The term destiny child fits perfectly for actor turned director Vineeth Kumar. It is as if he is born to be in films.
He got the first opportunity to face the camera as a child (in a film titled Mudra) because his younger brother who was selected to do the role fell sick at the last moment. He went on to act in many films as a child actor and few of them are considered classics.
He was relaunched as an adult actor in Devadoothan (2000) by his mentor Sibi Malayil, the film which had Mohanlal in the lead but. Since then Vineeth has remained on the periphery of stardom.
Now, he is all set to make his directorial debut with Ayaal Njanalla.
Fahadh Faasil plays the lead actor and the story is written by Ranjith. The film is set to release on July 31.
Vineeth talks to Paresh C Palicha/Rediff.com about his first directorial venture, his friendship with Fahadh, his acting career and his passion for cinema in general.
Ayaal Njanalla marks a new beginning in your film career; you're turning to direction with it. Are you feeling nervous?
I am not nervous about thinking whether my film will be a hit or a flop. You can never predict how the audience will react to a film.
I've been into ad film making for the last few years so, shooting a film is not a totally new experience for me.
In fact, I feel blessed that I got Fahadh (Faasil) as the hero of my first film and Ranjith Ettan showing faith in me by entrusting one of his stories to me.
I believe that a film is made in the pre-production; first you dream a story and make it as close as possible to that dream while shooting and then post-production. I feel nervous to know how close to the mark my film is to my dream.
You have Fahadh, the face of the 'New Gen' Malayalam cinema as your hero. How was the experience of working with him?
Fahadh and I go a long way back. I had gone to meet Fazil sir (Fahadh's dad) when he was casting for Aniyathipraavu and he was busy in discussion with someone else. So he called Fahadh and told him to give me company.
We started talking about studies (our age difference is just two years) and other random things. After that we'd meet up whenever we got a chance and discuss and exchange movies. Then we got busy with our careers, we couldn’t keep in touch as before still we kept abreast with major developments in each other’s lives.
When he saw the first commercial (it was for a flavoured milk brand that wasn’t launched so the ad wasn’t aired) I made, he told me whenever I direct a feature film, he’d like to be involved in any capacity.
Then I shared a few ideas with him and he liked all of them but nothing materialised.
While shooting this film, Whether it was the looks of the character or other details, we were always on the same page. There was very little verbal communication between us on the sets.
The story of your film is by the master storyteller Ranjith. How did he write a story for your first film as a director?
I had shown him my ad films. He saw it with a lot of interest and even demanded a second viewing.
He seemed impressed and told me that he’d see a filmmaker in me.
After a few days I got a call from him offering me a role in Thirakkadha saying that it is a small role. I obviously couldn’t let go of this opportunity. When I reached the location, everyone was asking me about the commercial that I’d made as Ranjith had spoken about it to everyone out there.
It was an overwhelming experience.
After that he kept enquiring about my progress. That is when he asked me if I liked this story and I accepted it as a gift.
You started out as a child artist in couple of classic films in Malayalam like Bharatam, Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha . What are your memories of them?
The first film that I did was Sibi Sir's Mudra. They had selected my younger brother for the role but on the day of the shoot, he fell sick so I had to fill in for him.
After that I was called for a few more films. For Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha I was called for an interview. There were M. T. Vasudevan Nair and Hariharan, obviously I didn't know them or the importance of the meeting.
There was a costume trail.
I was told that I was selected to play Chandu because of my brown eyes and a birthmark on my face very similar to Mammooka's. I've the script of that film; my scenes were silent with voice over given by Mammooka. What an impact they have, that is the reason why people still remember them.
Similarly, in Bharatham, my scene with Lalettan; the sun was going down and they had to finish it before it was dark. so we went into it without any rehearsal, Lalettan hugged me after the scene was taken telling me that I'd done a very good job.
I didn't understand what I had done to deserve so much love.
After two months I was called to dub for that scene. Till then I had not done dubbing or didn't even know there was a thing called dubbing studio. It took me two days to get it right.
Was it frustrating that your career as an adult actor didn't take off as expected?
I have been asked this question time and again. I am not frustrated, as I don't think my time is up. You tend to feel frustrated when you start feeling that your time is up. Maybe someone will write a role for me or approach me with the right script. There is still time.
What do you enjoy more, being in front of the camera or behind it?
I enjoy every process connected with film making.
I am here because cinema is my passion. So, I try to be involved with it in whatever way I can.
I am learning something new every day. I don’t like to compare different things. Still, if you insist, as an actor I can relax after a day’s work. But, I cannot do so when I am directing as it a 24/7 job. you require managerial skills for that.
There is more pressure, I can absorb that pressure, knowing that every new experience is making me a better director in the future.