Though he made his mark in Malayalam cinema doing comedic roles, actor Suraj Venjaramoodu has in the past few years proved that he is capable of being versatile, surprising audiences with roles that challenged both himself as well as audience perception. In 2015, he won a National Award for his performance in Dr. Biju's Perariyathavar, and the following year stunned everyone with a small but potent cameo in Action Hero Biju.
In an interview with Express, Suraj discusses his upcoming film Kuttanpillayude Sivarathri, his approach to serious roles and future plans.
Is your role in Kuttanpillayude... different from what you had done before?
Yes, it was quite a challenging role. My character is called Kuttanppilla, a middle-aged and rough character. When I heard the story, the first thing that came to my mind was my father. Kuttanppilla resembles him closely. By the time we were done with all the make up and everything, I became just like my father. So I had to channel my father when doing all the mannerisms. He likes everybody and he has so much love for his children but some fathers don’t display it.
Is this a serious film?
No, no, quite the contrary. It's filled with humour. Although Kuttanpilla is a serious character, the situations are humorous. There are some nice twists. His wife is a sub-inspector, but only outside; at home, she is a good homemaker and a dutiful wife. Whereas Kuttanpilla is the same both outside and inside. He has the tendency to threaten and intimidate others. It's an interesting character. Biju Sopanam plays his son-in-law. The whole film happens during a Sivarathri, when everyone is gathered at the ancestral home, even those who haven’t seen each other yet. And then some funny incidents happen.
So did you do everything as per the script and instructions of the director or did you have the freedom to bring something of your own?
Yes, I had lots of freedom. I told the director my experiences and we discuss and try to figure out what is right and what isn’t. The director had a specific plan and I followed whatever is there in the script. The rest we tried to come up on the spot. If I improvise and he liked it, we go ahead with it.
You've proved yourself adept at doing extremely serious roles as well. Did you start getting such roles after Perariyathavar?
Yes, you could say that. Despite winning the National Award for Perariyathavar, I've been getting the same kind of roles that I did before. But the turning point came in the form of Action Hero Biju. And then came along Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum. Kuttanpilla will be different from my character in Thondimuthalum....
So after these roles were well-received, did you find it difficult to go back to comedy roles? Because a lot of people feel you should stick to serious roles only.
No, never. Comedy is in my blood. I've heard even my friends say that serious roles suit me more. But at the same time there are people who would like to see me in comedy as well – something like Two Countries. So, I’ll never say no to those. I have done few already which are awaiting release. You'll see humour in Kuttanpilla.. too but the humour comes out of either his serious demeanour or certain situations. You can’t help but laugh when you see such a character stuck in a place like that. This film is replete with situational humour.
You do close to five films per year. Apart from Kuttanpilla.. is there anything else coming out?
There is Theevandi and then there is Savari. In Savari I played another aged character but he has a small mental defect. He is a nameless character actually but is known to everyone as Savari. He is someone who does things for other people and they pay him. We have seen people like that around us. This is a story set around the Thrissur Pooram, from which Savari makes most of his earnings.
Did you ever feel like some characters never left you after filming has been done?
I wouldn’t exactly say that, but some characters have definitely made a strong impact, like for e.g. the one in Action Hero Biju or the one in Thondimuthalum, and I’ve then engaged in in-depth discussions about them with my friends. But so far it has not been that difficult to detach myself from a character after the shoot is done.
Have you any plans to go behind the camera – like directing or screenwriting?
For the time being, I’m not getting into all that. As for screenwriting. I’m actually planning something but so far nothing has been set in stone. But it will definitely happen.
Are you doing something again with Dileesh Pothan?
Yes, that’s what I was actually referring to. We've had discussions. We’ll make a formal announcement once everything is confirmed.