I believe in going against the tide: Asif Ali on life and career

Asif Ali (file photo)

It was Vineeth Sreenivasan who first told Asif Ali about Kunjeldho. Vineeth informed him that he was the film’s creative director and RJ Mathukutty who was making his directorial debut with the film will call him to narrate the story. Mathukutty came with a friend to narrate the story to Asif.

When they started the narration, Asif was hooked, he was fascinated by Kunjeldho. It was a beautiful meaty script. All this while, the friend was listening to the script intently, without saying a word. Finally, when they departed with the promise of doing the film, Mathukutty let out a secret—the friend was none other than Kunjeldo himself. “His story is my script.” Asif Ali was astounded.

“When you are making a film on a fictional story, you can use a lot of cinematic liberties. But then this was a different kettle of fish altogether We were talking about a real-life story, and we can’t really mess with its authenticity as most of the incidents have happened in real. But having said that one can’t call it a biopic too. Mathukutty’s cousin and classmate is the hero. This was an incident that happened when they were studying at UC College, Aluva. Mathukutty has been nursing the dream of directing a film for a long time. That’s why he wanted his first film to be based on a story that’s very familiar to him. The campus scenes were filmed at UC College. In fact, some of the scenes were even shot at the exact places where the real-life incident occurred. Mathukutty had so much clarity about how each and every scene should be shot. Though the film started as a campus story, it is also a family drama.”

Asif first heard the story when he was shooting for Kettyolanante Malakha. They decided to start the shoot immediately after the completion of KM. “It was a challenge to switch between Kettyolanante Malakha’s Sleevachan who was older than me and Kunjeldho who was in college. Both required entirely different body language. But I took up the challenge as there is a thrill in pushing the envelope as an actor.”

When your films are ready for release, you become active on social media. But quickly disappear soon after. When most actors are aggressively promoting themselves on social media 24.7, why are you taking this approach? Does it help?

That’s actually an issue for me. I am someone who rarely uses my phone. When I am shooting, I hardly touch my phone as it can be really distracting for me. I think it’s really my handicap that I am poor at social media promotion skills. So far, I haven’t been able to hire anyone to take care of my social media accounts. Currently, I am doing it all by myself.

Most of my film selections are based on the scripts they narrate me during shooting intervals. I don’t listen to a script on the phone. I have certain stipulations for debut directors. He/she should be someone who has worked in at least one of my films or someone who has proved his/her capability as a film’s Associate director. Most of them know how to narrate a story cleverly but it isn’t necessary that they are able to translate the story skillfully on screen. They might not be technically proficient. If we discover such facets a few hours before the shoot, that can be quite a mess. I have had such experiences.

Today young stars are also doing mass films to establish their stardom. But Asif seems to be taking a different path there?

True. I am not taking roles that pay obeisance to stardom. It’s also true that I am not getting approached for such roles. Somehow, I am being approached for characters similar to Govind in Uyare which was a career-high for me. Such characters are immensely satisfying for the actor in me. Not that I am averse to typical heroic roles but somehow the scripts that came my way weren’t solid enough.

Upcoming projects?

There is Rajeev Ravi’s Kuttavum Shikshayum, which is a police story. Sibi Malayil’s Kothu shooting is over. Currently, I am doing Jis Joy’s film. I am also doing Abrid Shine’s Mahaveeryar with Nivin Pauly. 

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