Films that disarm patriarchy seem to be in vogue in Malayalam cinema. The recent release, Ishq, has its protagonist played by Shane Nigam making desperate attempts to confirm his girlfriend’s chastity after an unpleasant late-night encounter with a creep. The film questions the common Malayali youngster’s notion of an ‘ideal lover’.This is the age of the flawed protagonist, where the male lead can be impotent, incompetent, irresponsible or perverted. But a small section of male viewers, who are so used to seeing and cheering heroes who win the heroine’s affections in spite of deplorable behaviour, would find such convention-defying portrayals unacceptable.
Long before the likes of Shane Nigam and Tovino Thomas embraced such roles, it was Fahadh Faasil who set an example by doing characters that challenged the idea of a conventional hero. You could argue that it was this that caused him to be successful. For someone who made a failed debut—through Kaiyethum Doorath (2002)—Fahadh’s career trajectory has surely been remarkable. Many in the industry believe that it was his initial failure that turned him into the experimental and confident actor that he is now.
Fahadh’s growth and acceptance took 17 years, in the span of which he took on roles that many actors wouldn’t dare go near—roles that serve as testament to his versatility. In his early years, he played interesting metrosexual and upper-class characters in films such as Chappa Kurish and Diamond Necklace, and later graduated to playing the simple, ordinary types.
One perfect example of this is his character in Rajeev Ravi’s Annayum Rasoolum. In the same year, he played another notable character in Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Amen. But it was after Maheshinte Prathikaram that Fahadh’s career saw a steep rise, with each of his performances winning praise, especially those in Thondiumthalum Driksakshiyum, Take Off, and Varathan.
This year, Fahadh is playing two flawed characters, one in Kumbalangi Nights—as a self-obsessed, narrow-minded, intensely chauvinist Malayali man whose worst side is brought out in the film’s latter portion, and the other in Super Deluxe— as a husband devastated by the revelation of his wife sleeping with another man. In last year’s Njan Prakashan, he played an unemployed youngster who comes up with a plan to use his girlfriend to get a job in Germany. But let’s rewind seven years to remember an extreme example: the devious creep who gets castrated by his girlfriend in Aashiq Abu’s 22 Female Kottayam. How many actors would dare do a role like that?
This quality has won Fahadh quite a few admirers. Actor Dhanesh Anand, who played a menacing psychopath in last year’s Lilli, says he is inspired by Fahadh’s choice of subjects and the fact that he gives more priority to script quality than superstar status. “He is not image-conscious; he appears on the screen as he is. He has never worn a wig and is all about making changes to his characters’ behaviour than about external get-ups. Also, he is not concerned about necessarily being the main lead.”
Renjith Sekhar Nair, who stars in Priyadarshan’s upcoming Marakkar, thinks Fahadh’s uniqueness is what sets him apart from the rest. “As an actor, I wish to stand out like him. He has a knack for coming up with multiple layers to each scene. Not since Mohanlal have we seen an actor do varied films that come out within an interval of a few months. The only other actor I know of with a similar calibre is Vijay ethupathi. They both are trendsetters, and set a great example for other actors.”