Shivajith Padmanabhan: I started getting more offers only after Kalki
The actor talks about his experience of working with director Jayaraj on his new film Backpackers
Shivajith Padmanabhan, who has played a fierce warrior, a dubious husband, and a dead-eyed killer, is the polar opposite of his onscreen characters. After his debut as Aromal Chekavar in Veeram (director Jayaraj’s adaptation of Macbeth), the eminently affable actor was under the radar for a while before emerging again for a brief appearance in Prithviraj’s Ranam, followed by a full-fledged villain role in Tovino Thomas’ Kalki recently.
He is back in another Jayaraj film, Backpackers, which stars Kalidas Jayaram and newcomer Karthika Nair. Shivajith plays the latter’s brother. The film was wrapped up in less than three weeks and it will hit the screens in December.
On working with the Kaliyattam director for the second time, Shivajith says, “Jayaraj sir is an incredibly fast filmmaker. I was amazed by his working style. This is not the first time that he has wrapped up a film in such a short period. He finished 4 the People in 18 days. He is an expert when it comes to improvisation. Suppose we are shooting a scene and it starts raining, Jayaraj sir doesn’t wait for it to get over; he adapts and comes up with a different solution. You can’t predict what’s he is going to do next. The funny thing is, sometimes an improvised scene turns out better than what was originally planned.”
A talented performer trained in Bharathanatyam, Kathakali, and other dance forms, the Kannur native won the Kalaprathibha title for two consecutive years in his school days. He says it’s those experiences that shaped his love for cinema.
Asked if he ever gets stage fright, he says, “No, I’m okay with facing people as a performer. But when it comes to interacting with them in real life, it can sometimes be very awkward. Talking to a hundred people as a character and doing that off-screen are two different things. In a film or a play, you take comfort in the fact that you already know how to talk to another character, what you’re going to say to them, and what expressions you should give. It’s all calculated; in real life, that’s not the case. I get really nervous sometimes when I’m called to speak at an event (laughs). But that’s slowly changing.”
Shivajith shares that he once used to lead an undisciplined life. But all that changed after he underwent rigorous Kalari training for Veeram. “Though the training was really tough, I developed a fondness for Kalari in the process. It changed me a lot. I’m not the same person I was before I learned it.”
Elaborating further on it, Shivajith explains, “Be it Kalari or any other martial arts form for that matter, I believe it’s more a way of life than just hitting somebody. It changes the way you interact with people. You don’t react to a rude person the same way you once did. A serious situation may look funny to you. Also, there is no longer any hesitation to do certain things. Earlier, I used to be too concerned about others’ opinions. Now I don’t feel the need to seek validation from every corner. You either accept the way I am or you don’t. It’s as simple as that.”
Though Shivajith’s character in Kalki elicited mixed responses, the actor reveals that it was this film that fetched him more offers. “There was not much happening after my first film. I got the role in Kalki because I went to the team and asked if I could do it, not the other way around. I’m not embarrassed about doing that and I’ll do it again if it’s someone I know personally.”
Aside from Backpackers, Shivajith is also part of Dulquer Salmaan’s Kurup in an important supporting role. He is looking forward to playing more interesting and diverse characters. “I can’t do another role like Amarnath again. That is done and over with it. I believe my role in Backpackers will be seen differently. It’s a raw, intense character,” he signs off.