In a candid interview with Nishad Padiyarath, popular Indian actor Kunchacko Boban talks about his cinematic sensibilities, his iconic production house Udaya Pictures and his journey so far.
Before online connectivity became popular and social media came into existence, there was an actor, who took the South Indian state of Kerala by storm, so much so that every film he made used to be immediately successful.
Filmmakers and producers, and even fans used to wait in queue just to get a glimpse of this young actor. Many years have passed now, but Kunchacko Boban is still a brand to reckon with in South India. Ever since his first film Aniyathipravu, which released in 1997, the iconic actor has come a long way.
In a 40 minute-long conversation, Boban did not betray any sign of nerves. He was unpretentious, laidback and genial during the interview. And for a man fresh off the success of Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho, a film he produced under his home production unit Udaya Pictures, he is unusually self-depreciating. He answers every other question first with a joke about himself, before grappling to find an earnest respon§§§§se.
The last time we spoke was nine years ago. You looked different then. Now you are looking younger and slimmer. What’s the secret?
I want to be even slimmer (laughs). The movie making process, including the content has changed so dramatically over the years. I cannot continue to do flexible roles all the time. It is essential; I need to travel as cinema is changing every day. So I choose roles that I think can challenge me and for that I need to be in shape according to the demand of a film.
During the 90s, you took the world by storm. You floored many teenage girls during that first innings and at a time when there was no online connectivity; you used to get thousands of love letters from fans. Kunchacko Boban, the brand was created. How do you still maintain it?
The volume of letters I get these days has reduced (laughs), but you will be surprised I still get many. Like you rightly said in this age where people can directly send me a message via Facebook, many are still finding time to write to me. That shows their affection towards me. They are my strength and that motivates me to perform better.
You took an unexpected break in films when you were at the peak of your career. After a long gap, you made a comeback with a bang. What did you learn during that break?
Honestly, I never thought my career would have a successful second phase. You know, I wanted to take a break. There was a time when I used to do movies after movies and that’s when I thought I need a break. But my long absence from the film field caused a stir. I realised that people continued to show the same kind of affection, but more than that it helped me to reinvent myself.
During your second innings, though, it is not merely the teenage audience that you have won over; you have evolved as an actor with a string of hits. What makes you one of the most bankable stars in Malayalam cinema today?
You know, we have some gifted filmmakers in the industry and I am fortunate enough to work with some of the best directors and scriptwriters, who have actually helped me do films that are well accepted by the audience these days. The credit must go to them.
But my long absence from the film field caused a stir. I realised that people continued to show the same kind of affection, but more than that it helped me to reinvent myself.
Reviving your family production house ‘Udaya Pictures’ was your dream and you have finally done it in style. The film ‘Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho’ is a smashing hit and is breaking all box-office records. How are you feeling?
Frankly, I never expected such an overwhelming response. Soon after the movie was shot, we knew it would be accepted by all audiences because of the beauty of the script. Director Sidartha Siva has done a fabulous job in narrating the story. I was quite tensed and excited in the beginning, but now I am on cloud nine. I have no words to describe my happiness. These things happen once in a lifetime, isn’t it? I am just enjoying every bit of the success. Taking a line from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, I would like to say: When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho is a phenomenal success.
The name itself is very unique. What does Paulo Coelho have to do with ‘Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho’?
You will have to wait till the film is released in Muscat to know that (laughs). All I can say is that the movie is a tribute to Paulo Coelho, one of the greatest writers.
Sidartha Siva is a National Award-winning director, who is known for his serious brand of films. But ‘Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho’ is a commercial film. How did that happen?
When Sidhu (Sidhartha) told me he had a story in mind, I anticipated another serious subject. But when he came to my house with a fully written script, I was shocked by the narration. It was in essence a commercial movie. I was excited not only to act, but produce it as well. I spoke to my wife Priya, and I wanted her to listen to the story. Her input would be that of someone in the audience. She shared my enthusiasm, once she heard the story. The comeback of Udaya was happening at that point of time and the rest as you know is history.
My idea of doing a film is to connect with the audience and to get everyone involved and participate.
I must say you have brought a lot of originality to your acting. Do you make any preparations before you face the camera?
That is a good observation from you. (laughs) Every film is a gamble for me. I like to do different roles that can make the audience smile. My idea of doing a film is to connect with the audience and to get everyone involved and participate. If you do the same kind of roles then it becomes a cliché.
There is a growing influence of social media and actors interact directly with the audience through platforms, such as Facebook, primarily for the success of their films. At the same time, there are audiences, who judge the future of the film on this same platform. How good is that for cinema?
A filmmaker interacting with the audience is good because he will know exactly what they want. At the same time, you cannot stop anyone from raising his or her voice against a film, because it is his or her right to do so. A decade ago, there were only very few genuine critics. Now with the arrival of social media, everyone wants to become a qualified critic, which is bad.
I am sure you will be doing more such films in the future. What are your plans for Udaya Pictures?
I want to make quality films worthy of the Udaya Pictures name. I want to make films that will make audiences happy. Malayalam cinema has made me what I am today. Now, it’s time to give back through Udaya.