Before and after 'Minnal Murali': Interview with Guru Somasundaram

Guru Somasundaram
Guru Somasundaram plays the character of Shibu in the movie, 'Minnal Murali'.

Guru Somasundaram is elated. Ever since 'Minnal Murali' started streaming on Netflix, he has been inundated with calls from fans and well-wishers alike. He played Shibu, the antagonist to Tovino’s superhero, 'Minnal Murali'. Both are hit by lightning on the same Christmas night. But if Tovino negotiates his superpowers to spread goodness, Shibu manipulates the power for his own gains. In this interview with Manorama Online, he admits that "never in his wildest of dreams did he envisage this tremendous response to the film."It was in June 2019 at Munnar that Basil and screenwriter Arun narrated the story of 'Minnal Murali' to Guru. Though he loved the story, he never thought it would be so big or get so much recognition. “The kind of reactions right now are unbelievable. It’s almost like I am living a dream. What really fascinated me about Basil is his storytelling skills. You can visualize the story so beautifully that I immediately knew I should do the film. He will even provide the background score, during the scene description.”

Guru can’t get over Basil’s confidence and energy—"I have never seen another director like that. His energy is infectious.” Being an actor from Chennai’s theatre group Koothu Pattare he had received training in various kinds of martial arts. He knew Kalarippayattu, Tai chi, and stick bite. During the course of the narration Guru assured Basil that he was well-versed in martial arts. But Basil and his writers were amused, as Shibu wasn’t a stereotypical villain and required neither brute strength nor stamina. “I learned some Malayalam for the character. Even learned to row a canoe. Rowing a canoe can be a bit risky as the boat can capsize if you don’t know how to row it well.” For five days Guru got training from a master to row a canoe in a river in Wayanad. He loved it so much that he would often wander around the river in a basket boat during free time.

Be it the drunkard Kaalaiyvan in 'Aranyakaandam', the molester in '5 Sundarikal,' Muthu in 'Jigarthanda', or Mannar Mannan in 'Joker', he has always picked characters that are diametrically different from each other. “I do not like doing the same kind of characters. As an actor, I am always looking forward to challenging myself.” Basil, he says is one such guy. He never repeats his films. Guru likes to think that Minnal Murali chose him than the other way round. “Writer is the god for Actors. Nothing can be done if the characters are not written well. Arun and Justin brilliantly shaped my character. All that was required for me was to transport what they wrote on screen.”

He admits that he wasn’t familiar with Tovino before the film. “It is not necessary that actors in a film should be acquainted with each other. I would like to think that they are our co-passengers during the making of a film. They have a dream just like we have.” The minute Tovino slipped into the superhero suit, he looked every inch a superhero. Guru was very impressed by his co-star’s dedication— “He really takes care of his body and that is important as the body is an actor's biggest tool. He does work out daily, follows a strict diet, and is very careful about his calorie intake.” Along with that Tovino also had to focus on his acting. Guru observes that Tovino is someone who wants to give his best shot and makes sure he brings out the best version of himself for the audience. “But that was a sentiment shared by everyone in that team. We really bonded as a team and thoroughly enjoyed the shooting process. I'm proud to have acted with Tovino.”

It is not possible to gauge the mind of every human being we meet. In school, you see children who are considered troublemakers—the ones who regularly pick up fights. But do we really try to understand what caused them to do so? When we are mocking and dismissing a child like that, we are not really thinking about how it will affect his future or his interactions with society. Society will be too happy to pull him down. Shibu, Guru maintains is someone like that. “He was abandoned in childhood and raised without any affection or care. Shibu has justifications for everything he does. It’s not like he is going on a random killing spree. When he very sweetly asks her brother if he will let her marry him, he is shooed away and mocked for having an insane mother. But when the rich Keshavan asks for the same, Dasan not only willingly accepts it but also emotionally blackmails Usha to say yes to him. This society would rather accept a Dasan and reject a Shibu.”

Guru thinks there is very little awareness about mental health in our society. Everyone would rather build a perfect body and therefore you see the mushrooming of health clubs and gyms, but no one talks about mental health. “The mind is very important. What we need is a change of perception, a need to empathize with those who are having a mental illness. Everyone was too busy blaming Shibu without understanding his trauma.”

According to the actor, movie characters can be divided into three types—the boss, the middleman, and the worker. If you are a king, you are the boss, the minister is the middleman, and the help is the worker. “I make sure I don’t do these three types of characters over and over again. After 'Aranyakandam,' everyone asked where my moustache and sideburns had disappeared. After Joker, I received a lot of similar characters, so I had to turn them down. I do not like doing the same characters. One of the greatest challenges for an actor is to not keep repeating himself.”

Guru is excited about being part of Mohanlal’s debut directorial—'Barroz.' “I am a huge fan and am eagerly waiting to hear him call the shots.”

A huge movie buff, cinema used to feature prominently in his childhood memories. He has learned acting from watching films. It was his love for cinema that led him to theatre and later to do small roles in cinema. Bearing that in mind, he considers himself blessed to be part of a film directed by someone whom he considers as an acting legend.

A mechanical engineer by profession, Guru worked for a while at TVS. “I get bored easily. Can’t keep doing the same kind of work.” That’s one reason why he joined the Chennai theatre group Koothu Pattare in 2001. After collaborating with them for ten years, he debuted in cinema with 'Aranyakandam'. But he hasn’t left theatre altogether. “Whenever I get bored with cinema, I do theatre.”

Guru wants to act in more Malayalam films. His next film in Malayalam is 'Chattambi,' in which he shares the screen with Srinath Bhasi, Chemban Vinod, and Grace Antony. 'Barroz' comes later. “I want to play different characters in Malayalam. I never expected such reactions or compliments to ''Minnal Murali' in my wildest dreams. Things have changed for the good. I feel super happy, and I am really thankful to the Malayalees for all the love,” smiles Guru. 

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.