Sreenivasan sir is different from Vimal sir: Vinay Forrt
The actor talks about his new film Thamaasha, the pertinent questions it asks about body shaming, and why it was akin to winning a lottery
Though it’s been ten years since Vinay Forrt made his acting debut, a lot of people are still under the assumption that Premam was his first film, given the popularity of his character Vimal ‘Java’ sir. He will be once again seen as a professor in Thamaasha. But he tells us Sreenivasan sir (his character in the film) is not Vimal sir — or for that matter Vinay Forrt.
Thamaasha, directed by debutant Ashraf Hamza, is promising for a lot of reasons, first and foremost being the team behind it. Thamaasha has four accomplished names backing it — Lijo Jose Pellisserry, Chemban Vinod Jose, Sameer Thahir, and Shyju Khalid. The first two are known for creating Angamaly Diaries and the last two for producing Sudani from Nigeria.
Vinay compares the opportunity to ‘winning a lottery’. “It first came to me through Chemban and after a few months, Ashraf came on board as the director. His involvement coupled with that of Sameer, Lijo, Shyju, and Chemban was so exciting. I didn’t do anything else for eight months. I was totally into this project,” he adds.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Before you became an actor, you did different jobs and were also a theatre artist. Did those experiences shape your journey as an actor?
Yes. Whenever I’m given a character or screenplay, I look inside myself to see how I can connect it with my own life experiences. I reflect on my theatre days, graduation days, or the part-time jobs I once did in order to gather material.
We hear Thamaasha is about body shaming.
As everyone already knows, the team behind this film have always been known to select scripts that offer much more than entertainment. There is so much clarity in whatever they do. Body shaming is something we see around us all the time, especially on social media. Actors like us have experienced it too. But it’s the women who are subjected to more brutal remarks. Any jobless guy carrying a smartphone vents his frustration — sexual or not — on celebrities. They stoop down to the level of animals, commenting on actors’ pictures or sending them rude texts. They don’t think about others’ state of mind; they don’t understand the value of emotions. Thamaasha asks some potent and pertinent questions about all this.
Did you experience body shaming before you became an actor?
I have. We are not perfect human beings. I can’t change the way I look. So we have no right to intrude someone’s privacy and talk about their skin colour, hair, etc. There is a big difference between saying something out of concern for someone and shaming them on a public platform. We can suggest to our loved ones, in a positive way, to take care of their health, control their diet, etc. But when some guy luridly talks about a woman’s specific body parts below her pictures and then other guys join him, it’s deplorable behaviour. Comments directed towards me may not bother me much, but when those close to us are affected, especially women, we become concerned.
How different is Sreenivasan sir from Vimal sir?
When I first heard about Sreenivasan, I noticed a few similarities with Vimal. Both are college professors, have a love interest, and are bald. So the challenge in front of me was to not repeat the same performance. But Sreenivasan sir is not Vimal sir. He is a completely new person, with different mannerisms, walking style... There was plenty of time to work on him.
Can you tell us about the shooting experience?
It was a very productive and relaxed experience. We shot everything within 25 days. We could reshoot a scene if it was not working. Before the shoot, Sameer (who is also the film’s cinematographer) said, “I don’t want you to treat this like any other film. I can give you 50 retakes if a scene doesn’t work.” So there was the possibility of discussing things at length and reaching a mutual decision. For an actor like me, that’s a huge luxury. Sameer uses every limitation to his advantage. The contributions of Ashraf and Sameer can’t be stressed enough.
How did your life change after Premam?
I started making some money after Premam (laughs). Though I have been part of some good films after that, it’s Premam that gets discussed most often. I hope Sreenivasan sir gets the same attention as Vimal sir.
Today, actors are required to be politically correct in every film. Does it bother you?
Of course, it does. It’s something I still don’t understand. If things carry on this way, I may have to do the role of a priest or a mythological character. I prefer doing characters with grey shades — exploring areas that I haven’t in my real life. Say I want to play a thug or a prostitute’s/ murderer’s son, it wouldn’t make any sense for that character to use pure language. These are huge limitations for an actor, and very soon we will have artificial, lifeless films. Today, some films are being subjected to extreme censorship. But why are they not doing the same for some TV serials? We sometimes see content on TV that’s unfit for children. They should be regulated too, no?
Do you think social media presence is a must for actors?
It’s a choice. For me, social media has been very helpful. So far, I haven’t called any journalist and asked them to do my interview. You can get on social media the promotion you won’t get elsewhere. For example, a film like Kismath didn’t get the promotion it deserved from distributors or producers. In cases like that, online word-of-mouth may help a film.
You sometimes do more than two films in a year. Do the quality or duration of some roles concern you?
I do those roles simply because I don’t have a lot of options. So I select whatever I find doable. For an actor like me, I need to have a new film coming out within a span of two or three months. Sometimes we might have to pick projects that are not satisfactory in order to survive or stay relevant. A lot of hard work goes into the roles that get noticed. But any role, small or big, requires effort. I’m yearning for lead roles. I waited 10 years for Thamaasha. We can get more offers only when a lead role becomes successful. And we can do much better only when we get substantial characters like Sreenivasan.