Meet the guy who plays Veerappan in a Kannada movie. He is now acting in a Malayalam film, ‘Thiruvambady Thampan'

The first thing one would notice about actor Kishore is his moustache—a perfect handlebar, brushed down to a meek droop. As he mouths a crisp piece of appam, the macho whiskers almost get in the way. But he doesn't mind. The same moustache got in the way when Bollywood director Bejoy Nambiar offered him a role in ‘Shaitan'. “It was the role of a Mumbai cop. But a Kannada movie I had signed required me to sport a typical south Indian moustache; the kind one would not find on a Mumbaikar,” he recalls. The Kannada film never took off, but Kishore has no regrets. This very moustache may be what got him a plum role now. You guessed right. Brigand Veerappan's.

Kishore is also shooting for this Kannada film ‘Attahasa', a biopic on Veerappan. Ask him about the challenges involved in playing the forest brigand and he does not bombard you with the travails of shooting in a jungle or having to tackle the itchy extensions on his moustache. All he says is, “Every role is demanding. Every character is tough to portray. For this role, I had to lose five kgs.”

Biopic on Veerappan

Directed by A.M.R. Ramesh, the film is expected to be a huge break for Kishore. “I have been intrigued by Veerappan's persona. I have been reading a lot about him, too.” The movie will also be made in Tamil, titled ‘Vana Yuddham', the promos of which show Kishore brandishing a rifle with careless ease or sitting with his eyes transfixed at the camera, making one wonder, for a fleeting moment, if one is looking at the real Veerappan.

But in his room at Kochi's Gokulam Park Inn, where we meet for breakfast, he is far from a firebrand. Dressed in beige linen pants and a black shirt, his hands folded, Kishore comes across as a reserved and humble man. He has just been introduced to Malayalam cinema. In ‘Thiruvambady Thampan', starring Jayaram, Kishore would play an MLA from Madurai.

For this 37-year-old actor from Bangalore, films happened by chance. A Kannada lecturer by profession, Kishore had a penchant for fashion designing. While working with designer Vidyasagar, he happened to meet the director of a Kannada movie, ‘Kanti', in 2004 and that changed the course of his life. It won him the Karnataka State Award for the best supporting actor and now, with over 50 films in his repertoire, he has become a much-sought after anti-hero in South India.

The traditional concept of a villain and hero has changed, says Kishore. Today, the new-age protagonist too operates in the grey shades, and that makes the role of a ‘villain' more challenging and exciting, he says. “It is very gratifying when someone remembers you by your work,” he says. “Till date, many people remember me as Selvam, my character in ‘Pollathavan', my first Tamil movie.” The film brought in a flurry of appreciation, more so for his effective dialogue delivery. “Initially, speaking fluent Tamil was hard. The dubbing went on for 11 days,” he says.

Kishore insists on dubbing for himself. “That is my limitation, I go blank if I am prompted. I need to understand the language,” he says. “And that was the reason why I was scared to take up offers from Malayalam.”

But Kochi-based ad filmmaker Sleeba Varghese managed to convince him to do this Malayalam film with director M. Padmakumar. ‘Thiruvambady Thampan', expected to be released by March, will be shot in Madurai, Thrissur and Kochi.

Incidentally, this villain is a real life hero of a love story. Despite cast and cultural barriers, Kishore is happily married to his college sweetheart, a Brahmin girl hailing from Palakkad. However, the intensity of his gaze gives one the chills, and that perhaps explains how and why he has emerged as a top ‘villain' in such a short span.