It’s unusual for an actor to apologise before a shot, but Malayalam actor Kunchacko Boban remembers doing just that before he began his gloriously awkward dance in his latest blockbuster ‘Nna Thaan Case Kodu (Sue Me)’.
He warned everyone on the sets that what he was about to do will be something that will be difficult to un-see for the rest of their working lives. As the iconic 1985 Malayalam song ‘Devadoothar Paadi’ boomed across the sets, Kunchacko began dancing like a man possessed. His limbs and arms were independent of his body and his sudden jerky moves was in the danger of coming across as cringe-inducing, but Kunchacko didn’t care who was watching or who was laughing at him.
And that wild abandon has paid off. The dance video where he’s seen busting some weird moves in a festival ground has racked up more than 13 million views since its release and has generated unbelievable hype for his new film, out in UAE cinemas on August 18.
“It was all impromptu and there were no re-takes… I told them that I will come up with something, but don’t ask me to show it before the shoot. I will just do whatever comes to my mind … I don’t even know if you can call it a dance,” said Kunchacko with a laugh.
Apparently, this 45-year-old talent rejected the idea of a choreographer for this song because he didn’t want the scene to look contrived. But coming across as organic isn’t always easy.
“I had to look all natural in my habitat … I promised director Ratheesh [Balakrishnan Poduval] that I will give it a try from my side and if it doesn’t work out we will get the help of a choreographer for this song … Don’t ever ask me to re-create that dance because I won’t be able to do it all over again,” said Kunchacko.
In the satire ‘Nna Thaan Case Kodu’, which opened to superlative reviews since its release in India last week, Kunjacko plays a thief on sabbatical from the town Neeleswaram in Kasargord in Northern Malabar.
“This is an iconic Malayalam melody from 37 years ago that’s being recreated … It was a very risky situation because if anything goes wrong, that’s it for me. I will be in a rut and am dead literally. Even the slightest mistake you are done for,” said Kunjacko. But his fears to tamper with an original hit composed by Ouseppechan and popularised by a dishy-looking Mammootty, were unfounded. As soon as the news of the modern update on their song surfaced, both Mammootty and Ouseppechan gave it their nod of approval.
“I’m extremely delighted to announce that after 37 years, the ‘Devadoothar Paadi’ song that gushed the audience with millions of emotions, from the movie ‘Kathodu Kathoram’ is going to be re-created in ‘Nna Thaan Case Kodu’. I wish my dearest Kunchacko Boban and the entire team all the luck,” wrote Mammootty.
Composer Ouseppechan went a step further and urged all the purists out there to give the remake of the song a good listen.
“Don’t tear down Chakocha. I am happy that the song that I conducted playing the violin 37 years ago is still trending today. Those who were with the orchestra that day were keyboard A.R. Rahman, Guitar John Antony, Drums Shivamani. The re-creation of the orchestration in a way reminiscent of the same orchestra combined with Biju Narayanan’s heart-touching singing was magnificent,” wrote Ouseppechan.
Incidentally, Ouseppachan was Kunchacko’s music composer for his debut romance and blockbuster ‘Aniyathipraavu’ (1997).
“It’s a wonderful co-incidence and I feel like my career has come full circle,” said Kunchacko.
The song isn’t the only element that’s being celebrated. Kunchacko, who will fly into Dubai on August 18 for this movie’s premiere at Vox Cinemas in Deira City Centre, describes this film as his career’s most-defining role. Apart from going through a drastic physical transformation which included tanning his skin several shades darker, putting on weight, oiling his hair, and combing it in a way that highlighted his baldness, Kunjacko is at his uninhibited best/worst in this film.
“Till now, this is my career’s best role but I want to make it a habit and go further. This film is like a catalyst to that. I am just floating on cloud 9 and vibing on it … I have never been this super happy,” said Kunchacko.
Just like Fahadh Faasil’s career trajectory which took off when he came back from a self-imposed sabbatical, Kunjacko’s filmography dazzled during this second innings when he took greater risks with roles.
“Somebody had messaged me the other day asking if there was anything special in the air of Alapuzha – where both Fahadh and I come from!,” said Kunchacko.
But on a more serious note, the actor believes that stepping out of his comfort zone comes with a certain caveat.
“People often say that you have to come out of your comfort zone to be successful. But there’s an additional factor there: you have to be comfortable in that uncomfortable zone to be successful. You should enjoy that space of not being comfortable, then magic happens,” said Kunchacko.
He wasn’t always this assured in his career choices though. He still beats himself up for not accepting director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval’s Android Kunjappan Version 5.25 when it was first offered to him.
“At that point, I didn’t understand what he was saying and I rejected that. But when I saw the movie, I recognized and understood that this man is capable of developing a story that appeals to the common man,” said Kunchacko. The seed of ‘NNa Thaan Case Kodu’ germinated from a newspaper clipping that the director stumbled upon.
“The main subject is serious, but Rathish has injected a lot of humour and satire into it,” said Kunchacko.
While Kunchacko was backed by a superbly talented team, playing a bloke from an unfamiliar territory like Kasargode where the Malayalam dialect is distinct wasn’t easy.
“Sometimes, I can’t even understand their dialect so imagine acting out long dialogues,” said Kunjacko. Apparently, his entire cast handpicked mostly from Neeleswaram helped and corrected him when it came to nailing that dialect. It wasn’t easy, but Kunchacko pulled it off.
So what’s his secret to choosing interesting films? Kunchacko is one of the actors in Malayalam cinema who are studiously open to new voices and novel stories. In ‘How Old Are You?’ with Manju Warrier, Kunjacko stepped out of his comfort zone by playing a misogynistic and sexist husband. In the crime thriller ‘Nayattu’, Kunjacko played a police officer who’s framed and is on the run to evade arrest. Since 2009, Kunjacko claims he has been getting roles that are ‘dream-like’ and challenging.
“We learn from experience. The important thing is not to get dejected from our bad experiences nor be super-hyped by the good ones … We all have to fight for your place. We had to fight to re-invent ourselves and we had to move forward – step by step … The whole thing didn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow and long process.”
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‘Nna Thaan Case Kodu’ is out in UAE cinemas on August 18
“OTT [Over-The-Top] has played a big part in our industry. We can now experiment with different content and ideas … Ott broke language barriers and now our Malayalam movies are being accepted all over India and outside of it as well.”
“I am one person who doesn’t do any make-up for my roles. But in this movie, there was not an inch in my body which didn’t have make-up.”