Actor Saiju Kurup on being back in the reckoning in Mollywood

Actor Saiju Kurup needs to finish shooting his scenes for director Arun Kumar Aravind’s Left Right Left at least by 5.30 p.m. to catch an evening flight from the city to Kochi. Then, it’s a four-hour drive to Kozhikode, where, at midnight, he has to report for the shooting of director Salaam Bapu’s Red Wine. “It’s the first time in my career that I’ve had to rush from one set to another!” says Saiju, excitedly.

“After seven-odd years in the industry and countless bit roles, I’m finally in a position where I can choose films, where I can call the shots about my own career!” adds the actor who debuted in Mollywood with Mayookham (2005), directed by Hariharan. Saiju has got this fresh lease on life in Mollywood – what he calls his “second innings” – thanks to a standout act as a libertine cinema journalist named Shibu Vellayani in director V. K. Prakash’s (VKP) Trivandrum Lodge.

“The first thing that VKP asked me was: ‘Can you play the role of a flirt?’ I was excited and at the same time apprehensive, because all these years I had been only doing roles with shades of grey or sophisticated roles. This character is among the lowest of the low. Would I be able to pull it off convincingly? I am a director’s actor through and through and I had complete faith in VKP, with whom I had worked with earlier in Karmayogi and a couple of national ads too. I also had faith in the character written by Anoop Menon,” says Saiju.

The 33-year-old actor has also recently turned scriptwriter with My Fan Ramu, in which he stars along with his Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) Kerala Strikers teammate actor Rajeev Pillai, and is directed by another teammate and buddy, singer-actor Nikhil K. Menon.

Turning to scriptwriting was “as much serendipitous as turning actor”, says Saiju, who grew up in Nagpur. He’s presently settled in Kochi with wife, Anupa, and seven-year-old daughter, Mayookha. “I was never interested in acting, after all I don’t have the conventional looks for an actor, what with my beak nose and huge round eyes! I actually have an undergraduate degree in mining engineering and was working with Airtel here in the city in its sales section when films beckoned,” says Saiju. His life changed the day he went to give a sales pitch to M.G. Sreekumar. The singer-composer, who had just returned from recording songs for Mayookham, asked him if he was interested in acting in the film. “I immediately agreed, though I didn’t know anything about acting or films, for that matter. Over the years I developed a passion for the movies,” says Saiju. Meanwhile, it was an offhand conversation with his CCL teammates that made him turn to scriptwriting. “We’re all good friends and we often chill out together. Once I happened to talk about how interesting it would be if a fan got to spend 10 days with a superstar. They all liked the concept and encouraged me to write the screenplay, saying that they were all game for it,” says Saiju.

Although, he seems quite at a loss by the less than enthusiastic response that My Fan Ramu received at the box office, he “chooses to think of it as a stepping stone” and is already working on his next script – a tale of four friends, to be directed by newcomer Anil Mathew and produced by Milan Jaleel. Of course, he’s also gearing up for the next edition of CCL, which is set to begin on February 8. “We’ve been practicing hard. This year we’ve got a really strong team,” says the actor. Saiju’s in for the long run in Mollywood, it seems.

Role call

Nowadays, apart from Left Right Left, where he plays a junkie and Red Wine, where he stars in a pivotal role as the friend of the lead character played by Fahadh Faasil, Saiju is also working on director Aji John’s Anoop Menon- Jayasurya-starrer Hotel California, in which he plays “a simpleton who is entrusted with a big task that he simply cannot do”. He’s also signed up for another Anoop-Jayasurya-starrer, 97 Batch Maharajas, to be directed by Basheer Muhammed. Then there’s the Tamil flick Aadhi Bhagavan (with Jeyam Ravi) that’s all set for release, for which he has dubbed his dialogues in Tamil and Hindi.