I knew this was a role that I should do: Guinness Pakru

Ajay Kumar as Vanajan in ‘Ilayaraja’

Ajay Kumar as Vanajan in ‘Ilayaraja’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Ajay Kumar, a.k.a. Guinness Pakru, says Vanajan, his character in ‘Ilayaraja’, shares many of his traits and does not permit setbacks to circumscribe his life

Ajay Kumar makes a comeback to the silver screen after a break! The name may not immediately strike a chord with viewers of Malayalam cinema. But replace it with Guinness Pakru and the recall value of the star is obvious.

The actor-director plays the lead in art-house filmmaker Madhav Ramadasan’s new flick, Ilayaraja. The challenges of dwarfism has not daunted the 76-cm actor who has created his own space in Malayalam cinema with some memorable roles. His immense talent as an actor and mimicry artistes has stood him in good stead in Mollywood every since his debut in Ambili Ammavan in 1985.

“Ramadas sir approached me with his story and he wanted to know if I was interested in playing the lead. As soon I heard the script, I knew this was a role that I should do. In many places, I felt that the script had a strong throwback to my own journey as an actor and artiste,” says Ajay.

The actor was pleasantly surprised that a director who had made his name with two powerful, realistic films with superstars had approached him with a script.

“His previous films [Melvilsam and Apothecary] had stars like Suresh Gopi, Parthiban, Jayasurya and Asif Ali. Both had won critical acclaim and so I was keen on working with him,” adds Ajay, talking on the phone from Kottayam.

By the time the first poster was released with Ajay’s character, it created ripples on social media and that came as a shot in the arm for the team working in the film.

A still from the film ‘Ilayaraja’

A still from the film ‘Ilayaraja’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Shot in and around Thrissur, especially the iconic Swaraj Round in the town, Ilayaraja has Ajay playing Vanajan, a peanut seller who struggles to makes ends meets and look after his family.

A new perspective

Calling it a completely different experience for him, he explains: “Swaraj Round, for me, has always been identified with the pomp and pageantry of the Thrissur Pooram. But this was a different Swaraj Round that I saw. It gave a different perspective to the place. All during the year, this was where many living on the margins of society struggled to eke out a living by doing petty businesses. Vanajan belongs to that group.”

Aware that it was a film that demanded a different kind of approach from some of the slapstick routines that he does with elan, Ajay says he decided to look at his own life to understand the effort for a common man to survive and live in a competitive world. “I recalled the efforts my parents had taken to give me a routine upbringing and education. I know it was not easy for them. But it helped me stand on my feet as a person and an artiste,” he says.

“Whether it be in stage shows, films or in television programmes, I have always tried to ensure that the team gains through my work. That is how I give my best. As a result, shows and films came my way without any planning or networking on my part,” adds the 42-year-old.

Admitting that many stars and filmmakers went out of their way to help him, Ajay says the recent change in thematic content of Malayalam films have also helped him play characters that does not demand comedy for the sake of a few laughs.

After suffering a fall in his house, Ajayan hurt his neck and was advised rest for a period of time. Although he had to turn down many roles, especially in Tamil films, he managed to act in a stellar role in Ranjith Shankar’s Punyalan Private Limited. “I have been fortunate to have such people in my life,” he believes.

In the meantime, he has also turned producer with Fancy Dress, directed by “a brilliant debutant director, Ranjith Skaria”. Ajay had heard the story and was impressed by the script. So, when the youngster failed to find a producer, Ajay decided to step in as the producer. He also plays a major role in the film. Starring Harish Kanaran, Kalabhavan Shajon, Sudheer Karamana, Bala and Swetha Menon, Fancy Dress is in the post production stage and is likely to release in April.

And when does he plan to direct his second film after he turned director with Kuttiyum Kolum in 2013? “I am working on it. But it is too early to say when it will start rolling,” he says.

Moving on to his significant achievements that have won him a place in the Guinness Book of World Record, he says that his battle against the odds have made several people fighting the odds reach out to him for inspiration, advice and help. “My life is my message. I never dwell on my shortcomings. I have never asked for any special considerations or imagined that I am any less than anyone else. That has helped me move ahead with positivity,” he signs off.

Fact file

* Ajay Kumar entered the Guinness Book of Records for being the shortest actor to play a character in a feature film. He played prince Gajendran in Vinayan’s film Albhutha Dweep in 2005.

* He is married to Gayathri and they have a daughter, Deeptha Keerthi, who Ajay says is a keen dancer and ardent movie buff.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 4:02:22 AM |

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