Vinay Fortt, the actor who took his baby steps into Mollywood with Shyamaprasad’s Rithu is now taking long strides with Shutter

When Shyamaprasad’s Rithu hit the screens three years ago, a face that appeared in just about three scenes captured instant attention. For a film that celebrated new acting talent, it was no small feat and the character Jamal turned out to be the one big step for Vinay Forrt who had just graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.

Awaiting the commercial release of Shutter, the critically acclaimed feature debut of playwright Joy Mathew, Vinay Forrt has turned over a new leaf. Playing the rustic Nanmayil Suran, a naïve and innocent autorickshaw driver in Kozhikode, was way out of his comfort zone. A contemporary dancer, he had so far essayed only characters closer to his realities as an urban middle class youth. “Shutter will be the film I will screen with pride for my FTII friends and those who shows interest in my work,” Vinay says, taking a break from a promo shoot for the film in Kozhikode.

A different world

“You know, I was a cartoon-loving, Jacky Chan-savvy kid of Fort Kochi until the theatre bug bit me in Class four,” he says. “Those days we did not have many avenues to showcase our creative talent in Fort Kochi. A neighbour took me to a children’s camp by Balasangham, called ‘Onapparavakal.’ It opened a completely different world to me. We travelled across Kochi, performing plays and entertaining people all through my school days. Those were the best moments of my life.”

Vinay says he wanted to join the School of Drama after pre-degree but his father, M.V. Mony, who worked for the BSNL, and mother, Sujatha, suggested he complete graduation before taking up acting as a course.

It was only natural that Vinay joined ‘Lokadharmi,one of the prominent theatre groups in Kerala, during his undergraduate days. Apart from performing, the troupe conducted weekend classes for its members in Kalari, Yoga, and traditional artforms. Vinay received a Central government scholarship for the Best Senior Theatre Actor in 2004-06. He decided to save whatever he could to pursue his ‘acting dream’. Days of struggle followed. He took up many jobs. “I was a medical shop salesman, a waiter at Art Café, an event manager…,” Vinay says. Finally he joined a call centre while pursuing a postgraduate degree in Economics privately.

“Life became too hectic with late-night shifts, drama rehearsals, and studies. I was wondering where I was headed. I almost decided I would end up working in some private company once my drama days were over,” Vinay looks back.

But his date with filmdom was only about to begin. At an acting workshop in Kochi. Chandramohan Nair, the former head of the Acting Department, FTII, saw him perform at the camp and pursued Vinay to join FTII.

“Till then, I had no intention to work in movies, theatre was my world,” he says. Vinay was ranked among the top three in the entrance procedure for the acting batch of 2007-2009. He was the only Malayali, the only South Indian for that matter.

“FTII was simply overwhelming. The experience of looking at cinema in a nuanced manner, interactions with artistes and filmmakers known the world over, and a pan-Indian student representation, it was truly life-changing for a small-town candidate like me.”

Stepping stone

It was a short while before his course ended that Nishan, his senior and one of the lead actors in Rithu, told him that the casting for the film was still on. “I met Shyamaprasad and auditioned for the role. I was sceptical about my part because as an FTII product I had lofty ideals about acting – I aspired to become a Naseeruddin Shah or Om Puri from the word go!” he laughs.

Apooravaragam (2010) by Sibi Malayil was his next break. “People still come up to me and talk about the villainous Narayanan,” Vinay says.

Vinay invested almost a year and a half in Shutter. “It was cinematographer Hari Nair who stood his ground and insisted I be given Nanmayil Suran. I auditioned three times for the role as almost every other person on the sets was doubtful whether my looks and mannerisms would be apt for it. But when the shooting began, everyone was happy,” beams Vinay.

“I do not nurture huge dreams of becoming a star. I want to learn acting a lot more, and may be, at some point of time, I might do a film on my own. I was the only one in my batch to come back to my hometown after FTII. All the others are in Mumbai. The thing is, I want to be near my family. My parents have always supported my choices. My mom has been a pillar of strength and still I look to her in times of trials.” Truly rooted, one should conclude, or why would a youth of the present generation name his film persona ‘Vinay Forrt’ as a tribute to Fort Kochi?

Varied roles

Rithu became the right launching pad and saw him taking up varied roles in films, including Veettilekkulla Vazhi, Kanakkombath, Navagatharkku Swagatham, Apoorvaragam, Prabhuvinte Makkal, Theevram, and Da Thadiya, to mention a few. He has also acted in Chatak, a Hindi film by Reema Borah and Blueberry Hunt in English by Anup Kurian, which has Naseeruddin Shah in the lead. Jinu G. Daniel’s Rasputin is his next venture where he plays the lead.