Fahadh Faasil in 'Malayankunju'
Fahadh Faasil in 'Malayankunju' Image Credit: Supplied

South Indian actor Fahadh Faasil isn’t blessed with matinee idol looks or a ripped torso, but he’s a blistering talent who can make ordinary lives look extraordinarily arresting.

This diminutive actor, 39, with a receding hairline and large expressive eyes can be a towering presence in any film, genre no bar.

Credited as one of the flag-bearers of a new wave of Malayalam cinema which prides itself in being realistic, star-shorn, and gritty, Fahadh doesn’t need props like fancy locations or titillating songs or mammoth budgets to elevate his performance. His films, which are mostly engaging and invariably akin to a master-class in subtle acting, almost always have a sturdy story as their spine.

Maheshinte Prathikaaram
Maheshinte Prathikaaram Image Credit: Supplied

His turn in the riveting revenge drama ‘Maheshinte Prathikaaram’ (where he played an endearing photographer who vows never to wear slippers until he exacts revenge on the man who publicly humiliates him) or his smarmy psycho husband act as Shammy in the slice-of-life ‘Kumbalangi Nights’ is proof that he relies on his nuanced performances and consummate acting skills to do all the talking.

“Malayalam cinema has always focused on realistic story-telling and characters that you are familiar with in your own lives. I have always believed that there will always be an audience for relatable characters and scenarios,” said Fahadh in an interview with Gulf News.

Fahadh Faasil in ‘Malayankunju’ Image Credit: Supplied

While his career-defining films like ‘Bangalore Days’ and ‘Jojo’ saw him take on complex characters with shades of grey to them, his latest Malayalam-language survival drama ‘Malayankunju’ also forced him to shed fear and inhibitions on the big screen. It’s a tale of an eccentric guy, a small-fry electrician, who slides down a 30-feet-deep manhole after a heavy downpour and finds himself courting death and existentialist angst. His beacon of hope during his dreary and scary ordeal is someone whom he detested before plunging into the dark hole.

As ‘Malayankunju’ released in UAE cinemas on July 22, we caught up with the award-winning talent to glean all the interesting tidbits about his latest project. Before you venture into the cinemas, here’s what you need to know about the film and its momentous making …

Fahadh Faasil in ‘Malayankunju’ Image Credit: Supplied

- ‘Malaynkunju’, directed by Sajimon Prabhakar and Mahesh Narayanan, is a survival thriller that throws its spotlights on a disgruntled electrician and radio mechanic Anikuttan (Fahadh) who loses his cool every time his neighbour’s newborn wails. The baby’s bawling for milk or attention at all odd hours disturb his precious sleep and he’s enraged every time those cries wafts across to his home. But his hardened and cynical existence and attitude is altered dramatically when he gets trapped in a deep and dark manhole after heavy rains and a vicious landslide hits his neighbourhood. Suddenly, the baby’s howling isn’t the worst thing happening in his dreary life.

“There’s a good chance that he’s just unhappy with his daily life, his situation, and the life that he has been dealt with. It could be even his displaced anger towards that tiny child and not his anger towards the infant per se,” said Fahadh, adding it’s an interesting insight into the psyche of a middling man. He isn’t particularly likeable at first, but that’s often the beauty of Fahadh’s robust filmography. His characters may never win a popularity contest and won’t ever try to impress with their scruples or strong moral code, but they always leave a lasting impression as they are a portrait of human frailties.

Fahadh Faasil in ‘Malayankunju’ Image Credit: Supplied

- ‘Malayankunju’ isn’t based on any single true-life landslide/flooding incident like the tragic one in August 2020, which saw dozens lose their lives when torrential rain lashed Kerala’s Idukki, clarified Fahadh. Every year during the monsoons, Kerala sees incidents of flooding and incidents of people going missing in landslips or with their homes swept away. But ‘Malayankunju’ is a fictional tale filled with heart and soul, adds the actor.

- “This was one of the most challenging films to shoot and make in my career,” says Fahadh. “We couldn’t even fit a tripod into the scenes shot when I was trapped inside the sewer hole,” he adds. And so it meant that every day, the entire cast and crew had to crawl to film the shots that saw him slide down deep into the mud-filled abyss.

“It was physically and mentally exhausting for the entire team. But now that the movie is ready to release, I am hoping that all our hard work and challenges pay off,” said Fahadh.

Fahadh Faasil in ‘Malayankunju’ Image Credit: Supplied

- Fahadh Faasil gave a big shout out to his prolific producer and father Faazil for agreeing to produce his ambitious thriller, which is highly experimental in nature. His dad agreed to back the project after he got injured during the filming.

“After I got injured, I think he was worried about the overall safety of the crew too … But on set, we always had a very professional relationship and we did what was best for the film,” said Fahadh.

- ‘Malayankunju’ was initially meant to be a straight-to-streaming release on Amazon Prime Video, but Fahadh had a change of mind when he saw how the movie was shaping up and he felt that this survival thriller rightfully deserved uninterrupted viewing in a darkened cinema hall. The cast and crew survived two lockdowns and his accident and they all firmly believed that their labour of love deserved a cinema release.

“We knew that this film deserved a great theatrical experience … We had to convince the platform to give us the film back for a theatrical release and should ideally be viewed on the big screens first,” said Fahadh.

AR Rahman
AR Rahman Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/Gulf News

- Oscar winner AR Rahman has scored the music for this film. According to reports, Fahadh and his team met the maestro in Dubai as he worked on Expo 2020 programmes to convince him to be a part of their ambitious project. AR Rahman had initially suggested that they work together in their next film, but the premise of ‘Malayankunju’ grabbed his attention.

“I could relate to the character, as I could have become a radio mechanic if my mom didn’t introduce me to music. So, I could relate to that character and what goes through his brain, because he is into electronics and he is in this village; such a paradox,” said AR Rahman in an interview with Times of India.

Fahadh Faasil in 'Pushpa'
Fahadh Faasil in 'Pushpa' Image Credit: Instagram/Pushpa

- Fahadh Faasil enjoys immense goodwill among Malayalam movie-mad fans, but he has now widened his reach after he began working in Tamil and Telugu features. His recent releases such as ‘Pushpa’ and ‘Vikram’ were blockbusters that showcased Fahadh’s vast range as an actor and performer. In ‘Pushpa’, he played the menacing bald cop with Allu Arjun, while in ‘Vikram,’ with Kamal Haasan, Fahadh played a private investigator called Agent Vinod.

“Kamal Haasan is a legend and even with his vast experience and skills as an actor, he treats you wonderfully. It was a pleasure to interact with him,” Fahadh recalls.

Quote Unquote:

“Suriya is like a brother to me. He has always had my back,” said Fahadh Faasil when asked about how Suriya had promoted his film ‘Malayankunju’ on his own social media handle.