Being Michael Appan’s Sivankutty: Abu Salim Interview

Abu Salim Mammootty
Abu Salim's character of Sivankutty has a very prominent role in the movie.

Malayalees have a special fondness for Abu Salim. He has been a silent presence in Malayalam cinema for the last 40 years. Though he won the Mr India title, Abu Salim always wanted to be an actor. For someone who has been part of big and small roles in Malayalam cinema, being part of an Amal Neerad-Mammootty film was like a dream come true. Along with the obvious thrill of acting with his favourite actor, he is also ecstatic to be in an Amal Neerad film. He has several interesting films up his sleeve, including Shaji Kailas’s ‘Kaduva’ and ‘Power Star’. This gentle giant quotes the famous dialogue from Nadodikattu— “Dasa, everything happens during the right time.”

Bheeshma Parvam is mass and class

Amal Neerad and Mammukka are reuniting after 15 years with ‘Bheeshma Parvam.’ Naturally, it was also the most awaited film this year. Thankfully, the film managed to succeed beyond our expectations. I was dying to act in an Amal Neerad film for a long time. He had told me that he had kept a good role for me. Two months before the shoot, Amal called and told me to grow my hair and beard for the role— “Abukka, we will figure out the rest once you come to the sets.”

So I started growing my beard and hair for the film. But they couldn’t start the film on schedule due to Covid. And it took two more months for the film to start. When I went to the location he told me—“I don’t need to make any more alterations to your look. Sivankutty is standing in front of me.” I realised my character’s prominence only after the shoot was over. I saw the film in theatres and undoubtedly, it’s the best role of my career. All thanks to Amal.

‘Bheeshma Parvam’ promises to provide new energy to the theatres in Kerala. Thankfully theatres were allowed 100% seating capacity and we could see enough rush in theatres. I think the film received unanimously positive opinion. If you have noticed, every character, big or small has prominence in this film. The story begins with a voiceover narration of an auto driver. Mammookka completely transforms into Michael appan be it in his body language or dialogue delivery. The shoot was at Ezhupunna house. Every actor would byheart their dialogues and deliver correctly. Since it was spot dubbing, we were all extremely careful. The film has been widely accepted by the audience.

Michael appan’s Sivankutty

I have been acting with Mammukka since 1992 and we share a bond that goes beyond the screen. We do keep in touch even when we are not doing films. I have done several positive and negative characters in his films. This role is similar to ‘Prajapathy’s Katti. But what makes this character different is that I am not involved in any action scenes and remain Mammukka’s constant companion throughout the film.

Sivankutty is able to understand Michael’s orders just by looking at his body language and facial expressions. Right from the first scene, the director shows us the influence Sivankutty has in Michael’s life. When he loses Sivankutty, Michael’s fury is uncontrollable, and he goes out of his way to avenge his death. Am so happy that I was able to do a character like that. I think I was able to do my character very naturally and it's all thanks to Amal sir. Mammukka’s suggestions also helped in elevating the character. So am super happy that I was able to do my job well.

A film that satisfies all

This is one film that will satisfy every kind of audience, young or old. Youngsters will be able to connect to Sreenath Bhasi’s track and the Parudeesa song. Be it Soubin Shahir’s Ajas who is a quiet family man, Shine Tom Chacko’s villainish Peter, or Dileesh Pothan’s devious MP role, they were all fabulous in their roles. There is comedy, emotions, politics, mass, and class. It was poignant to watch KPAC Lalitha chechi and Nedumudi Venu on screen. Full credit to Amal Neerad. This is my first film with him, and it has been a fabulous experience.

Reactions were overwhelming

I don’t remember the last time I received so much appreciation for a film. I am getting appreciative calls from colleagues, filmmakers, technicians, and relatives about my performance in the film. ‘Bheeshma Parvam’s success has energized the film industry. I watched the film in a theatre at Mukkam and the theatre owners welcomes me warmly. Theatre owners are ecstatic. It’s quite an experience to watch a film amidst so much cheering and whistling. Cinema is a source of income for so many people. From theatre owners, producers to spot boys and those selling snacks at theatres, such a crowd-pulling film was the need of the hour. Of course, I am happy to do any kind of role, but Sivankutty will always be special. With God’s grace more such roles will come my way.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is my role model

It was after Vikram’s invitation that Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Chennai for the audio launch of 'I'. Vikram called and informed me about his arrival. That’s how I went to meet him, and it was the greatest day of my life. A dream come true. I was able to meet, talk and take photos with him. He is my role model. I got interested in bodybuilding after reading his book, ‘Encyclopedia of Body Building. That helped me in winning titles like Mr Calicut, Mr Kerala, Mr South India and Mr India. I followed his training methods. It was my childhood dream to meet him. So you can imagine my excitement!

80s time

I named our hotel 1980s Tea shop in memory of the 1980s era. My son Sanu Salim runs the hotel, and it is running well. We are also planning a branch in Ernakulam. Sanu is also interested in movies and has also acted in a couple of films. He is doing a role in Tovino’s ‘Thallumala’. Though he is concentrating on business, he is not averse to doing films if something interesting comes up.

New releases

There is Alphonse Puthren’s ‘Gold’, Joju George’s ‘Pulimada’, 'Kaduva' etc. I just finished shooting for ‘Kaduva’. There are films that got postponed due to Covid. Omar Lulu's ‘Power Star’ is about to start. Babu Antony, me, Babu Raj, and Riyaz Khan play lead characters. Priyan sir’s sports movie is coming up and I need to work on my body for the role. Hoping to get good characters and films. As I said it’s all about the correct time.


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