Sunny days ahead

Actor Sunny Wayne, last seen in 'Kasargold', talks about his evolution as an actor and his take on success.
Actor Sunny Wayne. (Photo | Express)
Actor Sunny Wayne. (Photo | Express)

For Sujith Unnikrishnan, hailing from the hilly Wayanad, cinema was always a distant dream. Though he didn’t have the faintest of ideas about the world of movies, he always carried a burning desire to realise that dream. Later, it was his college life in Kozhikode and interactions with some like-minded film enthusiasts that helped him get closer to what was once considered unattainable. “Without knowing the ABCD of acting”, he attended his first-ever auditions and managed to bag a role. It was for Srinath Rajendran’s Second Show (2012), which also marked the low-key debut of the superstar son, Dulquer Salmaan. As the film inched closer to release, the humble Sujith Unnikrishnan from Wayanad got a trendy name for himself... he became Sunny Wayne. Along with the catchy name, his fiery performance as Kurudi also caught instant attention.

A year later, Sunny and Dulquer once again collaborated—this time for the trendsetting road film, Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi. It was a roaring success among the youth, and Sunny was soon a fan favourite. However, the journey ahead wasn’t always smooth. Today, after 11 years in cinema, we see a more informed Sunny, shaped up by all the ups and downs in his career. “Since I didn’t know a lot about cinema while starting out, I kept updating myself. It opened me to new perspectives. But there’s only so much that an actor can do. He has to wait for good opportunities to showcase his skills. As an actor, I’ve always known my limitations, but not my real potential.”

It took nearly a decade for Sunny to finally get a film and a character that could explore the performer in him. Appan (2022), the film, and his performance in it was so remarkable that Sunny’s career could easily be demarcated as pre-Appan and post-Appan. Directed by Maju KB, with whom Sunny had earlier worked in French Viplavam (2018), Appan is a disturbing domestic drama about a toxic patriarch and his dysfunctional family. As the hapless Njoonju, suffocated by his evil father’s sins, Sunny delivered a poignant performance, which is widely regarded as his career best. Agreeing on this general assessment, Sunny adds, “I’ve rarely got characters with such depth. Kurudi (Second Show) and Ashley (Annayum Rasoolum, 2013) were perhaps the only other two characters. I believe that for an actor like me, the depth of a character will reflect on the quality of performance.”

Just before Appan, Sunny did Adithattu (2022), another film that didn’t fit within the framework of typical commercial cinema. The Jijo Antony directorial was an action thriller set against the backdrop of the sea. Sunny recalls how excited he was after the first narration. “The very fact that it was almost entirely set in sea instantly hooked me. I still feel the chills and the rough sea as we talk about it. We shot it during Covid amid gruelling conditions, but it was an experience of a lifetime. I never thought about its commercial prospects because I always wanted to be part of such daring experiments. Years later, when I look back at my career, I know I’ll be proud of films like Adithattu and Appan”.

In an industry where peers get highly competitive, Sunny has always been open to collaborations. In fact, some of his best roles came in multistarrers. “Being in the company of other actors isn’t something I mind, given my character has something substantial to do”, says the actor. His most recent outing Kasargold is also a multistarrer, which sees him reuniting with Asif, with whom he earlier shared screen in Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal (2014) and Kuttavum Shikshayum (2022). “Asif is one of my earliest well-wishers from the industry. After the release of Second Show, he managed to get my number and called to congratulate me. We’ve been close buddies ever since. Though we don’t always discuss working together, the films we have teamed up for have invariably made a mark.” In Kasargold, Asif and Sunny play equally important characters who both get caught in the world of gold smuggling. Sunny, who is aware of the increasing acceptance of larger-than-life entertainers, says Kasargold was conceived for an “enjoyable theatre experience”. “Mridul (Nair) pitched me this idea during the Covid period, and I liked the life in it. Later, he told me about Asif joining and the overall treatment. It’s always great to be part of entertainers. Ultimately, that’s what I aim to do as an artist—entertain people and earn their love.”

Despite being part of several hits, the absence of frequent solo hits is quite conspicuous in Sunny’s career. The actor, however, maintains that he isn’t really concerned about it. Elaborating on his idea of success, Sunny adds, “I’m not sure if box office results alone should be the criteria to judge a film. Ann Maria Kalippilaanu (2016) and Pokkiri Simon (2017) were commercial hits, but French Viplavam wasn’t. That doesn’t mean I regret doing it. I still cherish that experience. It had around 70 scenes, and all of them were single shots; it was a huge learning experience. In fact, French Viplavam helped us decide what we should give the audience next, and that’s how Appan was born.”

Sunny’s upcoming slate includes Vela with Shane Nigam, Turkish Tharkkam with Lukman, a cameo alongside Mammootty in Kannur Squad, Written and Directed by God, a web series for Disney+ Hotstar and a yet-to-be-titled film with Appan director Maju. The actor is hopeful about doing a variety of characters and bettering himself with each new film. “I’ve always strived to do different roles and never get stereotyped. Some of my choices might’ve backfired, but the efforts and intentions behind them were always real. I don’t intend to do a lot of films, but I hope to contribute something back to cinema.”

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express