participant made the stage-to-screen switch easier for me. Each episode helped me correct the mistakes that usually theatre actors make,” he says.
Despite his theatre background breaking into the industry was not an easy or fancy affair. “I would never say I landed in films by accident. It was the only place I ever wanted to be from the very beginning. And reaching there was a long struggle, not a cakewalk,” he says.
Musthafa is often remembered for his role in ‘Paleri Manikyam’ as the young Sreenivasan and he says Ranjith has been his mentor for a while now. “Presently I am assisting him in ‘Loham’.”
The actor says he is equally passionate about all aspects of filmmaking and doesn’t have any a particular area of interest. “I have been a still photographer, cinematographer, short filmmaker make-up artist and actor. Acting is easy, but making someone act is not. I started assisting to better my technical know-how and learn what happens behind the camera. I get involved in everything including stage shows as an exercise. I don’t plan anything in advance, but, may be one day I will wield the megaphone,” he winds up.