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In the role of an actor

SARASWATHY NAGARAJAN

Nedumudi Venu’s numerous screen characters have showcased the actor’s versatility. The multifaceted actor talks about his national award for narration and more.

It is my well-wishers and fans who feel disappointed when a role of mine does not win me the award they feel I should have won.

Photo: S. Gopakumar

best of both worlds: Nedumudi Venu has made his mark in theatre and cinema.

Despite breathing life into numerous cinematic characters that range from the most sublime to the most frivolous, thespian Nedumudi Venu maintains that his heart is in theatre.

“Recently I went back to theatre to stage Kavalam’s [Kavalam Narayana Panikkar] ‘Avan Avan Kadamba.’ What an invigorating experience…” he gushes. But that does not mean he is in a hurry to grace the stage again. “Hundreds of rehearsals go into a single play. It is not an easy medium. But there is a play that has been written for me and I plan to do that as soon as possible,” says Nedumudi.

Role of Kunjan Nambiar

A little prodding and out comes the secret. “Kavalam Narayana Pannikar wrote ‘Kunjan Nambiar’ five years ago. He told me that he would stage it only when I was ready to don the lead role of Kunjan Nambiar. That play is something I am eagerly waiting for,” admits Nedumudi, all smiles, his enthusiasm evident on his face.

Awards, roles, fame and adulation, controversies and disagreements do not seem to have dimmed his enthusiasm for good roles, stories, cinema or theatre. And the recent national award for narration in the film ‘Minukku’ could have helped accentuate that feeling of bonhomie.

“This is not an award that is usually bagged by an actor. This is judged by people who may not know Malayalam. But they must have identified the rapport that I share with veteran Kathakali actor Kottakkal Sivaraman, as a fan and informed viewer of Kathakali. For the last 50 years or more, he has enacted female roles in Kathakali: Must be an unparalleled feat in the world of acting.

“The director deserves kudos for zeroing in on such a concept and making a film that is poetic and aesthetic. So, I see it as an honour for the art form, for the actor, the director and for me too,” says Nedumudi, who also won the Atlas Film Critics’ Association Award for the ‘second best actor’ for his sterling role in ‘Thaniye.’ A role that many felt would win him the National award for the best actor as well.

“No disappointment or regrets. It is my well-wishers and fans who feel disappointed when a role of mine does not win me the award they feel I should have won,” says the actor who also wrote the screenplay of the movie. Not a first for the actor who also wrote for films such as ‘Oru Kadankatha Pole,’ ‘Theertham’ and ‘Sruthi.’

“It is when we write the screenplay that a film truly becomes an apt medium for the director to convey his thoughts. I have not directed a film after ‘Puram’ because I have to find the time to write the story for my film,” explains the actor.

Saying that cinema is not a race, he adds: “Many factors come into play when an award is decided. My way of looking at my career graph is different. I feel that as the years go by, you should improve with each role. I can confidently say that I have done that, right from my first film, Aravindan’s ‘Thambu.’”

His characters in ‘Thakara,’ ‘Aravam,’ ‘Oridathu’ and ‘Vida Parayum Mumbe,’ ‘Margam’ ... showcased the actor in him and that was “when I realised that cinema was my destination,” recalls Nedumudi.

But the actor who also proved himself as a comedian par excellence in numerous Priyadarshan films and other movies that tapped his comic timing disagrees with the oft made statement that Malayalam Cinema is losing its sheen.

Reflection of society

“Cinema is a part of the society that we live in. So, in a way, it reflects the good and the bad of our times. Change, whether for good or bad, is constant and we have to keep evolving. For instance, I was one of the first to work in television. Our serial ‘Kairalivilasam Lodge’ was a milestone in those days when television meant Doordarshan. Many fine actors such as Karamana Janardhanan Nair, Krishnan Nair and Sitara became popular after that,” he points out.

But he rues that the medium is not being used the way it should be. “Its potential has not been tapped. Now reality shows rule the roost. Although I have been invited as a judge many times, I have consistently refused to take part in a reality show because I feel the shows help only the channel and not the contestants,” opines Nedumudi.

Looking around his lush garden at his house called ‘Thambu,’ Nedumudi says: “Maybe it is because I am not a very competitive person. I take life as it comes…”

Always ready for a new role, on stage or on the screen.

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