Pa. Ranjith’s latest sports drama Sarpatta Parambarai has been garnering rave reviews from the audience and the critics alike for its splendid theme and the amazing performance of the cast. Meanwhile, those who watched the film have been curious to know more about the actor who played the character called Dancing Rose.
The character has conquered the audiences’ hearts with his agile moves and expressive face albeit not being the hero or the villain in the movie. Not many know that it was Shabeer Kallarakkal, a Malayali actor who has spectacularly essayed the role of Dancing Rose on screen. Shabeer, who grew up in Chennai, says it was his perseverance and hard work of around a decade and a half, that helped him pull off the role perfectly.
Interestingly, Sarpatta Parambarai is not Shabeer’s debut movie. He was seen in Mani Ratnam’s Ayudha Ezhuthu as a junior artist, in 2004. Ten years later, in 2014, he debuted as the main lead in the movie Nerungi Va Muthamidathe. He also played the protagonist in the psychological thriller 54321 directed by Raghavendra Prasad. However, these movies or his characters didn’t get noticed.
Shabeer had patiently waited for 15 years for a splendid character that exploited his acting skills to the fullest. A trained acrobat, dancer and martial artist, Shabeer utilized his ‘special’ skills to transform into his character. Alongside Pasupathy’s Rangan Vadyar, Arya’s Kabilan and John Kokken’s Vembuli, Shabeer’s Dancing Rose too has stood out. In a candid interview with Manorama Online, Shabeer Kallarakkal, opens up about Sarpatta Parambarai and how hard he had worked to prepare for his role.
Last minute audition
It was in 2019 December that Nithya the casting director of Sarpatta Parambarai called Shabeer for an audition. The duo had worked together in Jayam Ravi starrer Adanga Maru. Nithya who knew that Shabeer was a trained acrobat didn’t think twice to invite the latter for an audition. “Even though they had considered many actors for the role of Dancing Rose, nothing had worked out. I attended the audition hardly a week before the filming began. After I cleared the audition, I did a look test too. That is how I landed the role in Sarpatta Parambarai,” says Shabeer.
At the audition, Shabeer was asked to perform an emotional scene that takes place after Dancing Rose is knocked out in a boxing match. Even though that scene was shot for the movie, it was deleted from the final cut. It was a combination scene with Durai Vadyar played brilliantly by Pasupathy. The scene involves Vadyar asking Dancing Rose how he couldn’t win the match and the latter replying to him. “It was an extremely emotional sequence. I don’t know whether it wasn’t included because of the movie’s length. However, even without that scene the audience had loved Dancing Rose. Personally, I feel that I would have got more appreciation and recognition from the audience had that scene been included. But, the director has shown my character perfectly in the movie,” notes the youngster.
Thanks to Pa.Ranjith
“Dancing Rose’s sportsman spirit is clearly depicted in a dialogue that he says to Vembuli in the climax scene. The actor in Shabeer is just an instrument at the hands of the director. The reason why everyone is praising Dancing Rose is not because of the actor called Shabeer Kallarakkal. That character has been amazingly written. Even if another actor was cast for that role, he might have done it better that I did. So, I am not overly excited about the success. I am grateful to Pa.Ranjith sir for giving me such a brilliant role. He is extremely cool on the sets and do not put pressure or stress on the actors,” Shabeer has words of praise for his director.
Shabeer who is a theater artist used to perform in front of live audience. He enjoys it as he could know the responses of the audience on the spot itself. “The audience’s response would be reflected in your performance too. Having live audience in the gallery while we filmed the significant fight sequences of Dancing Rose had really helped my performance. The audience naturally responded and cheered when I and Arya fought,” recalls Shabeer.
Shabeer says these live reactions had helped him completely transform into his character. The actor admits that he and Arya had exchanged real blows as the fight sequence was filmed live. Both the actors had improvised their movements and style while filming it. “The boxing scenes weren’t entirely choreographed. Arya is an amazing boxer. I too am trained in kick boxing. All these have helped in performing those scenes amazingly,” says Shabeer.
Dancing Rose on sets
“I would transform into Dancing Rose once I don the costume and the get up of the character. You will not see Shabeer after that. I spent my time on the sets living as Dancing Rose. Those who watched me might have felt that I am a bit crazy as I always maintained the body language of Dancing Rose. There are actors who could swiftly switch to characters once the director says ‘action’. However, I wasn’t able to do that. I lived as that character until the filming of my portions got over. Those who worked with me too had supported me and appreciated my ways,” says Shabeer.
Shabeer says the crew had given him tips to improve his body movements. He recalls how he didn’t sit down or stayed still for two or three days when the fight sequences were shot. He kept practicing his movements so that they would look perfect on screen. “I do not have too much experience acting in movies. Neither does my family have any cinema connection. I might get only this one chance. So I shouldn’t ruin it, right? I had to give my best for this role. Even when I get onto the stage for a theater performance, I think that I should give my best as if it is my sole chance,” notes the actor.
‘Prince’ of the boxing ring
Ranjith had suggested noted pugilist Prince Naseem Hamed as the reference for Dancing Rose. Arya and John too had real life boxers as references. Shabeer had watched the videos of Prince Naseem in action to prepare for his role. However, the actor says that he hadn’t tried to emulate the boxer; instead Shabeer was inspired by Prince Nassem and had essayed Dancing Rose in his own unique way. His training in acrobatics helped him perform the somersaults in the boxing ring perfectly. The actor, however, confesses that it took a few days’ practice for him to perfect the way Dancing Rose jumps into the ring. His experience as a talented dancer and martial artist has surely helped Shabeer portray the role in the most convincing way.
Not fluent in Malayalam
“There were three Malayalis on the sets – me, Arya and John. We would speak in Malayalam whenever we were together. Then the crew members would jokingly comment that everyone in the movie is a Malayali. Arya speaks Malayalam fluently. Mine is not as perfect, as I was born and brought up in Chennai. My parents hail from Vadakara in Kozhikode. My mother isn’t interested in watching films. I don’t force her either. In fact, my mother isn’t interested in me acting in movies. She hasn’t watched even a single movie in which I had acted. It is her choice and I respect that. My mother loves me very much and enjoys everything I do, except my movies. We don’t speak about movies at all. My father, meanwhile, has watched the movie. Though he didn’t say anything to me, I have heard him talk about the movie to his colleagues. I know that he liked my character. I am really happy about it. Any parents would be concerned, especially if their son has been pursuing cinema for the last 10 – 15 years. However, they are happy now,” smiles Shabeer.
Shabeer who doesn’t have any godfathers in the industry had waited exactly fifteen years for his big break. As a kid, he wished to become a cricketer. He used to play in the cricket leagues at Chennai. It was during this time that he got a chance to show his face in Ayudha Ezhuthu as a junior artist. The firm in which Shabeer had worked had supplied junior artists for that film. He reached the sets and he was made to stand in the front, alongside the heroine, in a short sequence, in the climax.
“My face was seen on screen for barely five seconds in that movie. Some people recognized me when the movie was released. I began enjoying people noticing and recognizing me. That is why I chose theater as my profession. Later, cinema became my sole aim. The first thing that I did was to enroll in a dance class. I also studied how to perform fight sequences. From 2009 onwards, I began performing on stage. It was in 2014 that my debut movie Nerunki Va Muthamidathe got released. My next film was released in 2016. I had essayed the lead roles in both the films. However, none of them got noticed. So, I began concentrating on small yet noticeable roles. I got small roles in big movies like Adanga Maru and Petta,” recalls Shabeer.
Pasupathy, the guru
Veteran actor Pasupathy is Shabeer’s guru in theater. The duo has known each other since a decade. Shabeer had performed under Jayakumar of the well known theater group Koothupattarai. “Pasupathy sir used to come to watch our plays. I have known him since then. However, I hardly imagined that I would act alongside him. He is an extraordinary actor. He could wow everyone even with a glance. I wasn’t able to imbibe my character on the first day on the sets of Sarpattu Parambarai. I would then talk to Pasupathy sir. He told me that only I could find a solution for my trouble. He motivated me by saying that he was sure that I would do my best. Two days later, when I was filming a fight sequence, he came to me and told me that I was doing well. He advised me to enjoy what I am doing. I could never forget his words,” says Shabeer.
Lots of great things have happened in Shabeer’s life since the release of this movie. The actor recalls that he was satisfied after completing the filming. Moreover, Shabeer was elated that he could do such a fabulous role in his career. “I was feeling a kind of exhilaration even before the release. I could easily relate my life with the film. My eyes welled up thinking about my journey. I couldn’t sleep on the night before the release. I got up early and walked to the beach. I sat there for hours, just staring at the ocean. Lots of things passed through my mind at that moment. I hardly realized that two hours had passed, just sitting like that on the beach. It was a unique feeling. I felt as if I could perceive beauty in whatever I could see. In fact, it is difficult articulating those feelings in words,” notes Shabeer.
There were some youngsters who were practicing gymnastics at the beach. They approached Shabeer requesting him to click a few pictures. Shabeer clicked their pictures in his phone as the youngsters had forgotten theirs. They exchanged numbers so that Shabeer could send the pictures later. Meanwhile, they asked Shabeer what he was doing. He replied that he was an actor and had played a role in the movie Sarpatta Parambarai that had released the previous night. He then went home saying goodbye to the youngsters. After some time, the youngsters called Shabeer saying that they had watched the movie and had liked his performance as Dancing Rose.
“I am really happy about the responses that I get from the audience. I am enjoying these moments. I cannot say that I have reached anywhere significant in my career. However, Dancing Rose surely has become part of my identity. It is indeed my trump card for moving forward. I am sure that this character would help me in the growth of my career. I wish to essay lots of good roles. I am, in fact, eagerly waiting for amazing roles in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Discussions are underway for a handful of movies. However, I haven’t made up my mind on any projects,” Shabeer signs off.