Villains need not be loud always: Shabeer Kallarakkal on 'King of Kotha' role

Shabeer Kallarakkal says he is always willing to go the extra mile for his character. Photo: Instagram | @sbk_shuhaib

Shabeer Kallarakkal, the actor who played Kannan, the friend-turned-foe in Dulquer Salmaan's 'King of Kotha' considers himself fortunate that he was part of a humongous project. The actor speaks about working with his co-stars, the recognition he received post playing Dancing Rose in 'Sarpatta Parambarai' and how he views the degrading that affected 'King of Kotha' at the box office.


Interview excerpts

Q. How do you see the response to 'King of Kotha', which was a big-budget project?

A. All of us are okay with negative comments, but no one is ever happy with degrading. And that is something that happened to the film. Targeting someone or a film is not fair. People have freedom of opinion but here it felt like a personal attack against Dulquer Salmaan. No film is flawless but when a film is a blockbuster, you overlook those flaws. When a project does not get good reviews, even the minute things are analysed and portrayed as big flaws. Nevertheless, I am happy I was part of a very good movie. The best thing about film is that you can relearn every time.

Q. What made you say 'yes' to the project? Were you excited about working with actors whose fathers are legends in the industry?

A. Honestly, more than names, it was the storyline narrated to me by Abhilash N Chandran that made me say 'yes' to the project. After I said 'yes', I learned Dulquer Salmaan and Gokul Suresh were also part of the project. I was impressed. But I am not someone who gets carried away by big names. However, what surprised me was their humility. DQ was always discussing themes with me and kept asking me whether the scenes were comfortable for me. That gave me a sense of belonging in the industry, though it was my debut work in Mollywood. The experience at the 'King of Kotha' sets took me back to my theatre days. Gokul Suresh is extremely down-to-earth. He always has this excitement around him. I knew about DQ's work but this was the first time I was seeing Gokul perform and I loved how he played his character. Abhilash Joshiy, the director, also had no airs around him though he is veteran filmmaker Joshiy sir's son.

Q. Your character Dancing Rose in 'Sarpatta Parambarai' gave you a lot of recognition. Did you expect that?

A. I never expected Dancing Rose would get the recognition it got. I only got onboard 'Sarpatta Parambarai' 10 days before the film wrapped up. In fact, I lost another movie when I signed up for the film. The other filmmakers were not happy when they learned that I had signed up for this film and they dropped me from the project. I just got a random message, not even a phone call. I was playing the main villain in that movie. That upset me and I used my entire energy for 'Sarpatta Parambarai'. When I joined the project, I didn't know anything about my character. Luckily, I was already quite trained for my role as a boxer.

Q. There seemed to be real chemistry between you and Dulquer Salmaan?

A. Yes, we had a good rapport. There was a lot of give and take. We discussed even the smallest nuances in the film, like a look and a dialogue and all that. I still have goosebumps when I replay the climax dialogue about his affection for me. I think the scenes came out well because of our chemistry.

Q. How do you see your journey from Dancing Rose to Kannan in 'King of Kotha'?

A. 'King of Kotha' was a big movie. I know that a lot of filmmakers wanted to cast me but were not sure if I could carry certain roles on my shoulders. In that way, 'King of Kotha' helped me prove myself. The results are not in our hands; they are variables.

Q. I heard you removed your tooth for the film?

A. Yes. If you ask me to do that now, probably I would not, but then I felt it was important for my character. My friends say, 'Macha, you will now cut your hands and legs for the role.' (laughs). I won't do that, of course, but yeah, I am willing to go the extra mile to do justice to my character. I know there are a lot of people who are more talented, more good looking and who can do better work than me. But I was given this opportunity, so I do what's best for my character. I come from a humble background, so I need to put in some work. I know there is space for me in this industry if I put in effort. I didn't know football, but I would practise every night after 10pm after I came to know about the role in 'King of Kotha'.

It helps if you know what you are doing. I was able to give some extra quirks to my character Dancing Rose since I had received some training. An actor always has to be prepared to do any role. I am grateful for all the opportunities that come my way.

Q. Are you open to do more Malayalam films?

A. Yes, I have already committed to a big project, though I can't reveal much now. The film ('King of Kotha') might have received some negative reviews, but that is no reason for me to stop doing Malayalam films. Reviewers will comment and move on with their lives. You would be a fool to hold on to that. If there is any truth to what they have told, I will try to improve upon it.

Q. What was the biggest criticism you received for your character in 'King of Kotha'?

A. Some people felt I was not strong enough to play a villain. I consciously decided I wouldn't be the loud villain. I know people who are subtle and sly in real life but they can be really dangerous. I tried to incorporate such a villain for my role in 'King of Kotha'. Villains don't always need to be loud. I will be playing a loud villain in my next Kannada film.

Q. Are you open to do more negative characters?

A. My most negative character is yet to come. In 'King of Kotha' I played a layered character with grey shades. I like playing people with grey shades and that's how people really are. Even though I play negative characters, I make sure people feel for me. I did that with 'King of Kotha' and 'Sarpatta Parambarai'.

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