Suraj Venjaramoodu can’t stop smiling after he bags the National Award for the Best Actor for his role in Perariyathavar.

Suraj Venjaramoodu has the last laugh as the National Award for the Best Actor comes to Malayalam via his role in D. Bijukumar’s Perariyathavar. On the sets of Subil’s Ente Sathyanweshana Pareekshakal in Thiruvananthapuram, the crew has a hard time shooting as mediapersons corner Suraj for interviews and photographs. An ever obliging Suraj is all game as he patiently poses for photographs and chit chats with his fans. His one-liners raise laughs while co-star Rahman greets ‘Bharat Suraj’. As his make-up man goes through his routine, Suraj finally gets to sit down for the interview.

“It feels great to win this award. All my thanks to Biju Sir who even thought of casting me in such a film and to producer Anil Ambalakara who came forward to make such a different film,” says the actor.

“It was such an honour to even receive the offer. Biju Sir is a director with a proven track record and so as soon he called me I said yes even before I read the script. I knew the one-line story and I trusted the director,” he adds.

Shot in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam, the film narrates the story of a sweeper who works for the Corporation. The film unfolds through the scenes and incidents witnessed by the sweeper. Nedumudi Venu, Sona Nair, Indrans, Mukesh, Krishnan Balakrishnan and Biju’s son, Govind, play important roles in the movie that takes the viewer through a series of events that has been making headlines in Kerala. Shorn of melodrama or action, Perariyathavar is a tribute to the nameless people who live on the margins of society.

“I have met many such people in Venjaramoodu. When I used to return in the early morning after late-night programmes, the first people I see on the roads at the break of dawn are sweepers, newspaper vendors and milkmen. Since they were all from my hometown, I would stop to talk to them before going home. So I am quite used to their lifestyle and work,” he says.

Suraj admits his key role in the film came as a major break after Duplicate (2009) in which he played the lead.

Biju cast Suraj in the lead role because he was confident the actor could do justice to the character. “I wanted an actor who could portray the common man and I wanted someone without starry airs. Suraj was perfect for the role,” says Biju. He goes on to add that the award has come as a shot in the arm for films that deal with social issues and focus on the lives of the marginalised.

Suraj says: “It is important to understand that there is no distinction between comedians and actors. All are actors. There are so many stars who are very good at comedy acts. Having said that please do write that I will continue doing comedy and mimicry. That is my lifeline,” says Suraj.

Mimicry opened the doors to this performer from the hinterland of Thiruvananthapuram and he makes it a point to add that he dedicates the award to all the mimicry artistes in Kerala. In fact, Suraj feels that the ability to observe people and their quirks have contributed in no small measure to his success as an actor and mimicry artiste. “It is at programmes organised on the sidelines of temple festivals that you get to see raw audiences who will let you know immediately whether the act has clicked or not. It was those audiences who taught me how to strike a rapport with the audience. So, yes, mimicry will always be there in my life. I have a show coming up on May 2 in Dubai,” he says.

On a lighter vein, he insists that it be printed in bold letters that he is game for all kinds of comedy. Both RingMaster and Poly Technic, two films that are raking in the moolah at cinemas, have Suraj playing his madcap roles. “Two of my forthcoming films are also entertainers in which I play comic characters – Johny Antony’s Bengali Babus and Vyshakh Rajan’s new movie. I.R. Pillai, my character in Ente Sathyanweshana Pareekshakal, also has comic acts in it. So the award does not mean I am turning my back on such roles,” he explains.

Carry on Suraj!