With two back-to-back Malayalam releases, Kunchacko Boban hopes audiences will step into cinema halls back again

Kunchacko Boban describes his two latest films — Mohan Kumar Fans and Nayattu — as different as chalk and cheese. The first to hit screens is the former, which releases today, and the latter April 8. Helmed by Jis Joy, Mohan Kumar… is his first release of the year; Anjaam Paathira (2020) was his last release.

“The movie-goer could do with a family entertainer, the kind that makes you laugh and happy. We need it after the series of hard times we have been having” he says.

Second show screenings have been permitted in Kerala; recent releases such as Operation Jawa and The Priest have seen more families stepping into theatres. “COVID-19 protocols are being followed in theatres, be it sanitisation, after-show fumigation, and social distancing. It is not that people are not stepping out… I hope some walk into theatres as well,” says Kunchacko.

The actor is considered one of Malayalam cinema’s most bankable stars due to his appeal among family audiences, and he laughs when that is mentioned. “I got a few calls about Anjaam Paathira asking if I was trying to scare the wits out of people!” In the thriller, directed by Midhun Manuel Thomas, he played a criminal psychologist who helps Kerala Police capture a serial killer.

Mohan Kumar Fans marks his fourth time coming together with scenarist duo Bobby-Sanjay. “It has the intensity of a Bobby-Sanjay story, while Jis (director) brings in the feel-good factor with humour and emotional connect. After a long time, we see actors such as Siddique, Mukesh, Sreenivasan, KPAC Lalitha and other familiar, well-loved faces together in one film.” Kunchacko essays an aspiring singer Krishnan Unni, trying to make it in the film industry as a playback singer while working as a driver for yesteryear star Mohan Kumar (Siddique). “Theatres need to hear laughter… I think it has been a while since a film that made us laugh out loud. Mohan Kumar… is that film.”

Another reason he bats for a feel-good, light film is due to his personal experience during lockdown. One of the things he initially did, “since everybody else seemed to be”, was to watch films and web series across OTT platforms. “A lot of it was dark. It reached a point that I had to stop because I felt uneasy. As it is, there was so much anxiety around…and thanks to the stuff I was watching, I felt that increase.”

Subsequently, he took to running around his building and working out. He also took to football, playing with the children in his neighbourhood. “I did not play it [football] because I invariably fractured a bone when I did. But I graduated from being a goalie to becoming a defender, midfielder and am now a forward,” he says.

Martin Prakkat’s Nayattu also, temporarily, got him into another sport — vadamvali (tug of war). “It was an extreme experience. I play a cop, Praveen Michael, who is into this sport so I had to beef up. We shot with a team that competes professionally. When we were done, I had bruises all over and didn’t need make-up to show a vadamvali guy’s bruises. I was able to, literally, get into the skin of the character… so what if I lost some of mine.” he says, laughing.

Praveen Michael challenged Kunchacko who has done several cop roles before. “It is an intense film, very different from Martin’s earlier ones, about how a system works and how the lives of three people — Joju George, Nimisha Sajayan and I — are affected by it. For the first time in my 24 years in the industry, I acted in a film where 90% of the film was shot in chronological order and recorded in sync sound, all of which gave me the space to grow with the character.” He is full of praise for the film’s technical team that includes besides Martin Prakkat, scenarist Shahi Kabir, cinematographer Shyju Khalid, editor Mahesh Narayanan and composer Vishnu Vijay. “It will be treat to relish!”

He confesses he is excited by the almost back-to-back release of two of his films. But he would rather see them as two very different films than two Kunchacko Boban movies. “I just happen to be the common factor.”

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