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Stepping up his act

Posted December 6th, 2018, 09:42 AM IST

Stepping up his act

Saju Navodaya, who is more famous by his stage name Pashanam Shaji, is noted for quirky counter dialogues and animated expressions. Saju is ever smiling, loves to hum some beautiful songs and laughs for even small jokes. He became a familiar face in Malayalam movie industry through the character in Vellimoonga, in which he combined with Biju Menon and Tini Tom to erupt laughter in theatres. With the success of the movie, he became part of some of the blockbusters in Malayalam, and cemented his place as one of the best comedians in the industry.

Saju is all excited as Karinkannan, his first movie as a hero, directed by Pappan Naripatta, is releasing today. He’s not tensed by the movie’s release, yet he is enjoying the phase as he assures the movie will be a good treat for the audience. “This movie got a lot of specialities. This is my first movie as a hero. Besides, there are many first timers in story, script, music and production departments. The movie is made on a low budget, but it has all the elements to entertain the audience. This is what I felt after the preview show,” says Saju.

The movie is about Dasan, who is treated by others as a karinkannan (evil eyed). There are many stories of karinkannans and karinakkans (black tongued), whom the people see with a little fear. “Dasan’s birth itself becomes a great talk in the village. His ancestors were the so-called evil-eyed people; so, when Dasan’s mother was about to give birth, people pray for a girl. Since Dasan’s birth, people treat him differently. There are very rare sequences that show him as karinkannan. People’s attitude towards him is depicted in majority of the scenes and it’s shown in a humorous way. The movie is a light-hearted one with scenes that move you. The story is set in a village like in Sathyan Anthikad sir’s movies and has an array of interesting characters.” The movie also boasts off some newcomers like lead actress Sruthi, along with skilled actors like Vijayaraghavan, Seema G. Nair, Sasi Kalinga, Niyas, Sinoj Varghese etc.

Saju says playing the character made him realise how those who are accused as evil eyed or black tongued feel. He affirms that this is not the first time he’s getting an offer to play a hero. “The other characters were suitable for young actors. It will look odd if I fight and thrash 10 goons,” he laughs. Many artistes who started as comedians turned into character actors and lead actors later. Suraj Venjaramoodu, Salim Kumar and Kalabhavan Shajohn are prime examples. “It is boring when we get same type of roles in all the movies. However, as a budding artiste, I can’t reject the roles saying it’s the same type. I wasn’t in such a situation initially in my career. But now, I take up roles after hearing the full script. There’s no use in increasing the number of roles as I don’t wish to pile up my bank balance or invest in real estate. I wish to do good roles that people remember always.”

Saju has entered another exciting phase of his career, as he has donned the director’s hat for the anthology movie, Vattamesha Sammelanam directed by Vipin Atley. “The movie has six segments and I directed Karuveppilai. The movie stars Noby in the lead role. I have also stepped into scriptwriting and the movie will start shooting in January.” He’s scripting the movie named Panavally Pandavas which is based on football. The movie has him, Noby and Sohan Seenulal in the lead roles. “We do many pranks at the age 25-26. It’s the time we love to do many mischiefs. At a later stage, this comes back to us like a boomerang. This is the plot of Panavally Pandavas.”

Saju asserts that the role of Dasan will be a refreshing change for him. He had even undergone a trimmed look for the character. “This character will show another side of the artiste in me. Maybe, this is the first time I’ve tried a different look for a character. There isn’t much punch or counter dialogues from my side and I’ve even changed my mannerisms. Situational humour has worked out well in the movie.” He is an artiste with so much of stage experience and handles humour really well in movies. But, he opines that humour, in today’s movies, is different from what we used to see and the writer just needs to place situations in the script so that the humour works out well.

He affirms that he is selective about his roles these days. “A pond is of no use if there aren’t fish in it. Likewise the script and the character matter.” His wife is the greatest support of his life. When he’s not shooting, they both are indulged in charity activities. “At the moment, what excites me is Karinkannan. It will be a small movie which everyone will enjoy, especially families. Go to theatres expecting a normal meal; you will get a biriyani for sure,” he wraps up.