Making the right moves

Neeraj Madhav   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Of course! His ringtone is ‘Enne Thallendammava…’ What else, would it be? The peppy number from Oru Vadakkan Selfie that talks about and oozes attitude is all the rage in Mollywood. Actor Neeraj Madhav, who turned choreographer with the song, is one happy soul. Neeraj is finally doing what he loves to do – acting and dancing. “I am actually a trained Bharatanatyam dancer, having learnt it under Kalamandalam Saraswathy and her daughter, Aswathy. Nowadays, though, I am more into contemporary dance. That’s why I jumped at the chance to choreograph when I was offered the opportunity,” says the 25-year-old. He also plays the role of Thankamma in the hit film, friend to lead actor Nivin Pauly’s character.

The spindly, Thiruvannur, Kozhikode native says it was the film’s cinematographer, Jomon T. John, who urged him to try his hand at choreography. “I had danced at Jomon chettan’s wedding reception. While in college [SRM University, Chennai] I used to choreograph for inter-college dance contests and to earn pocket money. So, I was familiar with its ins and outs. But I think it’s because I have such a comfort level with Nivin and Aju [Varghese] that I was able to do it with confidence. It helps that Nivin has a good sense of rhythm and we played to Aju’s strengths with comedy in the number. I gave the choreography a free-flowing vibe with a lot of popping and freestyle dance moves. There is also a hip-hop sequence that I myself danced,” explains the actor, over the phone from Palakkad, where he is shooting for Jamunapyari.

It’s not the first time that 10-film-old Neeraj’s skills have come under the spotlight. After debuting in Mollywood with Buddy (2013) and a minor role in Jeethu Joseph’s Memories, the actor got his “first big break” playing Monichan, assistant to Mohanlal’s character, in the blockbuster Drishyam. It was quickly followed by noticeable roles in Oru Indian Pranayakadha and 1983, peaking with Saptamashree Thaskaraha, directed by Anil Radhakrishnan Menon.

Roll of roles

In Saptamashree… he plays one of the seven leads, the role of the wonderfully naïve Narayanankutty, a whiz at electronics. “I am very careful with characters and try not to repeat myself, though I do, occasionally, jump at opportunities when directors like Jeethu and Anil come calling. I look for something that will make me stand out, small things such as Narayanankutty breaking into tears at his own stupidity or the overly sensitive and emotional Arun in Homely Meals. Thankfully, each film and each role has proven to be the right choice and got me noticed,” says the actor, in flawless English.

Interestingly, Neeraj never set out to be an actor or dancer/choreographer. He actually wanted to be a director. “I grew up listening to A.R. Rahman songs and dreaming of dancing like Prabhu Deva. While in school I made it to the final round of the first edition of ‘Super Dancer’ on Amrita TV. I knew then that my future lay in creative arts,” he says.

With that in mind he studied Visual Communications for his undergraduate degree. “While in college I made a short film Human Curiosity, about prejudice in society. Incidentally, three of us who worked in the short film made it to Mollywood – Anand C. Chandran, who shot the short, is the cinematographer of Neram and Premam, while Aishwarya, the heroine of the short, has worked in a number of Tamil and Telugu films…,” he explains.

To follow his dreams in filmmaking he enrolled at the School of Drama, Thrissur, specialising in direction. “The course was an eye-opener, to say the least. I had the opportunity to watch top class dramas and top class films. I even acted in a prominent role in the stage adaptation of Harold Pinter’s Happy Birthday, which was staged for the International Theatre Festival of Kerala. It was that energy that I got from theatre that finally made me turn my attention to acting. I just love acting. In retrospect, I wonder why I didn’t see this coming!” he says, with a laugh.

Neeraj adds that his only regret is that he has only played characters that are variations of naïve or homely.

“I am not like that at all in real life. I love to dress up and I have a craze for shoes. I’m a true man of the world and really want to play an uber-cool character,” he says. With his set of skills, that’s not too far away…

Short takes

* Neeraj has a busy year ahead, with important roles in KL 10 Pathu, in which he plays a sevens footballer; director Sugeeth’s Madhura Naranga, in which he acts as a corporate employee to Kunchacko Boban and Biju Menon’s roles as taxi drivers; Jamunapyari in which he is a “freak out guy from Kochi” and Basil Joseph’s fantasy flick Kunjiramayanam.

* Neeraj is trained in the chenda and is a disciple of Kalamandalam Udayan Namboodiri.

* His brother Navneeth Madhavan is also an actor and dancer, who has acted in films such as Shikar, Nallavan and Manikyakallu and TV series such as Kuttichathan. Neeraj’s father K. Madhavan is a veterinarian, deputy director, Animal Husbandry department, and his mother, Latha Madhavan, is a teacher at Ramakrishna Mission school in Kozhikode and also a classical dancer.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 10:45:33 AM |

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