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Updated: September 5, 2012 20:37 IST

Accent on characters

Saraswathy Nagarajan
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Actor Nandulal. Photo: Special Arrangement
The Hindu
Actor Nandulal. Photo: Special Arrangement

Actor Nandulal Krishnamoorthy has found his space in tinselville post his spirited performance in Spirit. He plays an important role in Ozhimuri, which releases tomorrow

Nandulal Krishnamoorthy is one of those talented actors who has been an indispensable presence in Mollywood for long. For many years he was on the sidelines of star-driven cinema in Malayalam. But his unmistakable talent has helped him leave an impression in scores of films in spite of the short life of his characters on screen.

He will soon appear in yet another key role in Madhupal’s film Ozhimuri, which releases on Friday.

“The movie is set in Kanyakumari district, once a part of erstwhile Travancore. So the dialect of the characters had to be in tune with the Malayalam spoken in those places. Fortunately, since I happen to speak with a strong dose of Trivandrum Malayalam, I did not have problems during the dubbing,” says Nandu, breaking into a laugh.

Nandu adds that he hails from Alappuzha but was born and brought up in Thiruvananthapuram.

“A good majority of those living in the capital city do not belong to Thiruvananthapuram. Many of them hail from other places. So the actual dialect of the city has been diluted over the years. Not many speak the old Malayalam that was prevalent in the southern regions of erstwhile Travancore,” he explains.

Although it was his realistic, hard-hitting portrayal of Manian, a drunkard, in Ranjith’s Spirit that caught the attention of cineastes this year, Nandu was cast in Ozhimuri much before the shooting of Spirit began. Madhupal had told him that he had to lose weight and get rid of his paunch and also tan a little before he could essay his character in his movie.

“Immediately I became a teetotaller and vegetarian and lost 15 kg in 100 days. So by the time Ranjith gave me the role in Spirit, I was thin as a rake and just right to play Manian,” says Nandu.

In Ozhimuri, Nandu plays Appi, who is the central character Lal’s childhood friend, companion and ‘karyastan’.

“Lal ettan plays Thanu Pillai. He, Mallika, Asif Ali and Bavana, who play the lead characters in the film, are not natives of the capital city and so they had to put in a huge effort while giving voice to their characters. Lal ettan was particular that there be some one from Thiruvananthapuram to help him get the nuances and dialect right. More than 60 actors in the film, some of them debutants, are people who are familiar with the language of the region,” says Nandu, speaking on the phone from Kochi, where he is shooting for Housefull, in which Tiny Tim plays the lead of a police officer called Anandan, who has quadruplets.

Nandu enacts Poonkunju, a policeman who is Anandan’s friend through thick and thin.

This year has been an exceptionally good one for this natural actor who seems to live his characters.

The sleeper hit Beautiful gave a new lease for Nandu, the actor, who has been in tinselville since 1985. “I was all set to direct a film written by Anoop Menon and had already talked to Dileep about it. Renjith was supposed to produce it. That was when Anoop called me and told me about this character Kamalu, the hero’s help and confidante in V.K. Prakash’s movie Beautiful. He told me that I would not be able to direct a film for the next five or 10 years once I did this character,” recalls Nandu. He essayed the sarcastic, acerbic Kamalu and was soon riding a wave of popularity, more than two decades after he made his debut in the late Venu Nagavalli’s film Sarvakalashala.

“I used to stay in the same locality as Venu chettan and M.G. Radhakrishnan. Radhakrishnan chettan’s residence was an open house that was frequented by many youngsters in those days. I used to sing in choruses and so on. That was when Rajasekharan, a friend of mine, requested Radhakrishan chettan to give me a role in a movie. He spoke to Priyadarsan who readily cast him in Cheppu in 1985. But objections at home prevented me from taking up that generous offer,” recalls Nandu.

However, he got his break as an actor and also evolved into assistant director and associate director under the guidance of Venu Nagavalli.

In the meantime, his role in auteur Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Naalu Pennungal made him the choice of directors like T.V. Chandran, Shaji N. Karun and Ranjith. Nandu enacted a gluttonous, reluctant bridegroom opposite Geethu Mohandas in Naalu Pennungal.

“I am always thankful to Adoor sir for that role in his film. Being part of that film and working with Adoor sir remains an unforgettable experience. Many feel that Adoor sir is very strict and aloof on his sets. On the contrary, he is very jovial and goes out of his way to make us feel at home. It was that role that what made me noticed. I acted in three of Chandran sir’s films and in Shaji’s sir’s Kutty Srank. I played Vishnu, Saikumar’s son in the movie,” says Nandu.

“An actor’s space and significance is completely defined by the director and his vision of his movie. An actor can only work within that parameter. I always try to give my best to all my characters, irrespective of the length of the role. For instance, until I saw Spirit in the theatre, I had no clue that Manian played such a pivotal role in the movie. That came as a pleasant surprise,” he adds.

Now that his professional life is beautiful, he plans to postpone his dreams of his directorial debut for some time.

His upcoming movies are 916, Trivandrum Lodge and Thompson Villa.

Cinema in his genes

“My father, Krishnamoorthy, was active in Tamil cinema from 1938-45. Making his debut as a child actor, he went on to act as the hero and second hero in Tamil movies. My mother, Sukumari, was a musician who also taught for a while in Stella Marris in Chennai. Both my parents were good singers and I must have inherited that skill from them. After my father left movies he worked as a table tennis coach,” says Nandu.

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