EXPRESS DIALOGUES | I’ve a complex because of my body, background, but that’s what made me what I’m today: Indrans

One of Malayalam cinema's many comedians in the 90s, Indrans is one of the most respected actors in the industry today, Indrans talks to TNIE about the transition in his career.

Published: 05th February 2023 09:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th February 2023 11:17 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

He was one of the many comedians in the Malayalam film industry in the 90s, thanks mostly to his scrawny appearance. But today, Indrans is one of the most respected actors in the industry. The winner of the state award for best actor in 2018 talks to TNIE about the transition, his life as a costume designer and tailor, and his childhood. Edited excerpts:

There are two famous K Surendrans in Kerala. One is the BJP president. We know the other K Surendran as Indrans. How did K Surendran become Indrans?  

My two attempts to run an independent tailoring shop had failed. So, when I made a third attempt, we thought of giving a different name. All my brothers’ names end with ‘ndran’ sound. So started using the name Indrans just for a change. When I worked as a costume designer for Padmarajan sir, I asked permission to use the name. He agreed and that is how I became Indrans (chuckles).
You were once called ‘kudakkambi’ because you were thin. When we look at it now, it was the worst form of body shaming...

In those days, nobody thought of it as body shaming. It was very normal then and nobody took any offense. I got many roles because I was called a ‘kudakkambi’. Now society has evolved, and people realise that those were not jokes but body shaming.  

Have heard that you had lots of insecurities about your thin body and had tried many ways to build muscles...

Yes. That was during my theatre days. One needs a good physical presence to look good on stage. So, I tried many things to look bigger. But I did not grow even an inch bigger (laughs).
You still have that complex?

Not that much now. I realise that I got noticed among many good-looking men because of my frail frame (chuckles).
You were one of the popular comedians in the ’90s. Now we get to see you mostly in serious roles...

I still love to do comedy roles.

Then why are you not doing any?

Cinema has changed a lot these days. There is no space for comedians per se. Am sure people still love to watch comedy situations. But I am also slightly scared whether I would be able to do comedy roles like earlier.  

Many other comic actors too have turned serious. Suraj Venjaramoodu, Salim Kumar... We miss comedy films.

Only a certain age group wants to see us doing comedy roles. Younger generations are not bothered as they have not seen many comedy films.



What could be the reason that there are not many typical comedians or comic situations in new-age movies? Is it because of the stress on political correctness these days?

Possible... People have become very sensitive these days. Intolerance has gone up. Jokes are no longer seen as jokes. That could be a reason.
Have heard that your childhood was full of miseries... that you did not even have a chappal to wear...

There was poverty. But the truth is that we did not know it was misery. I used to think that life was like that only (chuckles).
You learned tailoring from masters. How was that experience?

Tailoring shops used to be a hotspot where political discussions took place. One got to hear discussions on many national and international political issues there. Those masters were very strict. Most of them were from the Left background.
Has that atmosphere influenced your politics?

Certainly. Those discussions played a huge role in shaping up my politics. My father was a huge fan of EMS (Namboodiripad). I believed that the Communist party was the protector of the poor and the downtrodden. And that Congress represented the rich. During every election, my father's employer, a rich Congress leader with a golden tooth, would come and take our family in his car to the polling booth. But still, we all would vote for the Communist party (chuckles).
Have you ever been active in politics?

No. Except during the Emergency period when we used to play dramas. That was done mainly due to my love for theatre more than politics.
Are you still a Communist?

Now I am not that particular about political affiliations.
Why the change?

Hunger is there till one gets food, right? (chuckles) Now, I have friends across parties.
Film stars used to be part of politics earlier too. But of late, political differences have started vitiating the atmosphere. For example, discussions around the film Malikappuram were quite divisive. Have you noticed this?

That is a dangerous tendency. One must be very careful and responsible about what one says publicly. Anything and everything can be used against one these days.

Have you always wanted to do strong characters while doing comedy roles?

Yes, of course. Comedians are never taken seriously. I always wanted to do deep roles.
Which is tough to do? Comedy or serious roles?

Comedy. While doing comedy, one has to be very naughty in mind and always be prepared. Also, you need to be thick-skinned (chuckles).
Who, according to you, are the best comedians?

Jagathy chettan. Mala chettan too.
Have heard that you were a very good tailor, a perfectionist. Do you buy readymade clothes these days?

No. I still get my dresses stitched. That is also because there will be no readymade clothes available for my size and shape (laughs out). Not even a towel will rest on my tiny shoulders… (touches his shoulder and chuckles).  
Since when did you start feeling that you are also an important part of the Malayalam film industry?

I still do not feel so. Our industry is full of brilliant young talent. Nobody is inevitable that way. Nothing will happen to the Malayalam cinema even if I am not there.
So you still prefer to sit on the sidelines?

If you sit on the sidelines, you will be able to save yourself from heavy currents. If you are in the middle, you will be taken away by the flow.
Have you ever wished to get any particular role...
Not really. If something is meant for me; it will come to me.
How do you look at the role of Women in Cinema Collective (WCC)?

To demand equality for women itself is wrong, I believe. Because women are much higher and more evolved than men. Only those who fail to realise this will demand to be as equal as men.
But don’t you think WCC has relevance, especially in the backdrop of the actor assault case?

Even if WCC was not there, the legal process would have taken its own course. In fact, I think more people would have supported the cause.
But there have been instances of women being exploited in the film industry... Organisational support is good, don’t you think?

Cinema is just a cross-section of society. Whatever happens in society will happen here too. Everyone must take care of themselves. There is a limit to which an organisation can help.

The actor assault case had been discussed a lot in society. What are your thoughts
on the case?

I personally don’t think Dileep would have done that. If he is proven guilty, I would be shocked.

You know the assaulted actress too from a close quarter...

Yes. She is a very nice and sweet girl. She is like a daughter to me. I felt very sad hearing what happened to her. But how can one judge another without knowing the truth?
Have you talked to Dileep about this?

No. The last time we talked was when he called me after watching Home.

Has this incident affected the film industry in any way?

Yes. Everyone has started becoming very careful after the incident. Everyone keeps to themselves after the incident. There is an atmosphere of mistrust now.
You had complained that Home was ignored in the State Film Awards...  

I said that not because I did not get an award. The movie was hailed by everyone who watched it. But it was totally ignored by the awards committee. I said those words not for me but for those who put in their heart and soul for that film.
What is the one thing you don’t like about yourself?

I am very short-tempered at home. I don’t like that thing about me.

Are you someone who cracks jokes in daily life?

I never miss an opportunity to crack jokes.
Are most comedians like that?

Not all. Jagathy chettan is very serious. He would sit alone and think. Maybe because he has a sharp brain and has lots to think... (laughs)
You are shy and an introvert... How do you manage to make us all laugh on screen?

I still have issues facing large crowds. So, I try to keep to myself. But when I’m in front of the camera, I transform myself into another format.

Even now after winning the state award for best actor, you have an inferiority complex…

Yes. I still have issues going and shaking hands with people from a better stratum. I would try to pass through sideways without anyone noticing me. Then my son would ask what I was doing (chuckles).
Have heard that teachers would make you sit in the front bench as you were a bright student. But you would go back to the last bench the very next period. So this inferiority complex was in you from then onwards?

Yes. It has always been very much a part of me. I did not have proper dresses, nor did I smell good. I knew that I was not fit to sit on the front bench along with kids from good families. They all looked so prim and proper and used to smell so nice. I knew from a young age that I did not belong in such a space. I preferred to move away before being told to move.
You have made costumes for actors of different generations. Who do you think looked best in your costumes?

There are many... Actors of the older generation looked more appealing.
If you can name any...

Actors like Murali and Sukumaran looked great on-screen wearing the costumes I made.
Among actresses?

Yesteryear actresses were very beautiful. They were very feminine and had very good body shapes. Costumes used to look very beautiful on them.

(Smiles shyly) Jayabharathi and Sreevidya.

Have heard that you tricked Mammootty into wearing a fake double bull shirt...

(Chuckles) Mammootty Sir has a good fashion sense and is very particular about his clothes. In one set, his favourite readymade brand was not available. So I immediately made a shirt that looked exactly like a branded one. Mammootty Sir examined the shirt I gave and wore it. It was just an act for survival. We both had a good laugh about it later.
How about Mohanlal?

He is very flexible.
You have acted with different generations of actors... from Prem Nazir to new-gen actors. How has the film industry changed over the period?

There are lots of changes. The grammar and language of films have changed, and so
have the technical side of filmmaking. Cinema has changed a lot.
Dileesh Pothan in a recent interview said you were the most humble and lovable character in the Malayalam film industry.  Have you always been like this?
I am not sure... When you are surrounded by great people and actors, you naturally become humble. I think I was like this from a young age (smiles shyly).
Even after winning a state award, you don't take yourself seriously?

Yes... Inferiority complex has always been part of me... because of my body, because of my background... But the same complex has played a role in making me what I am today. I don’t take myself seriously and never would. I am always grateful to everyone around me.
Have heard that you are an avid reader...

I love reading. I love MT, T Padmanabhan, and O V Vijayan. The last read was ’Ponam'. I keep on buying books but not getting enough time to read them these days.
Do you have any favourite actors?

Kamal Haasan, Naseeruddin Shah.
Have heard that you still don’t use a smartphone…

Yes, I still haven’t learnt to use it. One good thing is that while everyone has their heads bent down looking at their smartphones, I enjoy everything around (chuckles). I don’t even know how to use an ATM.
Is there any tip or advice you want to give to the young generation?

The best thing to do is to not give them any advice. They don't need it. The younger generation is so brilliant, and so confident. We have a lot to learn from them. Not the other way around.
Do you think you have got what you deserve?

I am more than happy. Even if I had not reached here, I would have been happy.

TNIE team: Cithara Paul, Anil S, K S Sreejith, Arya U R
Vincent Pulickal (photos), Asif Baiju (videos)

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