It is hard to believe that the quiet, brooding boy Karthik, in Sathyan Anthikad's ‘Sneha Veedu' is a rank newcomer, Rahul Pillai.
The transformation has been Spiderman-like. From a quiet, studious, almost unseen boy Rahul Pillai has turned hero. Of course, Rahul does not leap over buildings or save the helpless from flaming infernos. He, in his very first film, has made a stunning impression.
Cast alongside stars like Sheela, Mohanlal and other veterans in the Malayalam industry, Rahul has firmly stood his ground with a stand out performance. The silent, brooding Karthik in director's Sathyan Anthikad's ‘Sneha Veedu,' is as Rahul confesses ‘almost like what he is.' This made, he says, the switch to the character rather easy.
The Plus One student of Bhavan's Vidya Mandir, Eroor, (near Tripunithura) Rahul joined this school just three years back. It took time to find friends giving him a lot of time to engage himself in his favourite hobbies –reading and writing. “I read a lot, mostly fiction….” And before he could say something more his mother Usha interrupted, “Rahul is a very quiet boy. Only when his elder sister (Remya) comes home does he open out. He is now completing his first novel. ” Rahul smiles sheepishly and nods in agreement.
Ask him how he landed this role and Rahul smiles and then very softly says, “My luck. I played Shylock in ‘Merchant of Venice' for our annual day, just a scene. One of our teachers, who was a family friend of Sathyan Sir, recommended my name to him.”
Rahul went and met the director. “This was sometime during June, we were having our summer vacations. He talked to me, told me that he had not decided on the boy. A few days later he called me and asked me to meet him. This time he had a few of my photographs taken. Sathyan Sir called again. My father picked up the phone. He told him that I was selected.”
Sathyan Anthikad's search for a boy to play the pivotal character in his film extended throughout the state. “I must seen at least fifty photographs and some who met me directly. In the beginning I thought of our child actors who would be this age. But I saw that they had that cinema hangover. This was not what I was looking for,” reveals the director.
After spending more than 13 years in Indore, where his father (Rajendran) was posted, Rahul hardly knew Malayalam films. And cinema was not top priority either. He speaks Malayalam like a North Indian, but incidentally dubbed for the film. And all these impressed Sathyan Anthikad. “Rahul fitted the role perfectly. He is a very intelligent boy and I believe that a good actor must be intelligent. When Mohanlal came to the set he asked me if I found the boy. I said yes and asked him to identify him from among a crowd of youngsters there. Lal rightly pointed to Rahul. This was confirmation that my selection was right.”
Falling into the groove
For the first week Rahul watched the others act. “This helped me a lot. I went around watching the process of filmmaking for the first time in my life. I watched different styles of acting and unconsciously I was falling into the groove,” remembers Rahul.
This was a Sathyan Anthikad technique. “I do this every time with a newcomer. This helps them familiarise and also understand the process. In Rahul's case he was ready when we shot his first scene. It was ‘okayed' in the very first shot itself. He surprised me with his ability to emote even in the company of experienced actors like Mohanlal and Sheela. I will never forget the last few scenes we shot in Chennai. We took a close up shot of Rahul who had to convey the impression of electric trains speeding past him and his struggle to take a decision. Rahul did that so well, like any of the great actors would have done,” explains Sathyan Anthikad.
Rahul went to watch the movie with his friends after his parents had seen it the first day itself. “After the film I was surprised that a few people really recognised me. The response so far has been good. ,” says Rahul.
But Rahul has no plans to make films his career. A very good student he hopes to become an engineer. “I'm ready to act provided it does not interfere with my studies and career. Maybe, a parallel career.”
And what did ‘Sneha Veedu' teach him? “I understood how tough filmmaking is. So many people are involved. I'll think twice before I criticise any film now. The film gave me a lot of friends. Sathyan Sir's son Akhil, Varghese Antony, Rajeev and Sreebala has turned my mentors and friends. I was with the film from the first day to the day when we packed up. It was sad to leave them. I still keep in touch with them.”