Meet the three stars who are shining bright in Mollywood this year.

In a year when the total releases exceeded 150 in Malayalam cinema, three heroes stood out for various reasons. While Fahadh Faasil questioned the conventional norms of a male lead with some breakthrough performances, Prithviraj continued to surprise with refreshing experiments. Both of them enchanted the classes and the masses but the unquestioned hero of the masses was Dileep. Not all his films would win brownie points or critical acclaim and some were downright crass but they made the box office ring. Yes, there were several success stories in Mollywood this year, but these three heroes breasted the tape a tad earlier than the others. The three stars talk about what made them the top runners.

PRITHVIRAJ

Actor of substance

With great risks come great rewards as Prithviraj showed the industry this year. He has just crossed 30, but the actor still has to live up to huge expectations, perhaps much more than his peers. After a little bit of a lull and a few controversies too, the actor bounced back with a bang. 2013 has been phenomenal for the young star with three hits – Celluloid, Mumbai Police and Memories in Malayalam. He has also conquered the Bollywood box office with the gritty Aurangzeb. “What is really heartening is that though all these films were, in a way, experiments, they each managed to pull it off with élan. It is a great feeling when such films work and everything just falls into place. And that is true especially when you have put that extra effort into designing the films,” says Prithviraj.

He agrees that playing a homosexual in Mumbai Police was risky. “But then if I had not done it, I would have felt bad when someone else did a similar character. The fact that the viewers here accepted it gives me a sense of pride,” says the actor.

His next Malayalam release is Anil C. Menon’s London Bridge and he is also currently shooting for Tamil director Vasanthabalan’s Kaaviya Thalaivan. “It is based on the popular theatre tradition that existed in Tamil Nadu during the 1920s and 1930s before movies took over. I have agreed to act in the Hindi version of Shutter and also in Seventh Day, being made by newcomers,” says Prithviraj.

DILEEP

The darling of the box office

Even as Malayalam film industry struggled to get the viewers into theatres, his films set the box office on fire. While his films Kammath and Kammath and Nadodi Mannan Ezhu Sundara Rathrikal managed to do well, thanks, in part, to satellite revenues, Sound Thoma and Sringaravelan were major money-spinners at the box office.

Even then Dileep was criticised for playing to the gallery. He brushes aside the criticism with his trademark smile and explains: “I am confused. If my films run, they are branded as brainless entertainers and if they fail to perform well, I am asked if I have lost my popularity! Let me make it clear. My films are entertainers meant for the common man and I always make it a point not to repeat myself. I am waiting to see how Ezhu Sundara Rathrikal, which is not a pot-boiler, is accepted.”

Dileep claims that he does enjoy acting in ‘serious’ films. “I love to do offbeat films and often do such films without any remuneration. The so-called ‘new generation’ trend actually started with my film, Passenger. Nonetheless, it is a fact that viewers come to watch my films to laugh. The flavour of my films is humour. Most of my films were released during festival seasons and they were meant to be loud and colourful. Of course, all the films that I do need not cater to my taste. This is my job and I enjoy doing it,” says the actor.

Next up for the star is Rafi’s Ring Master.

FAHADH FAASIL

Versatile hero

After a disastrous debut, Fahadh Faasil went into hibernation for seven years. He made a spectacular comeback a few years ago, one that most actors can only dream about. This year, he had 12 releases, in each of which he showed audiences what he is capable of through terrific performances.

Among the films, his well-appreciated roles in films such as Amen, Annayum Rasoolum, North 24 Kaatham, Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla, 5 Sundarikal and Artist anointed him as a thinking man’s hero.

Fahadh has been eager to shrug off the “new generation hero” tag, which he was given after he became successful with some out of the box characters. Towards the end of the year he surprised all with his “conventional role” in Sathyan Anthikkad’s Oru Indian Pranayakatha.

“While doing Diamond Necklace, I was told I was not a usual Lal Jose hero, maybe because he was working with mostly the big stars then. I think it is solely about the perspective of the director who casts me,” he says.

He adds: “For that matter, my character of the young politician in Oru Indian Pranayakatha is an unusual Sathyan Anthikkad hero. I have enjoyed doing the role and this film could easily be the biggest hit in my career.”

Is it tough to get into the shoes of a character, considering the versatility of his roles? “I never looked at it that way. It is about understanding the character; then things just fall into place.”

Some of his films failed to do big business even after winning critical acclaim. “Once the film leaves the edit table, nothing is in my hands. But then, I don’t believe in getting on a TV channel to promote my film,” he says.

Among the various characters he did this year, which one was similar to his real self? “I have never felt any character is like me. On second thought, maybe my character in Annayum Rasoolum,” laughs Fahadh.