He has managed to break away from his chocolate boy image and dig into roles that challenge the actor in him. Kunchacko Boban has been on an experimental mode for the last few years and not surprisingly, it has paid off. In Kamal KM’s ‘Pada’ Kunchacko plays a character inspired from real life. Rajesh Kanjangadu is a firebrand activist who is part of the Ayyankali Pada, and he bears absolutely no resemblance to the actor. He played a fearless fighter who waged a war against the injustice meted out by the government against the minorities in the state. Today Kunchacko Boban is reaching out for newer avenues as an actor and no longer relishes the prospect of being pigeonholed as a safe actor in Malayalam cinema. He talks to Manorama online about the 'Pada' experience.
Trying to travel with different characters
‘Aniyathipravu’ was released in March 1997. Twenty-five years later when I am playing ‘Pada’s Rajesh Kanjangadu, I would like to think that I have grown and updated myself as an actor in every possible way. Or rather that process is still going on. Because it is impossible to see the naivety of Sudhi in Pada’s Rajesh Kanjangadu. It is easier to fall in love with Sudhi, as he is soft and introverted.
But Rajesh is a firebrand. He is impulsive, brave, and believes in fighting for a good cause. There is a lot of difference between Rajesh and Sudhi in looks, philosophy, attitude, and behaviour. Equally different are the themes handled by these two films. Therefore my journey towards embracing such diverse characters and films as an actor continues. I think I am on the right track now.
When the director gave me a book and not a script
When Kamal approached me for the role, he first hinted that this was a hostage drama based on a real-life incident. He said the film is based on an incident that took place in 1996 when a group of Ayyankali activists took the Palakkad collector hostage. The first question I asked was what a lot of people asked me during the time of this film’s release. “Am I playing the collector in this film?” was my question. When he said no, I immediately agreed to be part of the film.
Though I liked the story, since the film is based on a real-life incident, I had a few doubts and apprehensions as to how the story will be translated on screen. Instead of a script, he handed me a book, ‘Naxal Dinangal’ (Naxal Days). Once I read the book, I was able to consciously or subconsciously understand the character which in turn helped me to transform into the character. That book was a big help in preparing for the character.
When friendships helped the film
Not only are my co-actors in ‘Pada’ fabulous actors but are also my good friends. With the exception of Dileesh Pothan, I have acted with the rest. Be it Joju, Vinayakan or Indrans chettan. I had done a film with Vinayakan a few years back. I have also done quite a few films with Joju and Indrans chettan. Interestingly when it comes to Indrans chettan I have seen him doing comedy roles as well as superb character roles as a co-star.
I share a nice vibe with Dileesh Pothan. We have travelled together to an award function held in America and that has translated into a warm friendship. My friendships with my co-actors have really helped in ‘Pada.’ Most of the characters denote organic growth. When the audience says that they were able to see only the characters and not the actors on screen, that itself is a huge accomplishment.
When words meant the world
Before the film’s release, I hadn’t met the real fighters of the story. I met them when they came to watch the first show with us. I played a real-life character called Ramesh Kanjangadu on screen. I was thrilled to hear what he shared about the film with the media. He said he saw himself on screen. He especially pointed out the small details, like the way I held my bag for instance was exactly how he did in real life. When Ramesh Kanjangadu says that he saw himself on screen, that itself is a big award for me.
Behind the scenes fun times
One portion of ‘Pada’ was shot at MA Engineering college, Kothamangalam. Coincidentally the college is my wife’s alma mater. We had a lot of fun on the sets of ‘Pada’. We used to play cricket during our free time on the college ground. There was some dance and music too. One of our friends who studied in that college had also come to see the shooting. I had recently shared a dance video with his son which was so much fun.
The politics of ‘Pada’
When the real event happened which was in 1996, I was doing my degree second year. That was an age when I wasn’t really clued-up about politics or such social issues. For me, college life was about having fun, harmless flirting, and making friends. Life wasn’t really complicated then. Therefore I hadn’t really heard about this hostage drama back then. I realised much later as to what happened and also regarding the gravitas of the situation.
Adivasis constitute only a small percentage of the population in our state. They have been denied justice for years. This incident happened in 1996 and to date justice eludes them. That’s all we intended to tell through ‘Pada.’ If we are able to bring this incident to the government’s notice and some action is taken to give them justice through this film, that will be the biggest success of this film.