MUMBAI: Actor Guru Somasundaram, who has been garnering praise for his role as the antagonist Shibu in the Malayalam superhero film "Minnal Murali", says director Basil Joseph wanted him to watch the Hollywood film "Joker" to get into the skin of his character.
A self-confessed fan of the American superhero genre, Somasundaram said eventually he chose to skip the Joaquin Phoenix-starrer as he didn't want to be influenced by the 2019 film.
"Minnal Murali" narrates the tale of two starkly different ordinary men who after being struck by lightning on the same fateful night gain superhuman abilities -- Tovino Thomas' Jaison becomes the titular hero and Shibu (Somasundaram) turns villain.
Best known for his debut film "Aaranya Kaandam" and follow-ups such as "Pandiya Naadu", and "Jigarthanda", Somasundaram described Shibu as a lonely man seeking love and validation from his childhood crush Usha (Arya Salim).
"Before the shoot started, Basil wanted me to watch a lot of movies like 'Joker'. I am a hardcore fan of Joaquin Phoenix. But I never watched the film and rather said I will not watch it till the shooting goes because I didn't want to be influenced by the western techniques of acting," the 46-year-old actor told PTI in an interview.
During his growing up years, Somasundaram said he watched many western movies in the cinema halls of Madurai. His extensive theatre training, he said, made him aware of the different ways of storytelling, be it in regional, Indian or western cinema.
Having watched movies like "The Dark Night", "Batman" series, "Indiana Jones", "The Ten Commandments", "Rocky", and James Bond movies among others, the actor said "Minnal Murali" is an attempt to show a new aspect of a supervillain in the superhero genre.
"The villain's work is to put barriers on the path of the hero, to make the hero big when he breaks the barrier. So, this is the idea that I get (from Hollywood films). However, in 'Minnal Murali' Jaison may not be putting any barrier for Shibu but the society has put a lot of barriers for him," he said.
"Shibu is lonely, no one is asking for him or looking at him as compared to Jaison, who is being looked after by others. My character in a way questions why he is being eliminated. We have tried to show the human side of Shibu, through Usha and his loneliness," he added.
Speaking about how he landed the film, Somasundaram said the director narrated to him the story of "Minnal Murali" in June 2019.
The actor, who predominantly works in Tamil films, said he was "shocked" when Joseph offered him the role as isn't much well versed with the Malayalam language.
"I am from the Tamil industry and the film is in Malayalam.
Even though I have acted in other language movies, I was shocked because I was thinking what made him think of me in a superhero movie as there is a good crowd of actors there (in Malayalam industry). But Basil said he would want me only as I am fit for the role," he added.
After he signed "Minnal Murali", Somasundaram said he began learning Malayalam and within a few days he was comfortable with the language.
The actor turned towards acting in films in 2011, after spending over a decade in Tamil theatre.
For Somasundaram, focusing on a role that challenges him is most important.
"I have done 15 to 17 films in 10 years but in every film, I am glad my role is remembered. I have done a varied body of work that has been appreciated by the industry and audience.
This is an award for theatre actors like me, it encourages me," he said, adding that he hopes the future will be brighter now that "Minnal Murali" is making the right noise.
He will next team up with superstar Mohanlal on his directorial venture and play the lead role in a Tamil family drama movie, backed by noted filmmaker Pa Ranjith.
Somasundaram also shared that he has auditioned for two projects in Hindi via Netflix.
"I want to work in a lot of film industries and break the language barrier," he said.
Produced by Sophia Paul, "Minnal Murali" is streaming on Netflix.