Vinayakan is one actor with a tremendous recall. He says that he loves the space he has created for himself

There is an extremely familiar face in the official trailer of Bharat Bala’s Dhanush-starrer Mariyan. It is that menacing face, well-known to cinema-goers in Kerala and with a dedicated fan following to boast of. Vinayakan laughs very little, even the odd smile takes time coming. The one time the smile comes spontaneously is when he is told of a fan that came all the way from Kasaragod to Kochi to see him in a Ram Gopal Varma film. He is publicity shy, he says. He would rather that people see him in films. People are very curious about him even now because there is very little of him for public consumption.

New role

Of his role in Mariyan, he says, “I initially refused the role. But I guess I was destined to get it because Bharat Bala met me and told me he wanted me for the role.” The film is due for release later this month. He ruffles his oiled, tamed, curly hair and says, “This is my Mariyan look.” It comes as a surprise seeing him in a white kurta- crisply starched kaavi (ochre) mundu combination. “This is media look.” It keeps expenses down, “nobody can tell the difference.”

His is the kind of story that defies logic, more the stuff of films. He has never had a full length role, in the conventional sense of the term, in a film. Yet he and his characters have immense recall. His menacing killer in Amal Neerad’s Big B, for instance, is one such. His extremely small roles have over the years evolved in terms of size. Amal, his long-time friend, is said to have commented that Vinyakan has international appeal. Vinayakan shrugs as he takes in the compliment, which he may have heard before, and says, “I don’t know…maybe.”

In Amal’s Bachelor Party, released last year, Vinayakan had a considerable role. He will next be seen in Anwar Rasheed’s part of the ensemble film 5 Sundarigal. With Anwar’s film, he says, he wants to be identified with the new wave in cinema.

“Like everything else, cinema too is cyclical. Our cinema is getting to a good place, we are shattering old stereotypes…the frame kind of cinema where all the characters stand facing the camera as if posing for a picture. Now there is freedom from all that and I want to be part of the new generation of films.” He seems to be enjoying this new space in cinema for actors irrespective of star status. He abhors cliques and says he does not believe in aligning to any set of filmmakers. What about the ‘Maharaja’s group’? “If it is so then I should be in every film of theirs. I should have been there in Anwar. We have been friends a long time.”

He has had roles in films such as Vellithira, Sagar Alias Jackey Reloaded, Chotta Mumbai, Best Actor, Daddy Cool, Chathikatha Chanthu, Chintamani Kolacase. But none of those has been considerable and his target is that “mainstream role.” He may have dedicated fans but he is itching for that elusive role which he is confident will come.

Believer in cinema

In the 90s he made a name for himself as a dancer, his troupe was called ‘Black Mercury’. ‘Fire dance’ was his specialty. That today is another place in time for him. He landed small roles in Thampi Kannathanam’s Manthrikam and Onnaman. “These films and a third, Stop Violence, define my evolution in this industry. Manthrikam – magical – it was like magic how I, with no previous acting plans came in a movie. Then Onnaman, the first one, it gave me a sense that I wanted to be the first in what I do. And Stop Violence – that I fight it out and make a go of my career.”

He is grateful to Thampi Kannathanam for the ‘break’, after seven years of Manthrikam, in Onnaman. The ‘break’ was a high speed shot as he jumps a wall in a stunt sequence. “That sequence was a blessing for me.” It is an opportunity, Vinayakan believes, that changed the course of his life.

He is a believer in cinema, in films that entertain. He reveals a bit of where he comes from when he says, “I come from a very dark place. I don’t want that in films. Films should entertain, not pull the audience down into darkness.”

Therefore he wants to be a superhero, and be different superheroes in his next 10 films. “Why? There can be so many different kinds of superheroes.” And an underdog, invariably, makes a good superhero.