In conversation As ‘Race' releases today, its hero Kunchacko Boban explains what has helped him get his act together in his second innings in Mollywood. Saraswathy Nagarajan

K unchacko Boban is back in the race. After an interval, the actor began his second innings in the Malayalam film industry with some good roles that bowled over viewers. ‘Race,' his film releasing today, features him in the lead with Mamta Mohandas. His second innings has also seen the actor cast off his image as a chocolate hero. Multifaceted characters and subtle acting have made him a bankable hero again!

And nobody realises this better than the actor himself who admits that the hiatus gave him time to study cinema and understand what was going wrong with his films when they nosedived at the box office. “The series of flops convinced me that perhaps the kind of roles I was doing was not in tune with what the audience wanted to see. So I decided to stay away from films and pursue my post-graduation in business management. Like Mohanlal's character says in ‘Nadodikattu,' I have a first class in B.Com,” laughs the actor.

However, fate intervened in the form of a business offer and Kunchacko found himself in the real-life role of a businessman; a role that he excelled in. However, he never severed his links with cinema and he continued to be an executive member of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes. “Producers used to call me. I used to hope it would be for a role. But invariably they called me to discuss some real estate deal,” admits Kunchacko with a grin.

In the meantime, he and Lal Jose forged a friendship that helped him get a better understanding of cinema and its working. Although Lal had offered him a role (the character that Naren essayed) in his blockbuster ‘Classmates,' Kunchacko had to turn it down as he did not have convenient dates.

“Lalu [Lal Jose] became a family friend and we used to talk about films, scripts and actors for hours together. He taught me how to approach cinema and imbued me with his passion and dedication. He used to give me books to read and films to watch. He told me that he would cast me in a movie of his if it was apt for me.”

Eventually, cinema came calling again and he signed on to appear in a dance sequence in ‘Twenty Twenty' in 2008. That led to more offers and the chocolate hero who made a sensational debut in Fazil's ‘Aniyathipravu' found himself donning the greasepaint again. But this time around, the flashy clothes, the guitar and the bike were not mandatory for his characters. Although ‘Lollypop' did not make much of an impact, his characters in ‘Mummy and Me,' ‘Sakudumbam Shyamala' and V.K. Prakash's ‘Gulmal' helped him widen his range. ‘Sakudumbam Shyamala' and ‘Gulmal' also convinced him that he could enact comic characters with élan.

Rustic Paalunni

That was when he was cast as the rustic Paalunni in Lal's ‘Elsamma Enna Aankutty.' As soon as he reached the sets, the first scene had him washing a cow, something the actor had never done in his life. Worse was the fact that a local hair dresser gave him a close crop. “Till then, I had never allowed anyone to play around with my hair. So there I was in a sleeveless vest and a kind of shorts that was neither a pair of boxers nor Bermudas and washing a cow!” recalls the actor.

But Paalunni endeared himself to viewers with his rustic looks and down to earth outlook. That was followed by the mega success of ‘Traffic' and Kunchacko struck gold. As soon as he heard the script, he felt that the film had success written all over it. His character traversed a spectrum of emotions and the actor was spot on. Although many of his hits featured multi-star casts, Kunchacko says playing the runner up in such films has helped him score many a time.

And considering that he is the grandson of the late Kunchacko, founder of Udaya Studio, and son of the late Boban Kunchacko, does he nurture plans of reviving the Udaya banner or turning director?

“Yes and no,” says the actor. “The studio has been sold but I have retained the banner of Udaya Studio. Although I have no plans of directing a film, I certainly will produce one if I get the right script.”

But the actor says no matter what he does, he feels he is first and foremost an actor. ‘Three Kings' and ‘Seniors' are his films on the anvil. ‘“Three Kings is a laugh riot; you must leave your logic at home to enjoy the film. It is for children and the child in you. ‘Seniors' is a campus-based movie but it features four guys returning to their campus after may years and their campus capers.”

‘R ace' has Kunchacko Bobban playing a cardiologist and devoted family man. Indrajith, Gouri Munjal, Jagathy Sreekumar play significant roles in the film scripted and directed by Kukku Surendran. It is perhaps the first Malayalam film to be shot with a Red One 4K camera. This is the first big screen venture of Penta Vision and it has been produced by Jose K. George and Shaji Mecheri.