Asif Ali: Pay disparity has nothing to do with discrimination, it is purely business
The actor reflects on his career so far, negative reviews, and upcoming releases
Making a space for himseld in the Malayalam industry was not a cakewalk for Asif Ali, who didn't have any godfathers in the industry. But now, with a variety of scripts and doing selective roles, the actor is enjoying his decade-old journey in the industry. On a tête-a-tête with CE, Asif discusses his acting passion and latest ventures.
Is there a deliberate decision from your side to limit the number of films a year?
Yes, earlier, I was regarded as an actor with maximum releases per year. In my eagerness to keep acting, I made many wrong choices and had to pay for it. Even when a film of mine receives good reviews now, people feel reluctant to visit theatres due to my past choices. I am concentrating more on my scripts now, and want to do fewer, but quality, films. Also, I want to spend more time with my family.
There are a bunch of young actors in the industry. Do you think the competition has grown tougher?
When I entered the industry, I was the only actor of that age, hence there was no competition. The scripts rejected by Jayasurya, Kunchacko Boban or Prithviraj used to come to me. The competition has only become healthy with the entry of young actors as scripts are getting written for us too.
Your latest release, B.Tech has been touted as a youngster's flick, but the responses have been different?
B.Tech does not limit itself to a story of engineering students. It handles serious themes and the social commitment of today's generation. I am grateful that people are accepting it.
B.Tech and your brother Askar Ali's film Kamuki are running simultaneously. Did you know about his passion earlier?
Though I have been in the industry for a long period, my family accepted this fact only recently. And now, another from the same house is also into acting. I never knew of his interest and came to know about it via his friends. I am happy for him.
Tell us about your next release Mandharam, which will have you in different looks?
Mandharam is a romantic travelogue film. The different stages of my life will be shown from the first year of college. I am doing an out-and-out romantic character for the first time. In the initial phase of my career, I was afraid of getting locked into a romantic image considering my age and avoided it, but now I am giving it a shot. I love the way director Vijesh Vijayan has shot the film. Anarkali Marakkar and Varsha Bollamma are the heroines and the film is gearing up for a mid-July release.
Adventures of Omanakuttan was an experimental film that received mixed responses. You are joining hands with its director Rohith VS for Iblis. What is it all about?
Iblis is a fantasy thriller, a film that can be seen the way we watch My Dear Kuttichathan. It will be an interesting film and we are noting all the shortcomings the audience had pointed out for Omanakuttan so as to avoid making the same mistakes in Iblis.
The shoot of both Mandharam and Iblis have been completed, and you have now paired up with your hit director Jis Joy again?
Yes, after the success of Sunday Holiday, Jis and I will be shooting for our next. In this film, I am again paired with Mamta Mohandas after a gap of nine years. As said before I want to give time for my family, so I will be starting this project in July.
In 2017 you got a commercial hit with Sunday Holiday and your performance was appreciated in Kaattu. Do you get affected by commercial failures?
Yes, I take it very seriously. For me, a film is like the birth of a new child. I won't be able to sleep on the eve of its release. I feel very sad if a film fails and celebrate grandly when it succeeds. A good film getting attacked in cyberspace unnecessarily is also heartbreaking. I believe these online reviewers lack the seriousness to understand the effort behind it.
Your first film Rithu touched upon many taboo topics. Now more Malayalam films are breaking the stereotypes like Njan Marykutty and Mayanadhi. What is your take?
I am really happy that experimental films are being made. A few years ago, we used to talk about such films being made in Tamil and wished they were made in Malayalam, too, but things are changing now. I always believed that Malayalam industry comes up with the best films among the South Indian languages, and this inspires me to do more Malayalam films rather than opting to go to other industries.
There is a strong talk of pay disparity. Your views on it?
I feel it has nothing to do with discrimination and is purely business. If I and Nayanthara act together, I am sure she will be paid more. It depends on how the film is getting marketed, just like Manju Chechi's (Manju Warrier) film gets marketed in her name.
Are you planning a new film under your production banner?
No, I am hearing scripts and prefer to give chances to new directors.