The actor is betting big on Malayalam film ‘Minnal Murali’, which will be directly released on Netflix
Tovino Thomas refuses to call Minnal Murali Malayalam cinema’s first ‘superhero’ film. “We are not making any such claims; there have been other films in the genre. Vinayan sir has made films — Little Superman, Athishayan — about people with extraordinary powers. Minnal Murali is our superhero film.”
Directed by Basil Joseph, this much-awaited film drops on Netflix on December 24. From the making to release, it has been a long wait… of two years.
The movie was initially scheduled to be a 2020 Onam release., “I always wanted it to be a Christmas release, and there is a reason for that; 10 minutes into the film, audiences will know why,” he says, rather cryptically.
Watching a superhero in a movie hall is part of the experience. But how different will it be on an OTT platform?
Tovino says, “This film was made for theatres. But we live in unprecedented times; producers have spent a lot on it and we can’t object when they take a call. When we made Minnal, we discussed what would work best in a theatre and how the audience would react. However, recently when Basil and I watched the film with my family at his place, I observed their reactions, and they were enjoying it. All the parts that we thought would be great on the big screen had more or less the same impact we expected. I want to look at the positive side of things,” he says, adding that it will be streamed in 190-plus countries and dubbed in eight languages, thus reaching more people.
Tovino plays Murali, a tailor who gets superpowers. The odd-ball character, he reveals, is the opposite of what one imagines a superhero to be. “He is not your muscled, brilliant hero; he is the common man who is the butt of jokes because he is fashionable compared to others around him. The fun part is what happens when someone like him gets these superpowers. He is a grounded, desi superhero.”
For that very reason, Tovino did not have to beef up as preparation before filming. “That happens organically in the film and I also needed to prepare likewise. There was mental preparation; Basil and I discussed how someone, who everyone makes fun of, would be affected when he suddenly finds himself with these powers.”
The film tracks Murali’s evolution — physically and mentally — into his role as the saviour of his village. “We show the character’s evolution through humour and a few intense sequences. We had to ensure that the humour elicits laughter and is not slapstick,” adds Tovino, who earlier worked with Basil Joseph in Godha.
Destiny and Kurup
- Kurup was Tovino’s other release this year. He appeared in a cameo in the film that has been in the making for a long time. “Almost everybody on the Kurup team and I — for instance Dulquer, the director Srinath [Rajendran], Nimish [Ravi] cinematographer and others — go a long way back. So when Srinath asked me if I could do the role, I couldn’t refuse. One of his reasons for casting me was that he was not glorifying what Kurup did; by casting a mainstream actor, it would underline the villainy of the act. Like Srinath, I too feel I was destined to be in the film. In real life, Sukumara Kurup murdered Chacko on January 21, 1984 and I was born five years later, on January 22, 1989!”
Lockdown has seen Malayalam cinema make some good films, and Tovino has been a part of a few. Like the critically-acclaimed Kala, written by Rohith VS and Yadhu Pushkaran.
“There was an element of risk in doing it, but people were unemployed then and me taking up the project would benefit many. It was risky literally too… as I was injured during the shoot,” says the actor, who co-produced the film.
It was worth the effort and time because it made him understand a thing or two about Malayalam cinema’s reach. “I realised that we have an audience who are not Malayalis but enjoy our films,” says Tovino, who also starred in Manu Ashokan’s Kaanekkana, another OTT release.
Does Tovino have a favourite superhero? “There are many; Batman, Ironman and Deadpool…but Superman will always be my ultimate choice!”
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