As a diligent house husband in Madhu Warrier’s Lalitham Sundaram, Saiju Kurup won the hearts of viewers. The Manju Warrier-starrer, streaming on Disney+Hotstar, evokes mixed reactions from audiences but Saiju’s flawless act as Sandeep comes up trumps.
Says the actor: “I am not a stranger to cleaning and cooking. In fact, during the lockdowns, I was doing all the washing up in the kitchen and a little cooking too. I was able to slip into the character without any difficulty.”
According to Saiju, Sandeep and he share many traits. Like Sandeep, Saiju dislikes confrontation and he says even an argument on the sets or a minor altercation on the road can upset him.
2022 promises to be a happening year for him. His first film of the year was Meppadiyan (January 2022). After playing the lead in Janamaithri (2019) and Upachaarapoorvam Gunda Jayan (2022), he will soon be seen playing the protagonist in Vipin Das’ Antakshari, releasing on SonyLIV. Saiju plays Circle Inspector Das in the thriller, a cop with a penchant for playing ‘Antakshari’, a music-based game.
“It’s a psycho-thriller that also focusses on the bonding of a family. Das nabs wrong-doers for petty cases and if they can’t play the game, woe betide them! It is an interesting role and the film narrates a turning point in Das’ life,” narrates Saiju.
Since Antakshari began shooting in September 2020, just after permission was given after the first lockdown, the cast and crew had to stay in a safety bubble. When two of them came down with COVID-19, the entire team had to be quarantined. In addition, when a panchayat or area they were shooting in was declared a containment zone, they had to cool their heels and wait for restrictions to be lifted to resume work.
“There were difficulties that we had to overcome as a result of the lockdown and pandemic. Although delayed by a few days, we were able to complete the shoot,” recalls Saiju.
After making his debut as the hero in Hariharan’s Mayookham (2009), Saiju has had his ups and down in cinema. He was noticed in several movies and Saiju came good in several character roles. His breakthrough role in VK Prakash’s Trivandrum Lodge (2012) was followed by a range of interesting characters. Fortunately, the actor escaped being typecast. His versatility as an actor has been his strength.
“My age has been an advantage. I can play the hero’s friend or his uncle. Thanks to a bunch of young actors who have been able to carry a film on their shoulders, I have been to act with them in good projects.”
He was on a roll when the first lockdown to combat the pandemic was announced. Driving License , Prathi Poovankozhi and Android Kunjappan Ver 5.25 were among his films that year. Janamaithri was also released that year though it did not do well at the box office. Later, Janamaithri was telecast on Asianet and Amazon Prime where it garnered its share of views. While Forensic , in which Saiju had an interesting role, was into its second week in cinemas, the lockdown came into force.
“My well-wishers felt that it was a pity that work had come to a standstill when my characters were going places. But I looked at in another way. The entire world was going through a crisis. It was not just me or my part of the world. I firmly believe that whatever roles are meant for me will come to me.”
He feels that the six-month break when he was at home helped him sit back and take stock of his career. “Perhaps, my acting might have become mechanical and monotonous if I continued acting.”
He insists that he does not prepare for any character. “My role is designed by the writer and my director. I depend on them completely.”
Coming up next are 12th Man, Bermuda, Prakashan Parakkatte and Theerpu.