Tovino Thomas, who’s making his Tamil debut in this week’s Tamil-Malayalam bilingual, Abhiyum Anuvum, has no qualms about expressing his love for experimental cinema and his respect for film festival audiences
As Tovino Thomas forays into Tamil cinema with Abhiyum Anuvum, he turns quite contemplative. “Getting my first Tamil film was easy, whereas, in Malayalam cinema, I had to ask around for opportunities. Though offers started coming, I wasn’t satisfied. I didn’t want to settle for ordinary roles, usual films.” The actor cites Guppy, Tharangam and Mayaanadhi as examples of the experimental films he’s drawn to. “I am drawn to untold, unusual stories that are dark, intense and emotional.”
In Tamil, he’s clear on what he considers to be good cinema -- mainly films by the likes of Vetrimaaran, Manikandan, and Gautham Menon. “Good films are those that kindle my intellect, touch my soul and make me think for the next three days,” he adds.
He believes Abhiyum Anuvum to be one such story. “It’s an unusual love story. I fall in love with Anu (Pia) and get married to her. Our marriage then becomes invalid, and what then happens is the actual story. I don’t think such an issue has been handled in Tamil cinema before.”Working with director BR Vijayalakshmi was a great experience, he adds. “Ma’am was constantly messaging me to make sure I came on board. I made her wait for some time as I was occupied with film commitments in Kerala.”
He’s got a great role, he says. “I have an unquenchable thirst for good roles. I take home my characters, and they affect me (personally) to an extent. That’s because I become the character I am in films. I internalise them. I take down notes. I don’t have an image; my character does.” Internalisation of a role almost gives him a high. “The point of becoming an actor is to live various characters,” he smiles.
Tovino says that he isn’t one to be too excited about the spotlight. “When I started out, my intention was to make money and get famous, but I stopped chasing them long ago. Now, it’s all about the satisfaction of being part of good cinema. I want to satisfy those who attend film festivals — I think it’s them that really appreciate films.”
The actor was most recently seen in the Gautham Menon single, Ulaviravu. “I want to be part of work that satisfies the viewer in me. It needn’t just be feature films. I did Ulaviravu because it was Gautham Menon’s. His visuals are poetic.” Is this a hint of a potential film with Gautham? “I’d love to work with him again. If something is meant to happen, it will,” he says, cryptically.
He isn’t insistent on just playing lead characters. “The point is to have people remember your work. I want to be unpredictable, and keep the audience guessing.”He’s a workaholic. For Malayalam films, he says he works usually from 7 am to 9.30 pm. “For some films, I have worked till 2 am too. Tamil cinema is a bit liberal in this regard.”
He’s quite critical of his Tamil-speaking ability. “My vocabulary is bad. I get confused when trying to frame a sentence. Even now, while I am talking to you, I am anxious about my Tamil. But hey, I’ve dubbed for myself in Abhiyum Anuvum. I managed somehow,” he laughs.
He is doubly excited about playing a villain in Maari 2. He reveals he has two looks in the film. “We shot for a day at BS Abdur Rahman University and I still have another 20 days of shooting left. I don’t play your average villain.” On Dhanush, he says, “For his stature, he doesn’t have to be humble at all, but he is. Forget about his terrific acting ability — he’s an amazing person, who’s supportive of his co-stars.”
Is he tempted to set goals for himself, now that his aspiration of being part of Tamil cinema is starting to get realised? “I am sure of only one thing I want — I want to act till my last breath,” he signs off.
● I am a big fan of Into the Wild.
● A flop doesn’t mean that a bad film was made, and vice-versa.
● I watch at least four films a week. We, Malayalis, watch all kinds of cinema. How many of you (Tamilians) watch Malayalam films?
● Some day, I hope to direct a film.