Maradona in Maradona (2018) is not a good person to know. He can scare little kids with a smile, is ready to slaughter a puppy for meat, and make a bunch of ugly creatures squirm in the blink of an eye. But when he locks up in an apartment, it becomes a life-changing moment. He finally falls in love and becomes warm with people, which causes him to think about his previous bad life and behave badly.
It was Tovino’s performance that changed effortlessly between different shades of character. Tovino has been in a learning curve ever since, and perhaps no other actor of his generation is going for a role, motivating himself physically and emotionally to lead a character to such extremes. Maybe his selection of films will not always be successful, but Tovino is sure he will make his last effort for the role.
“He’s very skilled, for example, in Lightning Murali. He has to use body language to exaggerate his humor. Only Mohanlal has done that. It’s not a trivial matter to be able to retain the anatomy and take off that superhero suit, there’s an inch of extra meat, and during the lockdown, he’s sending.
Excerpts from a conversation with Thomas:
The Basil-Tovino partnership is special and it feels like you’ve been filming together for a lifetime. What’s the secret, how much has it helped you as an actor?
We have also acted as actors in other films. Our families also get close and we meet in our spare time. In fact, we saw Minnal Murali in my home theater. We love movies, share lots of public friends, laugh at jokes, and yet we are as different as chalk and cheese. That was reflected in the sets. Basil is the one who makes any changes for the upliftment of the film, so he will do well with the improvements from the actors.
Was there an aspect you didn’t know about yourself as an actor when you starred in Minnal Murali?
I am lazy by nature. I was a person who loved lunch and sleep a lot. Although I have been working out since I was 15, my workouts are always on and off. I’m not interested in this process, only the results. Then in November 2019 Lightning Murali started and we were planning a transition – I had to go from skinny to fit for the fight as I needed to slip into costume. It was not intended to be harsh, as the character’s lightning speed caused his body to transform. I started my workout from Lightning Murali. We filmed it over a period of time, so it was helpful.
When the lockdown was announced we thought of several ways to activate our days. Since then I have been extremely disciplined in my workouts, made lifestyle changes and today I am at the healthiest stage. I know about the biochemical reactions in my body. I even suspected I had a eating disorder and would have skipped earlier gym sessions. I learned a lot of skills — I could hang upside down and do pull ups. It reflects the way I treat people and even the choice of film.
Is not the process and approach different according to a character?
Now I train myself to adapt to a variety of characters. The 24-year-old has lost 10kg for the beating necklace since the character was introduced. I can now add kilos for a roll. But I wish I had a little more time for physical transformation like in Hollywood and Bollywood. Now while I am making a film I am preparing myself for my next film and trying to discuss the look without affecting both films. I do not think it is easy to survive in Malayalam cinema with a slim body to do the kind of roles I want to do.
You are a stranger to Malayalam cinema. So what was your dream?
Sometimes I feel like a stranger. I had a lot of dreams. The first was to do small roles, get big breaks, and keep it up. The most difficult part is maintaining that consistency and quality after that big break. You study and develop, and now I am in a good place. I live in a dream, I can not complain.
Actor Srinath Bhasi once likened acting to carpentry, where you become great after doing it for a long time.
It applies to all jobs. Your craft needs to be smoothed out and reworked, especially since it is a very competitive area in cinema. You need to upgrade, learn new skills, experiment with things you do not know you have the ability to do, things you are not confident in learning, overcome your fears and become a human being, it is important for an actor to remain relevant. I raise my limits to the maximum.
Have you ever had a character who changed your outlook on life?
Lots of movies. In fact from my very first movie. I am presenting a lawyer in Vashi, but despite coming from a family of lawyers I found various aspects of the profession that I never studied. In each movie you will start to learn about the perspective of that character. But as I begin to think from the perspective of the character, I learn a lot of things that I never understood as Tovino Thomas.
What is your biggest fear as an actor?
I have a variety of fears, but I think I am trying to overcome them. But it is very private. I do not want the world to know my fear. It is important to overcome fear.
What is one thing that surprised you in this profession?
The unconditional love I receive from people. I’m happy, but only because it’s done on screen. It is also a responsibility.
But sometimes extreme reactions on social media can be quite annoying, right?
There are those who hate you for reasons they know, just as they love you. In the beginning it would bother me, but now I don’t worry about things that are out of my control. Maybe they do not hate me personally, as long as it does not hurt or affect me, why worry? I wanted to be a superhero as a child because I was loved by everyone, but now people have a problem even with superheroes.
Both of your films have been well received this year. Whether it is time or not. Did you have the guts to look like an actor? What was the most difficult scene in that movie?
The most difficult scene in Kanekane was when he left his wife dead and drove away. Then his conscience starts to stab him, and he comes back and waits in the hospital. I think that underscores Alan. It shows how deformed and ordinary he is. It was emotionally draining. I remember my wife asking me if I could really do what Alan did in his life. It shows how effective the performance is. There have been times when I hate Alan and I feel sorry for him. This is a character that has haunted me for a long time. I think his life is already a punishment. I’m not sure if he can lead a guilt-free life even after forgiveness.
Is there a theme you would like to explore?
I think I explored it over time. My friend had a dog house. I would spend hours there. Their brains have no commands like humans. Dogs have small brains. The days spent there and Sir Jayamohan’s book culminated in art. This was the right time for this experiment. I think more people outside Kerala have understood the essence of time than those seen in theaters in Kerala.
Any performance that influenced you more than your performance?
I like most of Fahad’s performances, especially Malik, Surya in Surai Pot and Dhanush in Asuran.
The last picture that revived you?
After seeing Jai Bhim I felt energized, especially the positive reactions to it.
If not an actor, what would you do?
I have no idea. I like to eat and cook. I love doing hair styling and beard styling. Likes a little farming. I have a lot of weird likes. I feel safe among the dogs. 20 Even among dogs they will not betray me. So yes, I will survive.