For someone who doesn’t think of himself as an ambitious guy, model-turned-actor Tony Luke, who has a role in Prithviraj-starrer 9, has done quite well for himself. Back in his modelling days, he was fortunate enough to work with some of the world’s leading brands.
“I did not intend to be an actor or a model. Both professions came to me unexpectedly.” says the Kochi-native, who took up modelling for some extra pocket money while pursuing an engineering degree in Bengaluru. “After I shifted my focus to acting, I found to my surprise that I was really enjoying it. To me, acting is better than modelling.”
In 9, Tony plays a nerdy scientist who is introverted and quirky, and will be sharing the screen with Prithviraj who was incidentally in Tony’s acting debut Oozham. But the two never had any scenes together.
It was through actor Rahul Madhav, a mutual friend of his and Jenuse’s, that Tony got the part. The role was initially supposed to go to Rahul but since other commitments kept him occupied, he felt Tony would be an appropriate choice. “When Jenuse (director) told me about my character in 9, I got quite excited. He said, ‘I want you to be this nerd but at the same time be a little goofy and very energetic. If it works out, he may also serve as the comic relief.’ And I think it has come out exactly like that. I have some cousins working in the U.S, and I kept their mannerisms in mind while playing this part: the way they touch their nose, close their eyes, etc.”
Tony was also seen as the villainous manager in the Nivini Pauly’s Sakhavu and as a computer guy in Pranav Mohanlal’s Aadhi. He shares an interesting experience that happened during the screening of Sakhavu. “Considering the character was a cruel guy mistreating the other characters, he was met with a harsh reaction. I was watching the film with my mother and I had to leave because it made me very uncomfortable. I mean, getting such a reaction for a negative character is normally seen as a positive thing, but when you’re with your mother, it’s not a good feeling. But she liked my character.”
Actors with a modelling background are usually cast in stereotypical roles that don’t require them to do much except look good. But Tony says he has been fortunate enough to work with actors and directors who never went that route. “I did extremely well in Oozham because I have a good rapport with Jeethu. He is very straightforward: he knows exactly what he wants and then brings that out of you. He is like a boxing coach who demands a certain style of fighting and makes sure that the student gets it. I’m thankful to Jeethu for casting me in some substantial roles. He made sure that I don’t look like a model. And even Siddarth Siva was kind and trusting enough to put me alongside much-experienced actors in Sakhavu,” reflects Tony.
On working with Jenuse, he says, “He gives you space to improvise. And as we are in the same age group, there is that extra comfort level. We sometimes try things that are not in the script. If I have to use the aforementioned boxing analogy, I would say Jenuse is more like an associate trainer. I can change the style of fighting. And there are several moments in 9 that needed the spontaneity.”
Tony adds that his parents have always been supportive of whatever he did. “I was never interested in doing engineering or business. I wanted to do something easy. My dad, however, was adamant that I get a degree in engineering or business. As it was so important for him, I said I’ll first do what he wants and then later do what I want, and he was okay with that arrangement. I mean, he spent all his life working for us so it was an obligation to make him happy. Hey, at the end of the day, you’re getting a degree, right?”