'Luck hasn’t always been on my side,' says Asif Ali

The actor talks about his recently released film 'Thalavan', aspirations beyond acting, questionable choices in the past, and upcoming films
A still from 'Thalavan' movie
A still from 'Thalavan' movie

KOCHI: It was only upon entering the film industry that Asif Ali grasped the responsibility that comes with being an actor. Despite initial scepticism from his parents regarding his lack of film background, Asif persevered. Notably, he attributes his approach to acting to legendary actor Jagathy Sreekumar’s analogy, likening an actor to a bicycle ridden skillfully by a director.

“In the hands of someone who knows how to ride it, they can even perform a circus act. Others who lack the skill will fall immediately.” Apart from delivering a handful of revelatory performances over the years, Asif has also experienced his share of setbacks owing to his poor script selection, an aspect he openly acknowledges. The actor’s recent portrayal as a police officer in 'Thalavan' contrasts sharply with his previous noteworthy outings as a cop, in 'Kuttavum Shikshayum' (2022) and 'Kooman' (2022), underscoring his versatility and adeptness in playing diverse roles.

As we catch up with Asif for a candid conversation, he is occupied with absorbing all the appreciation he has been receiving since the release of 'Thalavan'.


'Thalavan' is the first time where you are playing a morally upright, angry and cinematic police officer... How did it come your way?

A year ago, Jis (Joy) told me about an interesting story by two newcomers, Anand and Sarath. Shortly after, I listened to the full narration and, despite my initial reservations, I liked it. Later, once the screenplay was completed, I committed to the project after getting fully convinced about my character sketch. Many people associated with the film also contributed significantly to making the character different from any police officer I have played before, which made it easy for me to get into the skin of the character.

You’ve previously acted alongside Biju Menon in numerous films, including 'Anuraga Karikkin Vellam' (2016), where he portrayed a police officer. How was the experience this time in 'Thalavan', with you also playing a police officer but at loggerheads with his character?

Seeing Biju chettan in a police uniform is akin to seeing an elephant adorned with a nettipattam—that’s how magnificent it is to witness him in that attire. More than simply sharing the screen as fellow police officers, it was quite daring to be seen in the uniform alongside him, particularly given the contrast in our physiques. My greatest challenge in this film was, undoubtedly, matching up to his character, as he effortlessly portrays police roles. I believe the strength of the script aided me in achieving this. We filmed the movie almost entirely in scene order, and my initial scene with him was when my character, Karthik arrives to join the station where Biju chettan’s character is in charge. I felt anxious about delivering that scene, but it turned out satisfactory without much fuss. Perhaps it was due to my rapport with him as a friend over the years that it went smoothly.

Asif Ali
Asif Ali

You were visibly moved with joy following the initial screening of 'Thalavan' that you attended...

To be honest, luck hasn’t always been on my side in my choices as an actor. Only a few have seen commercial success when I’ve taken the lead. Some good films that failed to attract audiences are discussed later, and I admit I’ve also been involved in many bad films. Despite this, people have continued to support my pursuit of good films. Witnessing the warm reception 'Thalavan' is receiving has been immensely fulfilling for me. On that day, I became emotional upon realising that, after a long while, I had fulfilled my responsibility to provide the audience with content worthy of their time, something I should have done much earlier. Also, in my 15-year-long career as an actor, Thalavan was the first film my parents came to watch on its opening day in theatres with me. I’m glad it happened with this film. Seeing their proud faces and joyful expressions while I received appreciation was truly an unforgettable moment, as I hadn’t been able to bring them that happiness during my school years or afterwards.

There were talks about you being the first choice for films like 'Bramayugam' and 'Manjummel Boys'. Do you harbour any regrets about not being a part of them, considering how they went on to become huge successes?

About 'Bramayugam', certainly, I was deeply disappointed to have missed out on such a huge opportunity opposite Mammookka due to scheduling conflicts, although I am happy that it ultimately went to Arjun (Ashokan). As for 'Manjummel Boys', despite some initial considerations, I was never regarded as an option once the characters were fully developed.

Do you look back at what went wrong in your failed films?

Yes, for many films, you begin to grasp the issues during the shooting stage itself, and efforts are made to rectify them along the way. Sometimes these efforts prove successful, and sometimes they do not. In cases where films ultimately fail despite all efforts, I attempt to analyse where things went wrong, even if a full understanding remains elusive.

As a viewer, do you get time to watch films regularly nowadays?

I make it a point to watch at least one film every day before going to bed at night, even if I don’t have time to see it in theatres. Cinema is something that never bores me, and I consume everything that comes my way, regardless of the language.

Do you get inspired by the type of content that is popular these days?

My son, Adam, aged 10, has recently developed a keen interest in films. I make an effort to understand what appeals to him and children his age. Typically, they enjoy loud, exciting, and cheerful films, and I am now more eager to do such movies.

'Thalavan' movie poster
'Thalavan' movie poster

Do you follow film reviews? If yes, how do you take criticism?

Of course. There are certain critics whom I admire and whose opinions I value. This helps me become more aware of what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, this is a matter of subjectivity. What you enjoy might be unappealing to me, and vice versa. My only issue arises when certain reviewers discourage others from watching a film simply because it doesn’t resonate with them.

Apart from acting, you have also tried your hand at producing films. Going forward, do you wish to try direction or writing?

Venturing into production drastically altered my perspective on cinema. As an actor, I yearn to explore and comprehend cinema from various angles, which will go on to redefine my approach to acting. While I’m unsure of the timing, I would love to try my hand at directing sometime in the future.

Moving on, what’s next?

My upcoming release is 'Level Cross', which also stars Amala Paul and Sharaf U Dheen. It features me portraying a unique character set in an imaginary place, shot mainly in Tunisia. 'Kishkindha Kandam', alongside Aparna Balamurali, is currently in the post-production stages. Recently, I wrapped up shooting for 'Adios Amigo' with Suraj Venjaramoodu, which will be a full-fledged fun entertainer. Currently, I am shooting for Jofin T Chacko’s film. I expect to join the sets of 'Abhyanthara Kuttavali' by August or September, which is another comedy entertainer. Also, a script has been finalised for the sequel of 'Kili Poyi', which I am looking forward to.

In a recent conversation, you mentioned that 'Tiki Taka' could be considered as your 'KGF'. Also, you had a serious injury recently at the sets while shooting for it. What is the status of that film?

We had initially planned for a 150-day shoot, but within the first 15 days, I sustained an injury that left me bedridden for three months. The healing period is estimated to be eight to nine months in total. Only after that will I resume shooting for 'Tiki Taka', as it requires my full confidence to perform the heavy-weight action sequences in the film. Unlike my previous collaborations with Rohith (V S), which were extremely experimental, this film is envisioned to deliver an exciting theatrical experience akin to those big-ticket spectacles.

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