The scene stealers

Soubin Shahir Photo: Vishnu Thandassery

Soubin Shahir Photo: Vishnu Thandassery   | Photo Credit: special arrangement


Character artistes in Mollywood who are hogging the limelight.

Malayalam cinema has had an enviable line-up of excellent actors who breathed life into many memorable characters who continue to live long after the actors passed away. Many of them did not play the lead roles. Instead they supported the leading artistes with realistic portrayals and convincing performances. Now, there is a bunch of talented artistes who are becoming integral to the industry with their mind-blowing performances and dedication.

Friday Review looks into the journey of four of them - Soubin Shahir, Sunil Sukhada, Sasi Kalinga and Dinesh Prabhakar.


He is one actor who can lighten up the screen and is there in every new release. Thank cinematographer-director Rajeev Ravi for coercing Soubin Shahir to face the camera for the first time in his Annayum Rasoolum. There has been no looking back for Soubin since then. The witty PT master of Premam (“perhaps the easiest, as I modelled it on one of my teachers”), the sidekick in Chandrettan Evideya, the cameraman in Rani Padmini, a burglar in Charlie and the photoshop wizard in Maheshinte Prathikaram are a class apart. We also saw him switching over to villainy in Kammatipaadam. “All the roles I have done have been for my friends. They know me inside out, my actions, expressions, behaviour, body language... and it is that they want on screen. So I have always been in the comfort zone in front of the camera,” says Soubin. What really helped him was his stint as an assistant director for 14 years – he has worked with Siddique, Fazil, P. Sukumar, Rafi-Mecartin, Santosh Sivan, Rajeev Ravi and Amal Neerad and has chipped in for the films of Anwar Rasheed and Aashiq Abu. “That is the only learning I have had as an actor,” says Soubin. His debut film as director, Parava, goes on floors next month.


He handles humour and villainy with aplomb. The insensitive, domineering supermarket manager in Chappa Kurishu, the scheming sexton in Amen and the corrupt official in Molly Aunty Rocks were loved by the audience just like the doctor in Su...Su...Sudhi Vathmeekam and the judge in Punyalan Agarbattis (the Thrissur slang made it perfect). The actor owes his career to his hometown, Thrissur. Otherwise this economics graduate who was well-placed in the hospitality industry in Mumbai wouldn’t have chosen to leave it all behind to do theatre.

“In Mumbai I saw plays by Anupam Kher, Seema Biswas and Naseeruddin Shah. Theatre was a passion and so whenever I came home on leave, I used to watch plays by Rangachetana. The Sunday Theatre concept by Vayala Vasudevan Pillai that had people from all walks of life turning up to do theatre influenced me so much that I decided to stay back,” says Sunil. It was while acting in Deepan Sivaraman’s play, ‘Spinal Chord’ that Martin Prakkat, who was hunting for fresh faces for his debut movie Best Actor, came across Sunil. His USP, Sunil says, has been that people could relate with the characters he has played. “Theatre helps you to break free from your inhibitions and that’s held me in good stead,” he explains. His experience behind the camera has also helped. He has made over a dozen short films and has assisted Lenin Rajendran in Rathrimazha and Makaramanju. Sunil is currently acting in Pretham, IDI and Kavi Udeshichathu.


Although the versatile Dinesh Prabhakar has been around in the industry for long, it took some years for him to get noticed. He debuted with Lal Jose’s Meesa Madhavan and many small roles later [in Pattalam, Nammal, Rasikan, Vasthavam...] he disappeared from the scene until 1983 resurrected his career. Roles in Left Right Left, Vaaya Moodi Pesavum, Love 24x7 and Pathemari cemented his position. Premam, Ayal Njanalla and Lukka Chuppi saw him flourish as an actor. Roles in Shoojith Sircar’s Madras Café and the recent release, Waiting also happened in between. “When I returned after the break, Malayalam cinema was on the revival path with a new crop of filmmakers. They gave me roles that suited my look and body language. It means a lot when people say that I fit into any character,” says Dinesh. The actor came into the industry with years of toil behind him in Mumbai. He went to the city in search of a job and to try his hand in Hindi movies. The best thing that happened to him was his entry into advertisement, where he supervised shoots and dubbed in Malayalam for Hindi commercials.

Now, besides acting, he manages an advertising company and works as a casting director (in Thira, Lukka Chuppi and Jacobinte Swargarajyam).


There is something complex and comic about Sasi Kalinga. Perhaps that’s what filmmaker Ranjith saw in him, when he met the latter. Sasi (original name K. Chandrakumar) had gone to meet his friend who was working in Ranjith’s film and soon the latter gave him the role of the police officer in his Paleri Manickyam: Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha.

Theatre was bread and butter for the artiste for nearly 25 years and comedy was his forte. It was that experience that he brought into films. Humour, at times loud and over the top, has been his comfort zone. “The genre goes with my looks, my body language and my dialogue delivery,” says the actor. Eeyappan, the cook in Ranjith’s Pranchiyettan & the Saint, nothing short of a caricature, opened a flood of offers. Chachappan of Amen is another fine example. “I was taught that ‘Humour comes from the mind’. I ensure that I don’t repeat myself, but then I can’t expect exceptional roles with this look! I might have gone wrong with a few roles, but I am not bothered. I don’t ask for the script, but only the date and rate!,” says the actor, who idolises Adoor Bhasi. The grapevine says he has signed a Hollywood film, but the actor is tight-lipped about the project. Among his new releases are Pulimurugan, Kasaba, and Oppam.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 10:01:15 AM |

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