As the sun sets over the placid backwaters skirting Le Meridien Kochi, the soft lights of the splendid high-end hotel are turned on, making the edifice look resplendent like a decked up bride. Into the patio comes actor-singer Manoj K Jayan dressed in his casual best - a crisp dark blue T-shirt and blue skintight pair of denims, sporting a bandana, face mask and white sandals. At the very first sight, he appears to be the typical Malayali metrosexual gentleman, who is careful about his looks and wardrobe, as is evident from his well-trimmed salt-and-pepper beard that peeks at you from the seams of the mask and choice of attire. As he folds his hands to say namaste instead of the customary handshake to maintain social distancing norms, one can’t help casting a furtive glance at the Apple smartwatch on his wrist, which speaks volumes of his love for smart gadgets.
As he sits down on a recliner for a chat with Cochin Herald, one notices that he has no airs and is down to earth. For Malayalam movie lovers around the world, the very mention of Manoj K Jayan conjures up the image of an actor-singer who is one of the few paragons of versatility in tinsel town. Without an iota of doubt, one can say he is a cut above the rest as he prefers to tread differently.
The path less travelled
He is one of those rare Mollywood actors who minces no words when it comes to confessing his disregard for attaining superstar status. From the time he started facing the arc lights and camera more than three decades ago, Manoj always stood apart from the crowd with his casual attitude towards being in the limelight and hogging the headlines and it reflects in his choice of roles. “I am not a person who signs all the offers I get. Even if it is a big-budget movie, I might not accept it if I am not comfortable with the role. Instead, I might sign up for a newcomer’s movie which has a low budget. However big the offer might be, Manoj is sagacious in choosing his roles and he has the uncanny ability to breathe life into them with jawdropping finesse. Little wonder his characters, ranging from Kuttan Thampuran in “Sargam”, Anto of “Chamayam” and Digambaran in the horror flick “Ananthabhadram” to Eddy John Kurisingal in “Big B” enjoy cult status among Mollywood buffs.
The journey of a RajinikantBachchan fan to celluloid
Manoj, who hails from Kottayam, fell in love with celluloid during his childhood days when he used to watch with rapt attention the flicks of his matinee idols Rajinikant, the late Jayan and Amitabh Bachchan. “Thus began my passion to be an actor,” says Manoj, who was born into a family blessed by the muse of music. His father, K G Jayan, and his uncle, K G Vijayan, are known as the Jaya-Vijayan pair in the Carnatic music circuit. But young Manoj wooed the muse of acting and was not at all interested in learning classical music to tread in the footsteps of his father. During his college days in Natakom, his favourite haunts were movie halls rather than campus. He dabbed grease paint and appeared before the camera for the first time in the Malayalam television serial “Kumilakal”, which appeared in Doordarshan in 1988.
““Kumilakal” directed by Adam Ayub was my stepping stone to cinema as my performance was well appreciated in it. Until eight episodes, my character, Rajasekharan, was a dim-wit ridiculed by all. In the ninth and tenth episodes, he shows a marked improvement towards becoming a smart guy and the final two leave me firing on all cylinders,” says Manoj as he goes down memory lane.
He credits “Kumilakal” for giving him the big break in Mollywood two years later in the movie ‘Perumthachan’ scripted by M T Vasudevan Nair in which he donned the role of Thirumangalam Neelakantan, a Brahmin royal official who tries in vain to woo the heroine. His dialogue delivery, mannerisms and eye movement offered the discerning viewer a peep into the actor’s vast talent pool.
Kuttan Thampuran brings home his debut state award
Viewers and fans got a taste of Manoj’s ability to make a character unmatched and unforgettable for the first time in the 1992 movie “Sargam” directed by the legendary Hariharan. His amazing prowess in breathing life into characters was noticed for the first time when he played the role of Kuttan Thampuran, a beedi-smoking, epileptic, brash and violent scion of an aristocratic family who is feared by all, taking that role to new heights. The dexterity with which he essayed that complex character was noticed by the State Film Awards jury, fetching him his debut award for the second-best actor in 1993.
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