Fahadh Faasil just wants people to watch Malayankunju, even a 'pirated copy'
Fahadh Faasil, whose new film Malayankunju begins streaming on Prime Video this week, opens up on the OTT vs theatre debate and says what matters is that people watch and enjoy his films, whatever the medium may be.
Fahadh Faasil’s latest film Malayankunju is already running in theatres across Kerala, and barely two weeks into its release, it will begin streaming on OTT. The film releases on Prime Video this Friday. The announcement was made on the morning of August 8, Fahadh’s 39th birthday. In an exclusive chat with HT, the acclaimed actor talks about what prompted him to take the survival thriller to theatres instead of OTT, why he doesn't like interviews, and his experience of Vikram and Pushpa: The Rise. Also read: Kamal Haasan on working with Vijay Sethupathi, Fahadh Faasil in Vikram
Malayankunju was originally supposed to release directly on Amazon Prime Video but after Fahadh saw the first cut, he pushed for a limited theatrical release. Calling the decision ‘very artistic’ and not commercial, he says, “If I had the option, I would release the first half on OTT and the second half in theatres. That’s how I saw it. I thought the detailing of the film is very important. At least a theatrical experience would be very important for this film, which is a musical and survival thriller. And also, Kerala was going through a phase where people were not getting very excited about films that didn’t have too much drama. So it was also testing the waters to see where we stand.”
Fahadh says he has no say in the raging OTT vs cinema halls debate and which medium is ‘better’. He adds nonchalantly, “But a film can be enjoyed everywhere. I just want people to see my film whether in theatre or at home. Even if they are watching a pirated copy, I just want to make sure they watch a good print.”
Malayankunju, directed by Sajimon Prabhakar, sees Fahadh as Anikuttan, a bitter and lonely man who is trapped underground after a landslide hits his village. The story shows how he must find salvation in a child’s cries, the very sound he hated till a day before. Talking about the hardships of shooting the film, Fahadh says, “The set was designed in such a way that an actor would feel a little claustrophobic while performing. It wasn’t an accessible set. You can’t just walk in. Every day we pumped in water, which rearranges everything. We had to pick it up from there. I have never seen an entire crew going through such a difficult process to make a film. The DOP went through major physical stress and the director went through major mental stress. And we had a doctor on set. It was an experience. I have not done anything like that before and I don’t know if I’d do anything like this again.”
For many actors, the physicality of the characters or the physical challenges are a big help in getting under the skin of the character. But not Fahadh. “I look for the emotional travel,” he says, elaborating, “The physical journey never works for me. I want the audience to connect with the character rather than with the physical attributes. I try to continue the emotional drama so the challenge is to pick it up from where I left yesterday. And it’s not easy to maintain that consistency in a shoot that has so many physical change.”
His commercial and critical successes have made Fahadh one of the biggest names in the Malayalam film industry. But Fahadh, as always, remains averse to media appearances. He laughs and explains the reason, “Even while I perform, I am trying to figure out what I am actually trying to do. So when people ask me about what I did, it’s almost like I have no clue. I have nothing to say.”
Over the last few years, his standing outside Malayalam cinema has also grown, particularly with the success of Pushpa: The Rise and Vikram, both blockbusters where he had starring roles. But he still shies away from the label of ‘star’. Fahadh says, “Today, a star has to go make a film and go around selling it. I don’t want to do that. Let them just watch my films and it’s good. I can’t keep going around, saying ‘it’s an absolutely brilliant film, please watch it’. These are all options and choices people make. Today, we are in a space where every actor has the freedom to make them. For me, I have not done a film that I think I should travel around and sell.”
Pushpa: The Rise, starring Allu Arjun, made over ₹350 crore while Kamal Haasan’s Vikram minted over ₹400 crore. Both were big-budget films. But Fahadh says neither filmmaker asked him to get out of his comfort zone and promote them. “Fortunately, none of them asked me to sell it--Kamal (Haasan) sir or the producers of Pushpa. It was very clear they wanted the talent. They just wanted to collaborate with me as an actor. The discussions of going around and promoting never took place. So, it was easy,” he says.
His last three releases have been in three different languages but Fahadh says it was all incidental. He was simply going for newer roles, without looking at budgets or languages. He sums up, “I have been very fortunate. Sukumar sir cast me in Pushpa saying ‘I have never seen you like this so I want to see you this way’. With Lokesh also, when we were deciding the costumes for Vikram, he said, ‘I haven’t seen you in this’. I have been collaborating with these filmmakers who want to present me differently and explore what I have not done earlier. And that is my excitement. I love to do things I haven’t done before. I have never asked the budgets. That doesn’t really matter. For me, it’s about what I can do for the film.”
In 2022, Fahadh will be seen in two more films--Tamil film Maamannan where he stars opposite Keerthy Suresh and the Malayalam film Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum. Then next year, he will return as the deranged cop Bhanwar Singh Shekhawat in Pushpa: The Rule. And before signing off, Fahadh also hints that a Hindi film offer may also be on the table, but does not reveal much beyond that. Here’s hoping the versatile actor continues to churn memorable roles, the way he has so far.