Actor, scriptwriter, and now lyricist. Anoop Menon has defied stereotypes to fit neatly into Mollywood

Anoop Menon has a lot to laugh about, the irony being that he actually “doesn't like to laugh!” In reality if anybody's entitled to laugh triumphantly, sardonically, or even self-righteously, it's him. For, in this age of sculpted, metrosexual six-packers, here is a chubby, hirsute, philosophy-spouting actor, someone who keeps it real. He has carved a niche for himself in Malayalam cinema, not only for his versatility and histrionic skills, but also as a scriptwriter, and now, a lyricist with V.K. Prakash's Beautiful, which released on Friday.

“I don't think I am conventional hero material at all, or even all that great an actor. I don't have – or will ever have – a six pack, because I don't want to spend my waking hours in a gym, and I certainly can't dance,” says Anoop, rather bemusedly. Nevertheless, he is living his “dream” of being a hero....

Passion for cinema

“Yes, I've always wanted to be a hero. While I was in school (Christ Nagar) and when I was studying law (from Government Law College, in the city), there was this abiding passion to be in cinema. But this passion was prompted rather than innate, and owes a lot to my love for literature, for which I have to thank my father, Gangadharan, and his extensive home library. Right from childhood onwards, I used to love reading books such as Moby Dick, Treasure Island, and Jude the Obscure, tales of Greek mythology, and so on. Whenever I read, I'd visualise myself as the protagonists, heroes and villains alike, and try to imagine their characteristics. That's how I developed my visual sense and realised that my future lay in cinema,” recalls the actor.

His parents never objected to their studious only child, a gold medallist in law from Kerala University, chucking it all away for an unsteady future in cinema?

“Not at all. They are very supportive of whatever I do. My mother, Indira, is the one who keeps me grounded. My father and I live in Utopia, and it is she who brings us down to earth. Once I even had this wild idea that it would be great to live in a car, a Maruti Omni, to be precise! She's the one who makes me see reason amid all this unbridled imagination,” says the 34-year-old.

In his early 20s, Anoop, a native of Kozhikode, who is settled in the city, found himself as the darling of serial watchers when he appeared as the hero in hit soaps Swapnam (directed by K.K. Rajeev) and Megham (directed by Saji Surendran). Anoop also fronted Subhadinam, an early morning talk show on Kairali TV where he got to interview and “pick the brains of” over 300 celebrities such as former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Into Mollywood

The actor's journey from the small screen to the big screen was relatively easy and Anoop remains one of the few, television stars in Malayalam to have met with reel success. His break came in 2002 when he was cast by director Vinayan in Kattuchembakam. And from then on the offers just kept on rolling. Anoop, who claims that he “goes by instinct and doesn't find any difference between commercial and box-office cinema,” has nonetheless starred in some of the most talked about films of the recent past such as Thirakkatha, Kerala Cafe, Cocktail, Traffic and Pranayam, to name a few. Then in 2008 he branched into scriptwriting with Pakal Nakshatrangal, and has since scripted Anubhav (a Hindi film), Cocktail, Lavender (filming) and now, Beautiful.

In his case – quoting an Anoop favourite, from Paulo Coelho's The Alcemist – it does seem that: ‘When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.' So does this mean that someday (hopefully soon) we'll get to see a film directed by him? “I'm a completely stress free person, who is contented with my lot in life. And that's probably because I'm happily unmarried and don't have to deal with the daily grind. I think that being a director is like getting married; it comes with too many responsibilities that I'm just not ready to take on.”

And here we were thinking that he'll get married soon… “Don't get me wrong, marriage is a beautiful institution and I have the utmost respect and awe for those couples who take it upon themselves to stick it out through thick and thin. At present I'm just not pathologically capable of it! But then again, never say never,” says the actor, with a rather enigmatic smile.

Penning lyrics

Anoop says his debut as a lyricist was quite accidental. “On the second day of the shooting of Beautiful, music director Rateesh Vega, actor Jayasurya, and I were chilling out in Rateesh's car, when he asked me to pen some lines to try out a tune he'd composed for the film. The result is Mazhaneer Thullikal...,” says the actor. “Come to think of it, my entry into films, and everything thereafter, was also accidental. One day Vinayan sir called me and asked me if I'd like to act in a film. Similarly, the script for Pakal Nakshatrangal was born after a trip to Russia. It is based on the story of Petrovina, a local resident that Zeenath Aman (who plays his mother in Moksham) and I met while on our long walks through snow-covered streets. When I recounted the tale to director Rajeev Nath, he persuaded me to write the film!”

My FAVOURITE

FILMS: Shawshank Redemption, Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare, Nayakan, 3 Idiots, Bridges of Madison County

DIRECTORS: David Lean, Ranjith, K. Balachander, Emir Kusturica, Farhan Akhtar

BOOKS: The Brothers Karamazov (by Fyodor Dostoevsky), Kazhakinte Ithihaasam (O.V. Vijayan), One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), Aarohanam (VKN), Maximum City ( Suketu Mehta)

Keywords: Anoop Menon