From playing supporting roles to becoming one of the most popular stars in Malayalam cinema, Tovino Thomas has come a long way. Over the course of a ten-year career, the actor has carved out a place for himself. One of the most wanted actors, Thomas will be seen in Minnal Murali, a superhero film which is now streaming on Netflix. In a conversation with News18.com, Thomas talks about playing a superhero, how India can come up with its own version of the Avengers, the rise of Malayalam cinema in recent years, and its take on the competition. .
To every child, their father is like a superhero. Your daughter will be six years old next year and your son is only one year old. How did your daughter react when you told her you were going to play a superhero?
At first, she wasn’t excited because she wasn’t introduced to the concept of superheroes. But on Basil’s (Joseph, the director of the film) wedding anniversary a few months ago, I took my dad, mom, daughter, wife and even my manager to watch the movie in his cinema House. Basil and I didn’t watch the movie but we were checking the expressions of our families. There were people from different generations and you could tell they all loved the movie. We wanted to know how they would react to the film. I especially remember Basil telling me that he had seen my daughter who was really proud of me. You could make him believe that his father has superpowers (laughs). As a child, I always wanted to have superpowers, but growing up I realized that wasn’t going to happen. I felt really happy that my daughter felt her dad is a superhero. I also saw my father in tears, which was a very emotional moment for me.
How did Minnal Murali come to be?
Basil and I have been great friends. Even though we don’t work together, we keep calling each other and discussing a lot of things. I have great confidence in Basil. I also believe that the Malayalam industry is blessed with incredible directors, who have the profession, incredible actors and incredible technicians. And for any emotional drama, that’s what we won’t do. I think budgets don’t really matter. It all depends on the job, or the performance, or the technicians. But in the case of Minnal Murali, the budget played a very big role because this is a superhero movie. At the same time, we didn’t want to overdo it. I’ve mentioned in the past that even though we take the superhero element out of the movie, the movie stays the same. We didn’t make the movie to show off our superhero skills. We made this film because we love cinema.
You mentioned once looking in the mirror helps you get into the rhythm of the character. Is this also the case with Minnal Murali?
My process is to have long and multiple discussions with the director and the writers. And that’s when I get to know more about the character so that I can give them my opinion. I try to change my look for each movie. Right now I’m ten kilos lighter than I was for Minnal Murali because this look is for another movie. I also try to look like the character offscreen. My idea is that when I play a character and look at myself in the mirror, I don’t want to see Tovino Thomas, I want to see that particular character because he subconsciously helps me. Also, I’ve said it in a lot of interviews but I only use one scent for each movie (laughs).
What scent did you use for Minnal Murali?
Bad Boy by Carolina Herrera. I like the shape of the bottle. It looks like lightning and my character in Minnal Murali is struck by lightning after which he gets his superpowers (laughs). I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but I am obsessed with smells and they are associated with my memories. I think this exercise helps me get into character.
Do you think Minnal Murali is going to launch a new genre of superhero movies in Indian cinema?
Yes. We see a lot of superhero movies and series outside of India. In India, we have immense possibilities to do this genre even more than in the West. We are trying to do it. We are also planning a sequel for Minnal Murali. Basil has a basic idea and we can use the myths. With this film, we wanted the film to be simple and realistic. I’m aware that superhero movies can’t be realistic, but we’ve tried to make them feel like they’re grounded. It is located in a village in Kerala. There are no skyscrapers or the usual elements. This superhero is very different from what we see in Hollywood. We’ve seen movies like Bhavesh Joshi and Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota and these aren’t the usual superhero characters.
Do we see all of these characters coming together?
Yes, we can have our own version of Avengers. But what language will they speak? I am very curious to know (laughs). I don’t think Jaison (his character from Minnal Murali) can go out and speak Hindi and Bhavesh Joshi can speak Malayalam. But I feel that we can also work out by adding it as comic elements. It will be interesting to see all of our superheroes come together and make other countries jealous.
What do you think has distinguished Malayalam cinema in recent years?
I think this is a golden phase for Indian cinema. And like other industries, there is also a new wave in Malayalam cinema. We never had a strong distribution system, but now that we do, people are recognizing the potential of Malayalam films. The public has more access to our films. Malayalam cinema has always had the recognition of making good content, but it was only among our limited audience. Now the whole world knows about it. Previously, only the Malayali diaspora around the world or the people of Kerala watched films in Malayalam. I think OTT has completely changed that. Thanks to the streaming platforms, people can watch the film on the day of release and every time it is released on the platform. They don’t have to make an effort to go to the theater and watch it. People can be skeptical of watching a movie when it is a foreign language. OTT has been a game-changer for Malayalam movies.
In recent years we have seen the lines blur and many southern actors are working in Hindi cinema and vice versa. Does it increase your competition?
There is constructive competition and I consider all my contemporaries to be teammates. We all work hard to make great movies. Thus, Malayalam cinema is gaining recognition and growing. When the industry grows, so will we all. Also, for me, comparisons are a matter of pride but I’m someone who doesn’t want to be compared. Like I said, I feel like all players are equal. I am a new person and comparing myself to someone taller or more experienced is a burden on me. I prefer to create my own space.
But where does this sense of security come from?
Fame never fascinates me. Being called a good actor is more important. When it comes to cinema, I am never laid back. It’s something I’ve dreamed of since childhood. I always wanted to be an actor. My beginnings were truly humble. I still remember my first shot on January 28, 2012 at 9am. I stood behind three or four actors and did my best to show my face to the camera. And from there I played supporting roles, acting roles, the lead role and all the other parts. Recently, I made an appearance in Dulquer Salmaan’s Kurup because I loved the character. I’m not necessarily interested in playing the lead role. I can play a villain or a supporting character. What matters to me is to justify my role. I don’t want to be labeled and repeat myself. I may not have done a perfect job in all of the movies that I have made, but I know that I have improved over the years.
But is there then a temptation to make an outright Hindi film?
I believe that I should only make films in Hindi if this film demands of me. I definitely would, but not just to star in a Hindi movie or to get higher pay. Bollywood is already blessed with amazing actors, so why would they need me for a regular character? But if the character wants someone like Tovino Thomas, I’d love to do that.
Read all the latest news, breaking news and news on the coronavirus here.