Sudipto Balav is South India's latest ‘darling' villain. He believes it is the power of analysing the character that has earned him the villainous roles
Where are you from?” Sudipto Balav good naturedly asks me, and I say, “Calicut”. “What biryani yaar!” comes the instant reply. His smile widens into a grin and an excited exchange of words in genuine appreciation of Malabari cuisine ensues. For a Bengali settled in Mumbai, Sudipto is uncannily up-to-date on the best eateries along the length and breadth of Kerala, the ‘naadan' toddy shops included.
Interestingly, South India's latest “darling” villain seems to have a heart as large as his waistline. Even as he makes you laugh with his repartees, he slips into the philosophical more than once, thanking destiny and luck for his overnight success in films. “I am not living in a bubble, I know I am a commodity ruled by a Friday,” he says. As Freddy Honai in ‘2 Hariharnagar', he infused new life into the evil machinations of the character's father, John Honai, played by Risabava, in the film's prequel ‘In Hariharnagar'. “I signed the film without knowing that I was to play the villain.”
Sudipto was “zapped” when director Lal described the role. As the host of MTV Bakra, all that Sudipto had done until then was ‘fun'. With a solid base in theatre, a niggling desire to act in films was always there, he says. “But ‘Freddie Honai' was a paradigm shift for me. The director and cinematographer had more faith in me than myself,” he says. He worked hard on the film, taking special language classes and workshops on diction. Since his scenes involved a number of close-ups, he had to go through the works of learning to spew Malayalam.
Three years down the lane, Sudipto is a busy baddie. ‘Lavender', his latest project by debutant director Altas Ali, will have him donning the role of a mafia guy. Shot in Dubai, Sharjah, Bangkok and Malaysia, the film is written by Anoop Menon and will have Rahman in the lead role. Playing the mean guy has certainly made him more fit, especially since he does his own stunts. In ‘Veera Parampare', a hard-core action film in Kannada, he was an out-and-out villain. “In the 80-day shooting schedule, 22 days were dedicated solely to the action sequences.”
However, his fitness regimen involves a lot of eating, he quips. “In Kerala, it has to be meen pollichathu, beef roast, Kerala porotta and neyyappam. Films have always accepted people of all shapes and sizes. As long as you can deliver without wasting anyone's time, you are in,” he says.
Sudipto believes it is the power of analysing the character that has earned him the villainous roles. “The Indian audience has matured. The villain is no longer the man with a scar on his face,” he says. However, he does not want to be stereotyped. He has already “heard out” a couple of stories in Malayalam and is yet to decide on them, as he would want to experiment with different kinds of characters. He believes an actor should be like water, being able to mould him/herself into the character.
Good days are ahead for Sudipto, as he has signed two Hindi films and a “proper” Hollywood film, his second after ‘Meridien'. A Bengali movie, too, is in the offing. Besides acting, Sudipto owns a production house, Thathaastu, in Mumbai, which is working on two films in Marathi and Hindi.