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Straight out of celluloid

THEY SPELT success whenever they got together. The Siddique-Lal team churned out some of the biggest hits in Malayalam cinema. Films like `Ramji Rao Speaking,' `In Harihar Nagar,' `Kabooliwala,' `Vietnam Colony,' `Godfather,' `Hitler' and `Friends' were all trendsetters that also turned out to be huge money-spinners. They later parted ways.

Ask Lal about the reasons for this and he squirms uneasily. He tries hard to play the whole thing down but his eyes fail to hide the anguish within. Siddique continues to direct films, while Paul Michael, aka Lal, has become hugely successful as an actor. His maiden performance in `Kaliyattom' brought him rave reviews. And since then he has breathed life into numerous roles. He is now a major producer and distributor too.

In an interview to METRO PLUS, Lal talks about himself, his early days as a mimicry artist in Kalabhavan, his stint in filmdom and much more to VIJAY GEORGE. Excerpts:

You have been successful as a director, actor and producer. Which do you feel is the toughest job among them?

Without doubt, it's direction. And for that matter, I feel the cosiest job is acting. Someone writes a script, another directs it and the money is shelled out by a third person. And after this, the actor gets the credit for the film's success. Amazing, isn't it?

It indeed is. But did you have cinema in your mind during your days as a mimicry artist?

Most of the stage artistes have films in mind and we were not different.

Who were the actors that you specialised in mimicking on stage?

Jayan, Bharat Gopi, P.K.Abraham and KPAC Lalitha, to name a few. But I stopped mimicking Jayan the day he died. I have always felt that the art form should be entertaining for everyone, even for those who were mimics.

How is that a mimicry artist like you, with a fine sense for comedy, is now chosen for serious roles?

My voice could be one reason. That could be a blessing most of the times but when enacting funny scenes, it could be a disadvantage. With my beard, height and heavy voice, may be these mature roles suit me most.

How did the Siddique-Lal team happen?

We were always together. We used to see films and analyse them, were part of Kalabhavan's mimicry troupe and knew each other quite well. When we were invited to join Fazil, to assist him in film direction, the team seemed to be blending well. That was the beginning.

When you planned your films, were there any categorisations?

Not at all. Its tough to say who formulated a particular idea and such things. Perhaps our bond was so strong. Even before getting into films we always used to evaluate films on the day of release and surprisingly the public mood seemed to go with us. That gave us the confidence that we knew what the audience expected.

Then, why did you part ways?

Siddique and I still remain the best of friends. We decided not to work as a team for purely personal reasons. There were some problems in our personal circle.

Will the Siddique-Lal duo make a comeback again?

The chances are slim. I cannot say it will never come back; because, I had to retract after saying `Kaliyattom' would be my last film as an actor.

And do you plan to get back into direction?

No. I have no such plans. I don't think I have the interest to direct a movie.

As a producer, how involved are you in the making of a film?

I take it very seriously. I'm involved in every aspect of film production as I'm aware of my responsibility, which can turn the film into a success or a failure

When you act in a film, have you ever felt that you could have done better?

At times I have felt that I could have done a role it in a different way. But I make it a point to act in films only where I have a good role. I'm not worried about its length though. And I believe in the director's perception of visualising his film.

How comfortable are you with acting?

I'm really uncomfortable during the shooting of every new film. This is only for the first few days.

Which are your best roles so far?

The making of `Thenkasipattanam' was like a picnic. `Ormacheppu,' `Kanmadam' and of course, `Kaliyattom' were good roles.

Tell us about your other interests.

I'm crazy about music, I think I can draw well and I do play the tabala a bit.

Finally, how would you like to be remembered as, an actor, director or producer?

Of course, as a director.

But still you don't want to direct a film again?


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