He has been tickling our funny bone for nearly four decades. With a happy-go-lucky attitude, a cherubic face and a down-to-earth nature, Maniyanpilla Raju has endeared himself to generations of Malayalis. Though he has been part of many successful ventures and left a mark with his roles, the last time the versatile actor played a lead role in a movie was in 1985 in Akkare Ninnoru Maran. Now, after 28 years, Maniyanpilla Raju will once more be seen playing the hero in the upcoming flick Namboothiri Yuvavu@43.
The movie is an amusing tale of a 43-year-old temple priest and an 18-year-old girl who enter into a matrimonial alliance and what happens in the couple’s life. Sharing the excitement regarding this unlikely story and combination, Raju says, “It was an year ago that the director (Mahesh Sharma) approached me with this character which is based on the real-life experience of his grandparents.”
The love story, helmed by debutant Mahesh Sharma, will showcase the fun-filled journey of Jayanthan Namboothiri and Sanmaya, an orphan. “Taking a humorous approach, the film deals with how a Namboothiri remains single because of his odd temple timings. He is 43 but no girl is interested in marrying the poor temple priest who is an innocent chap,” says Maniyanpilla about his character. Seeing the forlorn Namboothiri, his friends plan to hook him up with a girl. Luckily, the young Sanmaya, played by debutante Thanushree Reghuram, readily agrees to this alliance. “Though they get married, problems crop up from day one. And the rest of the film shows how the couple sort out their troubles to reach the happy ending,” adds the actor.
The story also carries a suspense element and it is only in end that the jigsaw puzzle fits into place.
Ask Raju about the oddity of the age disparity in marriage in a real-life situation, he says, “In earlier days, it was just a common idea but now, it is not so. As part of the film promotions, we did a survey among college students. When asked whether they would be agreeable to marrying a man double their age, nearly all the female respondents admitted that the very idea was hard to digest!”
The actor-turned-producer, who has produced some of the all-time hits like Aye Auto, Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu and Oru Naal Varum to name a few, says, “This was the year when Malayalam cinema saw the maximum number of releases. Usually people come to produce movies with the hope of getting satellite rights, audio rights, overseas rights. But in reality, only ‘superstar movies’ enjoy these benefits. When producers realise this, the number of movies would drastically come down. Small-budget movies and movies of newcomers are struggling nowadays. Though I am a member of the KSFDC, I didn’t get a theatre to exhibit Namboothiri Yuvavu@43,” he laments.
His next venture as producer will be released next year. “It will be an entertainer with Prithviraj and ‘Daivathindey Swantham Cleetus’ fame director Marthandan teaming up.” he says.
Namboothiri Yuvavu@43 will also see stars like Suresh Menon, Nandu, Tini Tom and Sreedevi Unni playing pivotal roles. The film, which Raju says is all about love, family and friendship, and carries the promise of clean entertainment for people of all ages, will hit the screens this Friday.