IN recent years, Kochi-based Fahadh Faasil has been making heads turn with his fine acting in much-discussed films such as Maheshinte Prathikaaram (2016), Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum (2017), Kumbalangi Nights and Tamil film Super Deluxe, in 2019, among others. Launched at age 19 by his filmmaker father Fazil in the romance drama Kaiyethum Doorath (2002), Faasil went to the US to study engineering after the film tanked. In his second innings as an actor, he has delivered a number of impressive performances. The 38-year-old will be seen next in CU Soon, a thriller shot in the lockdown, releasing on Amazon Prime Video on September 1.
You are famously media shy. What changed this time?
Fahadh Faasil: From the point I start shooting till I finish, my biggest concern is whether I’ve done justice to what I conceived. When I’m not sure, I don’t talk about the film. I want my audience to discover it in the theatres. I’m never ready to discuss my films, that’s the problem. This time, there are two reasons: one is to say that C U Soon is something fresh and new. And, it’s going to people unlike earlier when they went to watch movies. So, I thought I should talk about it as we are witnessing a change.
CU Soon was shot during the lockdown. Could you share details of its making?
Fahadh Faasil: Two years ago, (editor-director) Mahesh Narayanan had come across a confession video of a trafficked Malayali girl in Saudi Arabia where she was crying for help. It was disturbing and stayed with me for a long time. During the lockdown, Mahesh, who stays a block away from my building, and I started talking about new possibilities in cinema. One can play around, explore different techniques, and redesign a film on the edit table – go closer to a character or make another character more prominent. So, we collaborated on Mahesh’s idea. If I were to shoot this film when there’s no lockdown, I’d have done it in the same way. However, lockdown is the reason it got made, otherwise, none of us stays at home for so long. We were given a proper script, attended a three-day workshop, lived in one building and met in the evenings. We didn’t want to make it look like we were working, we just wanted to have fun.
You produced the film with your actor-wife Nazriya Nazim. What professional dynamics do you share?
Fahadh Faasil: She’s the strength behind what I’m doing. If there is no support at home, I don’t think I can do any of these things. She gives me the push to go out and do it. There’s no constant checking on what the other person is doing but we are together in this. She interacts with Mahesh more than me. Even when we were making Kumbalangi Nights, she would talk to the team more. The only thing she said is that she won’t let us shoot in our bedroom. I have shot in every possible corner of my building barring the bedroom.
Your production house Fahadh Faasil and Friends made Kumbalangi Nights and C U Soon. What’s the idea behind it?
Fahadh Faasil: The idea is to make money. An actor like me needs money. It is important to have a back-up plan of my own. I have produced films that were rejected by others. Any time I had an issue convincing producers about a project, I bankrolled it. It was difficult to get someone to play Shammi’s role (a character with dark shades) in Kumbalangi Nights, we were in talks with a Tamil actor for it too, but it was going nowhere. So, (co-producer and writer) Syam (Pushkaran) and (co-producer) Dileesh (Pothan) told me that I should do it. The idea was to conquer this challenge. And I was excited, too, as I love working with them.
Whether as Mugil in Super Deluxe, Shammi in Kumbalangi… or Kevin in CU Soon, are the different looks for your roles in each film consciously done?
Fahadh Faasil: It helps if it doesn’t remind the audience of the previous characters I played. I play around with six reactions and I’m aware of my limitations as an actor. So, it’s important that I don’t repeat the same look. More precisely, I want to look the character.
Speaking of limitations, how essential is it for great artistes to have self-doubts?
Fahadh Faasil: I have self-doubts and I don’t consider myself to be a great artiste. This is nothing to do with being unsure. But an actor needs to be flexible. I don’t believe that I can play any character that’s given to me. I’m here because I’ve nowhere else to go. I don’t know for how long I’ll be here. I’ve not promised anyone that I will be around for any given time.
When did you realise that you want to belong to the world of cinema?
Fahadh Faasil: I realised it 10 years ago when I started enjoying acting. As of now, there is nothing else that I would enjoy doing other than being an Uber driver. I would love to drive people around. I tell my wife that as a retirement plan, I wish to move to Barcelona and drive people across Spain. She loves this plan.
Between your debut film and the next, Kerala Café (2009), there was a seven-year gap, when you went to the US. What did this break give you?
Fahadh Faasil: It gave me a perspective of life but did not influence the actor I am. I was 19 and I was in America. I absolutely loved the life I had during that period. Maybe, the realisations I had then eventually helped me pick certain films.
How closely do you work with writers and how do you pick a script?
Fahadh Faasil: Writers are an integral part of my functioning. I spend a lot of time with them but don’t give them my input, I’m more of a listener. I meet Syam when he starts writing, when he’s midway and after he finishes. These three meetings give me a lot of details for the shoot. I keep discussing the script with my writer, director and cinematographer. I mainly work with people I have known for long. They are very aware of what I can do. There are very few roles that I’ve rejected. I’ve taken up almost 80 per cent of the work that has come my way. The films I’ve done, I’ve chosen in the fraction of a second.
On Irrfan’s death in April, you wrote how he in Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota (2006) inspired you during your US days.
Fahadh Faasil: Irrfan was so appealing because he seemed very original and real. That was so rare in cinema back then, when actors wanted to look extraordinary with six-packs. He essayed his characters as an ordinary man. There was a rootedness to the roles he played.
Does the Everyman hero of Malayalam cinema excite you? Do you observe life keenly to portray roles like the gold-chain-swallowing thief in Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum?
Fahadh Faasil: Characters don’t excite me, the narrative, the story, the film as a whole does. Once we decide on the idea and narrative, we think of actors for the roles, that includes me. The narrative chooses how your heroes are going to be.
When I came home for the holidays from the US, on a train ride, there was a family with a small boy who was making a lot of noise. He smiled at someone on the upper berth, who, as I looked up, was playing with the boy. Later, when the train stopped at a station, and the boy was sleeping, the policeman sitting next to me waved at the guy, who came down. That’s when I realised he had handcuffs. The episode stayed with me for a long time. I believe in the basic goodness of people. I played the thief’s role with the belief that I didn’t steal the chain, until the climax. That’s the only way to play this character.
With so many of your movies on streaming platforms, do you wonder about local idioms and nuances getting lost in the subtitles?
Fahadh Faasil: Subtitling is the biggest revolution to have happened to Indian cinema in recent years. It might be a reference point. But films are going beyond it. The idea is to make the audience follow the emotion. Cinema has an emotion. That’s the most powerful thing in a narrative. Music, graphics, subtitling are all techniques to increase the possibility of telling a story. It depends on what design you are choosing to tell a particular story.
What relationship do you share with the evolved Malayali audience? Are you open to doing Hindi films and international projects now?
Fahadh Faasil: They watched my movies before they came on the OTT platforms, before the rest of the country did. I owe my career to them. It’s because of them that I’m attempting (these movies) and experimenting. Outside of Kerala, I don’t think I can do the kind of films that I do. None of my films are remade because they are very rooted. I absolutely enjoy it here and just want to be here for the time being.
Which filmmaker has inspired you? And, you have mentioned earlier about waiting for ‘that one film’. What would that be like?
Fahadh Faasil: There are many. I can’t name one. However, I am a huge fan of Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
The energy that I got from watching Cinema Paradiso (1988), Il Postino (1994) and Aaranya Kaandam (2010) I want to pass it on to another person who wants to do something in cinema. I want to do a film that inspires at least one guy to come up and do something special.
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