As an unscrupulous television journalist in Aashiq Abu’s Naaradan Tovino Thomas gives yet another sterling performance that is high on credibility and low on self-congratulation. In an exclusive interview with Subhash K Jha Tovino talks of playing grey and its dynamics.
Naaradan sees you move diametrically away from Murali Minnale.How tough was the transition?
The transition was most definitely tough. But that is the whole point of being an actor. I don’t want to repeat myself.I don’t want to restrict my acting to good-guy roles. I want to play bad guys also. I am very clear on my priorities: I want to be known as a good actor, and not just a star. If after recognition as an actor the stardom comes, then I am okay with it.
How did you prepare for the part of the television journalist ?
As an actor I try to push my limits with each role. For Naaradan I took training from an acting coach for the diction and for defining the character. The transition took time. I had to gradually make my way into the heart and mind of the journalist Chandraprakash . I got a lot of inputs from the screenplay writer Unni R , like how Chandraprakash is lefthanded, how he hides his grey side but it pops up unannounced. I think the character wouldn’t have shaped up well if I we didn’t create a background for him.
How closely did you study news anchors and journalistic ethics before playing Chandraprakash?
I didn’t want to imitate anybody blindly. Instead we designed a completely fictional character.Naaradan is not a bio-pic and we didn’t want to imitate anyone. But yes, I will admit we took inspiration from many news anchors. We kept watching national and international videos of well-known news anchors. I took inspiration from many of them, but no one in particular.
In Naaradan you play an absolutely unscrupulous mediahound. How difficult is it for you to play morally ambiguous characters like Shahji in Kala , Alan in Kaaanekkane and Chandraprakash in Naaradan?
That’s what makes it a challenge.Playing the the good guy can get boring for me as an actor and for the audience too. I want to push my limits by exploring all kinds of characters. I am game to play hero, villain, supporting actor, guest actor: you name it. I am an actor who tries his best. And I am learning from every character. I am actually not interested in establishing a fan base. I would rather try new things than play to the gallery. Good guy, bad guy …I am happy with both.
In Naaradan your character screams down panelists ,uses underhand tactics, fudges TRPs and thinks he is above the law.Reminds me one particular newsperson?
I really don’t want to answer this question. We haven’t targeted anyone in particular.I am also a writer. Unni R who wrote Naaradam is a media person . He is also a known writer in Kerala. My character Chandraprakash is Unn R’s fictional creation. I was just happy to interpret the character as I saw it best.
Have you been a victim of fakenews? Do you think the media needs to exercize some restrain?
Yes, there have been incidents. But whether it is fake or real news it doesn’t last for more than two days nowadays.That’s it. But yes, we all know the media is pillar of our democracy. Definitely , they have a responsibility towards the people to bring forward the real news. They cannot pass off fiction as fact. In movies we have that liberty. But the news must be fully authentic . A majority of people from any part of the world, including me, believe the news to be true. That’s how our minds have been trained in a democracy. Things have changed. Now there is tendency to run behind exclusivity and TRPs at the cost of credibility.Again I am not pointing a finger at any channel in particular. They should fact-check every news. Half-truths and fake news are just not acceptable. Nowadays if I watch five channels I get five different versions of the same news. I am then supposed to sift through the five reports to separate fact from fiction.
Were you happy with the the way Naaradan was received in movie theatres? It came with a mammoth project like Bheeshma Parvam.Was that a problem?
As an actor I am not bothered with the boxoffice figures. I am concerned about the number of people who watch my films. If not in theatres, it will be watched on OTT.How much money a film makes is a producer’s lookout.
Tell about your next?
My next release is Vaashi where I am paired with the National award winning actress Keerthi Suresh.It’a courtroom drama.The one after that Thallumala with Kalyani Priyadarshi which is an out and out colourful entertainer