Kunjikrishnan Mashu is still in a state of shock. He is trying to process the overwhelmingly positive feedback his Magistrate character received for ‘Nna Thaan Case Kodu’ along with the film’s hero Kunchacko Boban. The actor who hails from Cheruvathur, is a teacher in real life. Not just that he is also the favourite Panchayath member for the people of Padanna Panchayath’s 9th ward in Kasaragod. This Hindi teacher is witty and popular in real life.
No one is going to believe you when you say that you haven’t seen a court in real life...
That's true. I have never been to a court. After I was finalized for the role, director Rathish Poduval and others told me to visit a court and get a hang of things. But I didn’t go. So my first entry into court was in the role of a Judge for the film. I haven’t played the role of a judge on stage (theatre) also. And I haven’t seen any court scenes than the ones shown in films.
Before shooting we would all sit together and discuss the scenes as well as how to behave. Since we were given enough freedom to improvise, there was no pressure. And since we had to talk in the Kasaragod dialect that helped.
Were you aware that you had such an important role in the film?
Not really. I thought I had a small role. Clearly, the director took a big risk. He trusted me. I still can’t believe it. We all enjoyed shooting the court scenes, including the humour that was played out. Kunjikrishna Panicker, the actor who played the role of SI in the film is a Theyyam artist in real life.
How did you reach the cinema?
It was actor Unniraj who told me about the casting call. But I told him I wasn’t going to act in films. But Unni persisted and said he saw my theatre performance and that what I had was something special. That was how it all began. We have a cow farm at home. I sent two pictures—one in which I was standing on the farm and the second one was taken when I won the elections the previous year. Later casting director Rajesh Madhavan called me. There were four people and they said they will meet me at Cheruvathoor. Honestly, I wouldn’t have gone if the meeting was fixed at a faraway location. I knew no one. After a brief conversation, we parted ways. They said they will get back to me. Later they called and asked me to come to Kayyoor’s rehearsal camp.
You debuted in cinema at the age of 57. Were you tense before the first take?
The little experience I had in theatre helped. Besides, it was a great team, and they were very encouraging. The director Ratheesh Pothuval and Kunchacko Boban were also very helpful. I debuted on stage under the banner of Mayoora Theatres in my hometown. Most of them were street plays. Stage plays would be a yearly occurrence. After every shot, Rajesh Madhavan would give me a thumbs-up sign. That was a great positive energy for me.
You were a Hindi teacher and now you are also a Panchayath member
I was a teacher at Udinoor Central AUP school. I retired in 2020. I contested the Local body elections in the Padanna panchayath and won. Even the students I taught during my early days are calling me now. Most of them are settled abroad.
After the film, did the teacher become a star?
“Mashe, you are amazing. You are a different level altogether”—are some of the comments I am hearing. Initially, I didn’t take these compliments seriously. I thought they were just being kind. But then I got appreciative calls from writer Benyamin and actor Unni Mukundan. I went to watch the film accompanied by my wife Saraswathi, elder son Sarang and people in my hometown. My younger son Azad is a student. I didn’t really detail anyone about my role. Most of them came to know after seeing the teaser and trailer. They were surprised that I was acting in a film. There are people from my town who act in small roles in films. They perhaps thought my role would only be there as much as it was there in the trailer and teaser. But they were happy when they saw the film. No one expected that I would have this much screen time. Discussions are currently underway regarding new projects.