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The gems of ‘Paleri Manikyam…'

P.K. AJITH KUMAR

Musthafa, Vijayan V. Nair and Sreejith are three of the many talented debutants Ranjith brings to the big screen in ‘Paleri Manikyam…' The three talk about their road to tinsel town.



CAST FOR THE ROLE: Sreejith,

Once in a blue moon comes a film like ‘Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha.' Director Ranjith's masterpiece is a film that will be watched and talked about for years to come. And through this film, Ranjith has given Malayalam cinema several talented character actors who have impressed viewers with their power-packed portrayals.

There are just four stars in ‘Paleri Manikyam…' – Mammootty, Sreenivasan, Siddique and Shwetha Menon. The rest – more than 30 actors – were selected from theatre. Friday Review caught up with three of the most impressive character actors of ‘Paleri Manikyam…' – Musthafa, who played the young Kesavan, Vijayan V. Nair, who enacted Velayudhan, Mammootty's henchman, and Sreejith, the man who essayed the agonies of Pokkan so well.

While Vijayan has already acted in a few films and television serials, Musthafa and Sreejith are making their debut on the silver screen. Both Musthafa and Sreejith were selected from among 500-odd theatre actors who auditioned for the film in Kozhikode. Vijayan, interestingly, was one of the men who selected the aspiring actors for an acting workshop. “On the final day of the workshop, I was astounded when Ranjith asked me to shave off my beard and do a make-up test; I never ever imagined that I would be offered a role in the film,” says Vijayan.

In a new look

“So I shaved off my beard and wore a wig; when I joined the actors at the camp, nobody recognised me, for I have been a sporting a beard all these years. Then Ranjith announced that I would be playing Velayudhan in ‘Paleri Manikyam…' While reading the novel, Velayudhan was one of the characters that impressed me,” he says.

Vijayan excelled as the ruthless aid of the amoral Ahmed Haji, brought to life by a masterly piece of acting by Mammootty. It was a flawless show by Vijayan, a veteran theatre actor for about 35 years.

PHOTOS: S. RAMESH KURUP

Musthapha

“I had cast Vijayan as Velayudhan long ago. Murali Menon, who had groomed the theatre actors at the workshop, had told me about him some time ago. I was confident that he would be ideal for the powerful character of Velayudhan,” says Ranjith, who is delighted that he has been able to give Malayalam cinema some exciting new talents.

Another actor who shone in the film was Musthafa. “I had decided that Sreenivasan would play the older Keshavan. The question was who would do the younger version. After watching Musthafa's performance in Amrita TV's talent hunt for the best actor, I knew I had found my young Keshavan. He was one of the five finalists and I was one of the judges. Later, he requested me for a role in ‘Thirakkatha,' but I had to reject him at that time because there was no suitable role for him in that film. I had full faith in him as an actor though,” points out Ranjith.

Musthafa came up with a performance that did both Ranjith and Murali Menon proud. As the idealistic barber Keshavan, Musthafa evoked the idealism and hopes of that period in the early Fifties.

“It was on the final day of the camp that Ranjith announced the names of the actors and the characters they would play. I was both happy and nervous when I learnt that I would be playing Kesavan; I was apprehensive because Sreenivasan was playing the older version and so I wondered if I would be able to do justice to the role. I am glad that I could be part of a film like ‘Palareri Manikyam…,”' says Musthafa, who works as a photographer at Tenhipalam in Malappuram district.



Vijayan V. Nair.

Another of that impressive list of theatre actors who hit the limelight is Sreejith, an amateur actor at Kaiveli, Kozhikode, who makes a living by painting houses. It was again a reality show (Laughter Kerala on Asianet Plus) that helped him bag the role of Pokkam in the film. Ranjith says that it was actor Manian Pillai Raju, one of the judges of the show, who recommended Sreejith's name. “And I had seen him in an episode, in which he played a woman. Impressed by his talent, I wanted him to be a part of the camp for ‘Paleri Manikyam…' and before long I could see Pokkan in him,” says Ranjith.

Sreejith remembers he almost fainted when Ranjith announced the cast. “Having read the novel, I knew Pokkan was a major character and that the role offered a lot of potential to emote,” says Sreejith.

Ranjith hopes that all the theatre actors, including the three, that he brought into the limelight carve a niche for themselves in Malayalam cinema.

“I would be the happiest man if these talented actors make it big in cinema,” he says.

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