Nivin Pauly’s rise to superstardom is nothing short of extraordinary. The 32-year-old Malayalam actor worked as a software engineer for two years at Infosys in Bengaluru before deciding that enough was enough. That was in 2008. In 2010, Pauly made his debut with Malarvaadi Arts Club. Fast forward to 2017 and in just seven years, Pauly is the star of at least 25 back-to-back hits and acclaimed films, including Bangalore Days, 1983, Neram, Oru Vadakkan Selfie and Action Hero Biju.
The movie that made Pauly one of the most bankable stars in the Malayalam film industry was the romcom Premam (2015), directed by Alphonse Puthren. Pauly is back with Sakhavu (Comrade), a year on from his last hit Jacobinte Swaragrajyam. A great deal of hype surrounds the April 15 release, which has been directed by Sidhartha Siva, who has won National Film Awards for 101 Chodyangal and Ain. This is only the beginning, Pauly told Scroll.in.
What is so special about ‘Sakhavu’?
The film’s writer and director, Sidhartha Siva, narrated the story to me around two years ago. Although it sounded like parallel cinema and one for film festivals, we spotted a bigger commercial success factor. Sakhavu has a very solid script and strong characters. It’s a political film, but we are not saying anything bad about any political party. It’s a film about communism and how it came about in Kerala. It’s about a comrade’s ideology and how it changes a person.
Are you a communist in real life?
God, no, I have no political leanings. I am an actor first and foremost. But I do think political parties should do good things for people.
This is your first release since ‘Jacobinte Swaragrajyam’ in 2016.
Actually Sakhavu was meant to come out during Christmas 2016. But there was some confusion over the dates. So we have ended up releasing it during Easter this year.
I’m a little nervous. I get emotionally attached to all my films. I want this film to work for Sidhartha Siva. He is a huge talent.
Do you have a pre-release ritual?
I just pray. And sleep. A lot.
You have been hailed as the superstar of this generation. You look up to Mohanlal and Mammootty. What roles of theirs would you like to play?
I’d love to do what Mohanlal did in Spadikam. The film came out in 1995. It was the highest grossing film of that year and also the longest running. I loved the action drama in Spadikam. Mammootty’s character in Valsalyam is also one I’d love to play. His role of Raghavan Nair is very versatile. This is a difficult role because the hero has so many layers and shades.
‘Premam’ established you as a star in the Malayalam film industry. You followed that up with ‘Action Hero Biju’ and ‘Jacobinte Swaragrajyam’, films that have shades of comedy and romance. Which is your favourite genre?
I love humour and flavoured characters. You can do comedy and romance up until a certain age. I’m at that point where I’m doing these. I believe in playing roles suited to my age.
What other genres would you like to try?
I would love to play the villain. And I’d like to try horror. I think these genres will allow me to try something new.
What’s more important to you: commercial success or critical acclaim?
Both are important. I always try to choose films with strong content – something audiences can relate to. Equally, I also consider how to make this strong content commercially viable. And that is important because it is a measure of how much the audience enjoys the film.
I just want people to say that Nivin Pauly is a good actor.
You turned producer with ‘Action Hero Biju’. Would you like to try out other aspects of filmmaking?
I’d love to direct films, but not just yet. Directors are very sensible and creative. I feel I’m a long way away from that.
How do you prepare for different roles? For example, you will soon start work on ‘Kayamkulam Kochunni’.
Straight after Easter, I will start work on Geethu Mohandas’s Moothan. It will be shot around Mumbai and Lakshadweep. The film will come out mid-2018. In Kayamkulam Kochunni, I play this legendary Robin Hood type thief in Kerala. For this role, I am training in kalaripayattu because this film has a lot of action. I need to be fit and flexible for this one.
How do you deal with getting mobbed?
I wouldn’t call it mobbing. I call it people showing their love for me. Yes, they like to come up to me, have a chat, get pictures taken. I enjoy it too.
You left Infosys and information technology. What would you have done if you hadn’t made it big in the movies?
I would have been a businessman. My dream was to be an entrepreneur. I still have all these ideas in my head about start-ups. I always like doing new things.
It’s all about desire. There should be something internal about it – something that makes you want to pursue your dream with passion. And never give up. Keep trying again and again.