Tovino’s rise to stardom

Tovino plays Maradona in the Malayalam film of the same name.

Tovino Thomas is on a roll, and if you are Malayali, there is only a rare possibility that you haven’t heard the name. After ‘Mayanadhi’, in which he won hearts with a stellar performance as ‘Mathen’, Tovino has hit the jackpot again, this time as a gangster in ‘Maradona’. In an interview with Hemanth Sreekumar, the actor explains his winning formula, his experience as ‘Maradona’ and what he is looking forward to.  

How does it feel to be called ‘Maradona’ in Kerala, a state so passionate about football?

Malayalis are quite familiar with all the international players, and it feels great to have essayed a title character as such. Diego Maradona is a legend and I am a big fan.  In the movie, the character got his moniker because he was good at football and a huge fan of ‘Diego Maradona’ in his childhood days. But as the story is all about a journey of emotions in the character, we left it open to interpretations. However, just like the real Maradona, the character’s life is a roller-coaster ride.         

Is ‘Maradona’ your biggest movie yet?

I don’t know. The movie was released two weeks back. So, I will have to wait and see. It’s the first time that I got to play such a character that goes through a myriad of emotions. Maradona goes through a long and bad phase of violence in his life.  The transformation he undergoes after that is huge. I think I had a lot of scope to perform in this project. So in that aspect, Maradona can be deemed as my biggest movie yet.

Maradona is being seen as a huge success already. What’s the next milestone for the movie? 

I want it to do well in theatres and achieve critical acclaim as well. I see three parts of a movie – as business, art and an entertainer for the audience. I want my movies to maintain the balance between art and business. While it’s business for the producers and art for people who work in that, the producers should also be benefited. I want my producer to be safe so 
that he can make more movies.

You played a thug for the second time. Do we see an emerging trend here?

No. I wouldn’t call Mathen in ‘Mayanadhi’ a thug. He was a fraud, a con artist, and in no way related to violence. Mathen was into money-laundering and a situation that he never wanted to face emerged all of a sudden, leading to crime.  But Maradona was clearly a thug. He was negative and had all the bad traits that are associated with this. Maradona was a bad guy, but Mathen was not. The roles, even though villainous, differ from each other. There is no emerging pattern here.  

How was your experience working with debutant director Vishnu Narayan?

I knew Vishnu Narayan from the days of ‘Guppy’. He was a good friend of John Paul, the director of Guppy, and he often visited me on the sets. In 2016, when I was working in the movie ‘Godha’, Vishnu Narayan and writer Krishna Moorthy approached me to narrate the script of ‘Maradona’. I was quite impressed with the way they detailed the scenes. We sat and discussed the script at least for a year before it was finalised. The shoot went on for 75 days and Vishnu Narayan never compromised on anything. 
I liked his spirit, how was never laid back even about the minutest of details. He gave everything for the movie and wanted it to be the best.

The film talks about love between the lead couple that blossoms without them seeing each other, while talking to each other on their respective balconies. How was the experience of shooting such a scene?

It was fun and interesting. I remembered the movie ‘Mathilukal’, where Mammotty loves a woman without seeing her. I got the same connection. In Maradona, love happens between two minds and hearts. The director and writer didn’t want the lead hero to fall for a woman just because of the way she looks. Maradona and Asha share a connection even before they see each other, and it’s very important for the movie because it later becomes the key for Maradona’s transformation. To love someone without seeing the person can be true love.

The songs are ruling the charts. It’s like you are the prince of good songs in Mollywood now.

Thank you. It’s quite a compliment, but I feel I have been lucky to have music directors and singers with a great sense of music by my side. It’s not me; the hard work is all theirs and I get the most out of it by being just the face of the songs here. I would only want to give away the credit to 
the ones who truly deserve it.

It has been a steady rise to stardom with back-to-back blockbusters. What’s the secret?

I am not bothered about stardom. I just want to be bankable and remain that way.  Malayalam cinema is right now in a state of revival and I want to be a part of it. There are so 
many beautiful scripts and movies, crafted to perfection, coming out these days. I just try to choose sensible scripts. That’s my first criterion. Second, it should have a commercial value. It should be a good entertainer for the audience, art for the filmmakers and good business for the producers. These are the three aspects that I consider before selection. I don’t know if stardom is necessary for an actor to survive. I think I am bankable now and that’s all I want.

Action hero or a heartthrob – which title would you prefer?

I prefer another title – best actor. That’s what I want to hear and I am working hard just for that. I know it’s a long way to go. But one day, I will be called the best actor for sure.   

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Tovino’s rise to stardom

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