When director Jayaraj decided to cast the Kannur-based Shivajith Nambiar as Aromal Chekavar in his next, Veeram, he weighed 112 kg, but had unbridled passion for acting.
“Jayaraj Sir wanted me to take kalari lessons. I dropped everything else and joined CVN Kalari at Kollam under the tutelage of Sivakumar Gurukal,” says the debutant actor.
What ensued was a brutal two years of self-discipline. Shivajith lost oodles of weight, trained himself in martial arts, and, in the process, had a wonderful debut. “A movie helmed by an award-winning director, in three languages, on a subject that is an adaptation of Macbeth and ‘Vadakkan Pattukal’, this is the best I could have asked for,” says Shivajith.
Veeram has already made the rounds on the festival circuit, but Shivajith hasn’t seen it yet. He wants to watch it when it hits theatres in Kerala on Feb 28.
“I want to see it amidst the local crowd. That pays for all the effort I put in,” says the actor, who is just back from the US.
How challenging was it playing a character in the fifth instalment in Jayaraj’s navarasa series? “Not as challenging as the efforts I put in during the initial months of training. Those times were the hardest. The first six months, I was mired in self-doubt. I wasn’t sure I could do this. But, I soon began to enjoy it,” say the actor, sharing the intense days spent shooting for Veeram.
“We shot at Aurangabad at Ajanta and Ellora caves. It was such a enchanting experience. But, otherwise, we all worked really hard, as we had to shoot the same scene for Malayalam, Hindi and English. In between shots, we discussed the movie. Every second was an edifying experience,” says Shivajith.
The movie was physically demanding too, says the actor, who recounted an instance where the war scenes were shot. “We sometimes would forget it was a movie and would aggressively fight. By the time it was over, we were bruised. We damaged over 34 swords during the war scene,” says Shivajith.
How was it working with Kunal Kapoor? “Kunal is a theatre person mainly. He attaches significance to even the most subtle things. He would spend hours learning the meaning of every Malayalam word, so that he emoted properly. Kunal’s dedication is unparalleled. He was of immense help while shooting the Hindi version,” says Shivajith.