When he started his career, audiences thought that comedy was Sharafudheen’s forte, thanks to a string of likeable roles, starting with Girirajan Kozhi, a flirt and bluffer in Alphonse Puthren’s Premam. Then he surprised the viewers with negative roles: as the lecherous Josey in Varathan and the serial killer Benjamin Louis in Anjaam Pathira. Before he got typecast, there came Sanu John Varughese’s Aarkkariyam, in which he played Roy, an easygoing husband burdened by a secret.
Priyan Ottathilaanu, which releases on June 24, has Sharaf playing the protagonist. In a telephonic conversation, Sharaf says that people would be able to relate to his character, Priyadarshan. “He is a homeopathic doctor, a middle-class married man with a child. A people pleaser, he finds his personal life in tatters as he is expected to always help others. His ambition and dreams take a backseat. I know a person like him and I am sure there are a lot of Priyans around us,” says Sharaf.
Directed by Antony Sony, who made his mark with his debut film, the Manju Warrier-starrer C/O Saira Banu (2017), Priyan Ottathilaanu is written by the scenarist duo of Abhayakumar and Anil Kurian, who have films such as Punyalan Agarbathis and Chathurmugham to their credit. “It was Abhay who approached me with the script. I liked it and after some changes in the script, they approached Antony Sony,” says Sharaf. While Aparna Das (last seen in Beast) plays his wife, Nyla Usha is cast in a significant role.
Sharaf observes that even though Neeyum Njaanum (2019) is credited as his first movie as a hero, he “became the main character during the making process. I was cast as one of the characters initially. But Priyan Ottathilaanu is the first movie I signed with the conviction that I would be able to pull off the role of the protagonist.”
Sharaf feels that he got right roles at the right time. Even as he was riding high on comedy with films such as Happy Wedding, Pretham, Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela etc., Jeethu Joseph gave him a serious role in Pranav Mohanlal-starrer Aadhi. But the biggest turnaround was Varathan.
His character in Aarkkariyam is his favourite till date. “I could pull it off because of the way Sanu chettan explained the role. He is a man of detailing and was clear about every aspect of the character. People have been extremely appreciative of my work in Varathan and Anjaam Pathira. But after the release of Aarrkariyam, I got appreciation from unexpected quarters. That’s when I realised that each film wins an actor a different set of audience and I cherish that experience,” he says.
In the meantime, he turned producer with Chavittu, which won awards for the second best film, best sync sound and best choreography at the recently-announced Kerala State Film Awards. Directed by Rahman Brothers, Sajas Rahman and Shinos Rahman, it was selected for the International Film Festival Rotterdam early this year.
Chavittu, which has a blend of documentary and drama, zooms into the world of theatre and theatre artistes. “I am immensely proud that I could associate with a project like Chavittu. I was planning to act in a project of the director duo. But the pandemic stalled the work and I couldn’t give them dates after that. However, having known them from close quarters and their love for cinema, I wanted to associate with them and production was something I could do. It is not easy being independent filmmakers. They have not been able to release their previous film Vasanthi, which won three State awards, till now. We hope to stream it on the state-owned OTT platform [Cspace],” he adds.
Looking back at his entry into Malayalam cinema, Sharaf says that he owes it all to his friends who also have made a place for themselves. Be it Alphonse Puthren, who gave him a small role in Neram and later a big break in Premam or mostof the actors in Premam who have been his friends from his hometown, Aluva. “Art and artists have always been my favourite space. But I don’t come from a place where I could say aloud that I wanted to become an actor. The dream was there and I knew I would be able to fulfill it someday. Thankfully, I could live that dream because of my friends,” he explains.
Sharaf, a self-confessed fan of Kamal Haasan, is elated that his friends too have played heroes in their new releases — Krishna Sankar in Kochaal and Siju Wilson in Pathonpathaam Noottandu.
He will next be seen as the lead in Senna Hegde’s 1744 White Alto. Expectations are high since Senna’s previous work Thinkalazhcha Nischayam had wowed audiences. “I can’t reveal much about the role. But I can promise you that it will be a unique movie-watching experience,” Sharaf adds.
Among his other releases are Rorschach with Mammootty, Ntikkakkakkoru Premondarnn in which Bhavana is making her comeback, Shafi’s untitled movie with Indrans and Anagha Narayanan and the bilingual Adrishyam.