Nivin Pauly on breaking the mould with Richie, his foray into Tamil cinema and producing films

Sreedhar Pillai

Nov,25 2017 10:55 15 IST

Nivin Pauly is currently one of the most popular actors in Malayalam cinema; his films have had terrific openings, and have received a great response from family audiences — the most important viewer segment. His last release Njandukkalude Nattil Oridavela emerged as the big Onam winner. Nivin has been eyeing Kollywood for sometime now, and his second Tamil film Richie, where he will be seen playing the title role, is due for release on 8 December. In an exclusive interview to Firstpost, the soft-spoken and elusive actor opens up.

How did you land Richie, your second film in Tamil after Neram (2013)?

I always wanted to do a Tamil-only film; Neram was a bilingual in Malayalam and Tamil. Richie is not made as a bilingual, because I believe you can be faithful only to one language. The film is releasing in Kerala, my home state, only in the Tamil version. The trade experts in Kerala wanted it dubbed and released in Malayalam, but I made it clear that the essence of the original will be lost.

The poster for Nivin Pauly's Richie. Image from Facebook

The poster for Nivin Pauly's Richie. Image from Facebook/@NivinPauly

Is it a remake of Kannada star and director Rakshit Shetty’s hit film Ulidavaru Kandanthe?

Yes, you can say that it is an adaptation and not a scene-to-scene remake. When Gautham Ramachandran, the director of Richie, narrated the Tamil script, I was hooked.

Tell us about the character you play in the film.

I play a local rowdy in this crime drama which revolves around a mysterious murder that happens during a village festival. A journalist played by Shraddha Srinath tries to piece together the incidents that lead to the death of the person in question. The story is told through five different people, with each one narrating his or her own version of the incident. There are interesting shades to each of the characters, as well as twists. I saw a sneak preview of Richie and loved it because it is slickly made and pacy with a running time of two hours.

Premam is the film that established you as a Malayalam superstar and also allowed you to capture the market outside Kerala, as the film ran in a Chennai screen for 258 days. Is this the reason why you are doing films in Tamil?

I would say that today, cinema cannot be rooted to a particular language or region as it has become global. Social media has changed the way we look and react to a film. I’m always on the lookout for exciting scripts and a fusion of cinema. I will be doing another Tamil film next year, based on a script written by producer RD Raja of 24 AM and directed by a debutant. Right now I have completed an exciting film, Moothon, directed by Geetu Mohandas in Malayalam. Anurag Kashyap has written the Hindi dialogues of this fantasy adventure shot in Mumbai and Lakshadweep.

One of Premam's posters. Image from Facebook

One of Premam's posters. Image from Facebook/@Premamfilm

A lot of people in Kerala say that you should stick to Malayalam films which are your core strength, instead of doing films in other languages. Your thoughts?

What excites me is the script; the language is not a barrier. I have a lot of Malayalam movies coming up back-to-back. I always try to choose films with strong content – something audiences can relate to. Equally, I also consider how I can make such strong content commercially viable. I also believe that there is an audience out there which wants to see me experiment. I do not want to fall into an image trap. After Premam, I received more offers to do only romantic characters, but if you look at my last few releases, I have played varied characters. And in Richie I have broken the mould; there is not a single romantic scene in the film! (laughs).

Veteran directors in the Malayalam film industry say that you are ignoring them and giving dates only to newcomers. Why?

It happened such that I have given breaks to directors who have come out with terrific scripts like Premam, Vadakkan Selfie, Jacobinte Swargarajayam, Sakhavu, Njandukkalude Nattil Oridavela, and they worked for me at the box-office too. I’m also working with seniors like Shyama Prasad and Rosshan Andrews in my upcoming films.

What are your upcoming projects?

After Richie my next release is Shyama Prasad’s Hey Jude, a romantic story where Trisha plays my heroine. Then I will start work on Love, Action Drama, which is the directorial debut of Dhyan Sreenivasan, the brother of director and producer Vineeth Sreenivasan’s (director of Malarvadi Arts Club, Nivin’s first film, and Jacobinte Swagarajayam). Nayanthara is the heroine in this film. Right now, I’m shooting for the big budget project Kayamkulam Kochunni, a Robin Hood-like highway man who lived in 19th century Kerala. I have learned kalaripayattu and horse riding, and am very excited about this film which has been shot in natural light by ace cameraman Binod Pradhan. It will be my summer 2018 release.

Now you have forayed into production too...

Yes I have produced two films; Action Hero Biju, a very satisfying film, which received acclaim from critics and at the box-office. The film is now being remade in Hindi by Rohit Shetty with Ajay Devgn. I also produced Njandukkalude Nattil Oridavela. The next production will be on the mysterious disappearance of the ship Kairali owned by the state government, which occurred a few years back.

A still from Action Hero Biju. Image from Facebook

A still from Action Hero Biju. Image from Facebook/@Actionherobiju

You seem to be in a happy frame of mind, with recent addition to the family.

I’m happy and contended; my career is going well and five months ago, my daughter Rose Treesa was born, which brought a lot of joy to my family. My son Daveed Pauly is a lovable brat. I think it is all a blessing.