The internet can make almost anything possible. A few messages on Facebook and a few follow-up emails helped us get to the location of film director Kamal’s new movie that stars Padma Shri award winner Jayaram. However, it was after two weeks of patience, persistence and continuous chasing that we finally got actor Jayaram’s number from a director, who happens to be an uncle of a colleague (whom I am yet to meet in person for a cup of tea).
To cut a long story short, it was almost becoming a wild goose chase and then suddenly the actor picks up the phone and says a long “Hello!” Over a dozen truncated ISD calls in between takes, the very busy actor answered a few questions for us. There were many reasons why we chose Jayaram for our readers.
We wanted to be fair and conducted a Facebook poll asking UAE residents from Kerala to pick one of their top stars from the Malayalam film industry, Jayaram topped the poll with 70 per cent of the votes, with Kunchako Boban close on his heels with 60 per cent. Some posted questions for him that we managed to get responses for.
Jayaram, the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation’s (KTDC) brand ambassador, is a frequent visitor to Dubai and is scheduled to touchdown next week for an Onam event. He lives in Chennai and shares a lot of nostalgia like any Malayali who lives outside the state. The actor also has a new comedy film, Ulakamchuttum Valibhan out, which is an Onam release. Thus our perfect star candidate this season.
Tell us something about your Onam release Ulakamchuttum Valibhan. What is new in this movie?
There is nothing phenomenally new in the movie — it is just a simple comedy.
How tech-savvy are you? Though you have a clean ‘controversy-free’ image, do you tweet to clarify fans/media about any rumours making rounds?
I cannot imagine getting to tweet and clear anybody’s doubts. Have we all reached there? If yes, sorry to disappoint, I don’t belong there one bit. I do have an official website called www.jayaramonline.com with some info and pictures. That is about it. I am not in the ‘net’ as yet (laughs).
Tell us a secret.
Oh my God! I thought we were having an Onam-special interview. Let us not get secretive here.
You are known for your love of elephants. Why did you decide to buy one?
My hometown, Malayattoor, is a beautiful countryside with rolling grasslands, lakes and dense forests nearby. I never got tired of watching elephants at the nearby Kodanad Elephant Training Camp. When I could buy one, I just did it. That is all.
You are also known as a patron of temple arts and traditional instruments like the chenda (drums). When do you find time to practice and where have you performed last?
You cannot play chenda whenever you feel like because neighbours would come knocking your door and yell at you! So I generally practice ten days before any event along with the whole team at an open ground, far away from residences. About 150 of us gathered for a group recital on April 14 at Malayattoor temple.
Talking about temples remind us of the popular Sree Padmanabha Temple now in the news. What are your comments on the treasures found in its cellars?
Ente Sree Padmanabha! [Oh! lord] Please save me from giving any comments.
Does a Malayali become a better Malayali once he steps out of his state’s borders? How exciting is it being the brand ambassador to Kerala’s tourism board?
Kerala is truly God’s own and so beautiful. Anyone who has lived here will have an unbelievable nostalgia when he is away from this land. I am a living example of this phenomenon. Many of us do become better representatives of our state, when we are outside Kerala, also because we take it up on ourselves as our basic responsibility to project the best side of our homeland. I am a pakka [proper] Malayali; representing KTDC is just a bonus for me. Because I eat, drink and sleep my state. I have a home in Chennai, but in the last 15 years, I must have barely spent 365 days there since I’m always in Kerala.
Who is your role model?
My uncle Malayattoor Ramakrishnan. He was a novelist, a journalist, a lawyer, an IAS officer, a politician, playwright and a very loving person. He was inspiringly versatile. Every time he came home, he came in as a different person, holding a different office. It must have been from him that I learnt that we could be so many people at the same time and still be the one that we are.
What is your favourite book and who are your favourite actors in Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi movies and Hollywood?
Yanthram (an instrument), authored by Malayattoor Ramakrishnan, is my all-time favourite book. I am a huge fan of Prem Nazir, Nagesh and Amitabh Bachchan. No one in Hollywood.
What is the latest movie you have watched?
Salt & Pepper — it’s a simple and nice story and worth seeing. I enjoyed it.
What projects do you currently have in the pipeline?
I am currently shooting for a movie by director Kamal. We are teaming up after more than a decade. It is a dream project and unnamed at the moment. Then there is another unnamed project with director Ajay Chandran, where I play a Dubai-returned Malayali. I also have a movie directed by K.K. Rajeev called Njanum Ente Familiyum (Me and my family) releasing soon. The movie also stars Mythily and Mamta Mohandas.
How do you find time for your family with such a hectic schedule?
I make sure we celebrate all festivals at home — be it Onam, Ramadan, Christmas or New Year. Sometimes it is not the exact day by the calendar, but we do it mostly for children to have some fun.
Tell us something that comes to mind when you think of Onam. Where will you be celebrating it this time?
Onam offers a very refreshing memory for any Malayali above 35 years of age. Because he has seen the best of Kerala while running to catch the bus to go to school; the schools that had plenty of ground to play and trees to climb. He must have crossed paddy fields in the rain and would have climbed the neighbour’s mango tree to snack on a raw mango. There was fun in everything and it may sound medieval to our current generation who sit in air-conditioned rooms and play video games while snacking on fast food. I feel sorry for our kids today who are transported in crowded school van — crushed and stuffed like broiler chicken on its way to the butcher’s, only to reach a modern classroom, where they again sit packed like sardines (sighs!).
Overall, Onam makes me extremely nostalgic of my state — its greenery, traditions, food, circus tents, temples, musical events among other festivities. My children love Onam, but they don’t agree on plucking the few flowers in our garden for a pookkalam (floor mat), so we buy the flowers form the market like everyone else. My wife makes amazing mambazhapulisherry (ripe mango curry cooked in yoghurt and ground spices). It is one of my favourite dishes from the sadya (feast). This year we may celebrate in Kochi or Chennai — with my family and friends.
Do you have an Onam message for your fans in Dubai?
Dubai is very special for me for the very long association I have had with this place. It comes second to Kerala in my list of most-visited places as I have been in and out of Dubai for almost 28 years now, starting from the time I was a mimicry artist with the Kalabhavan troupe. I have given most of my stage performances in Dubai. I wish to thank you all for your generous minds — to have accepted me as a performer. I wish to take this opportunity and say that films will come and go and as an artist, I may or may not meet your benchmarks, but we must keep our ties and reach out to one another as human beings no matter what. We must keep this relationship strong and make it last forever. A very happy Onam to all.