How Tovino rose to become a versatile star

How Tovino rose to become a versatile star

The actor plays a superhero in 'Minnal Murali', a pan-Indian film set to release on December 24.

Be it playing a thug and a lover in Mayanadi, a chronic smoker in Theevandi, cop in Ezra, a forensic expert in Forensic, and a man drowned in guilt in his latest Kaanekkaane, Malayalam star Tovino Thomas is a master at delivering a convincing portrayal of his characters. 

The 32-year-old, who began his career by playing second fiddle to the protagonist, is one of the most bankable heroes in the industry today. There is great buzz around Tovino's superhero film Minnal Murali, set to release on Dec. 24. The natural actor, currently shooting in Bengaluru, spoke to Showtime on his nearly decade-old journey. Excerpts:    

You complete a decade in the industry next year. How do you describe your journey? 

Like I have told a lot of people, 'I am now literally living my dream.' I have matured in my thought process without losing my innocence. There were days when I would shoot non-stop, without caring for my health. But that has changed now. I give importance to maintaining a balance between physical and mental well-being. 

Your journey was fraught with struggles and challenges... 

I gained visibility only after I became successful. Nobody really knows how I lived before that. My life hasn't been a cakewalk and I have struggled to get to where I am today. I quit my job in Cognizant Technologies with the sole aim of becoming an actor. I didn't know where to start or whom to approach. All I knew was that I wanted to become an actor. I never let negativity or disappointments get to me. I kept working towards my dream. 

You don't repeat your characters. How do you choose your scripts?

I believe the actor in me has some potential and I want to push myself and explore that potential to its fullest. I enjoy retaining the unpredictability as an actor. I look at what I can do as an actor, more than what I can do as a star. I am not greedy about grabbing roles, but I see how I can contribute to enriching the process of cinema. 

Were the characters you played in Kala, Mayanadi and Kaanekkaane emotionally draining? 

Yes. They were because I literally carry the character with me throughout the shooting process. I think about how I can better my performance, I make notes about the small tweaks that I can bring into the role and constantly improvise. Whenever I am shooting a particular role, I am constantly thinking about the character, even when I am jogging or at the gym or when I am by myself. It is a continuous process. When I am on the sets, I am laughing, cracking jokes and in a light mood all the time but at the back of my mind, almost parallelly, my thoughts and ideas about the character keeps happening. I live the character and the hangover of a complicated role always remains with me much after the shoot is over. I invest a lot of time and effort to research, understand and talk to the director and the writer to get under the skin of the character.

You also give emphasis to physical transformation... 

Yes. That's a conscious effort. For Kala, I grew a beard and even grew my eyebrows to get a brash look. For Kaanekkaane, I lost weight to appear like a man under a lot of stress. In Ennu Ninte Moideen, I grew a thin moustache which was a trademark style of the character and I retained that look for my wedding and didn't compromise on changing it. For Minnal Murali, certain lifestyle changes were necessary because I have three appearances and we have shot in a certain order. Such small changes go a long way in ensuring good quality. We are a relatively small industry that is competing with world cinema.  

What kind of books have shaped your ideology?

I would say that books choose me rather than the other way around. I am an avid reader of Khaled Hosseini, O V Vijayan, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, M T Vasudevan Nair and M Mukundan. 

What brings you to Bengaluru?

I am shooting for a film directed by actor Vineeth Kumar. I am no stranger to Bengaluru. I used to visit here during my college days and we spent a reasonable amount of time here when shooting for Maradona.

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