Fahadh Faasil is a game-changer for Mollywood with three hit films: Varathan, Njan Prakashan, Kumbalangi Nights

Sreedhar Pillai

Feb 28, 2019 15:46:35 IST

Fahadh Faasil has redefined the concept of the "hero" in commercial Malayalam cinema. He is turning out to be a game-changer in a star-driven industry. The last six months will remain a milestone in his career. Fahadh, or Fafa as he is called by friends, is riding a wave with a hat trick of hits. First was Amal Neerad-directed Varathan, a super hit thriller, followed by veteran director Sathyan Anthikad’s Njan Prakashan, his first blockbuster, and last week's Kumbalangi Nights, debutant director Madhu C Narayanan’s comedy drama, became a smash hit.

Fahadh is currently hot property in Malayalam cinema. He is an actor of substance who chooses his scripts with a lot of care and has now also got the all-important “opening” factor. The millennium star has new generation audiences hooked to him especially in Kerala, all India multiplexes, and a strong presence in overseas gulf countries and USA. The combined worldwide theatrical gross of his last three releases – Varathan (Rs 25 cr), Njaan Prakashan (Rs 52 cr) and Kumbalangi Nights (early estimates put the lifetime worldwide theatrical gross around Rs 30 cr) is over Rs 100 crores. These are phenomenal numbers in an industry where 80 to 90 percent theatrical collections come from the small state of Kerala.

Fahadh Faasil is a game-changer for Mollywood with three hit films: Varathan, Njan Prakashan, Kumbalangi Nights

A file photo of Fahadh Faasil.

It’s a dream comeback for Fahadh from virtual oblivion after his debut film Kaiyethum Doorathu (2002), a romantic film directed by his father Fazil, failed miserably. Fazil, the hit director who discovered Mohanlal in 1980 with Manjil Virinja Pookal, had a Midas touch at the box-office in 1980s and 90s  with memorable super hits like Nokketha Doorathu Kannum Nattu (1984) , Manichitrathazhu (1993) Aniyathipravu (1997) and few others. He was written off as an actor and was packed off to USA for higher studies. The actor made a comeback after seven years with Ranjith’s anthology film Kerala Cafe (2009).

In an interview to a Malayalam publication, Fahadh defended his father’s decision to launch him in a commercial romantic film. He said that he was responsible for the failure of his debut film as he was not prepared for an acting career at that stage. Perhaps the early failure changed Fahadh’s attitude to filmmaking and he decided in his second innings to take the road less traveled by doing off-beat roles.

His performance in the thriller Chappa Kurissu (2011) directed by cameraman-turned-director Sameer Thahir was noted. But the big break came with Aashiq Abu’s 22 Female Kottayam (2012) where he played the negative role, followed by Lal Jose’s Diamond Necklace (2012) which got him the female audiences. This was followed by films like Rajeev Ravi’s love story Annayum Rasoolum, Lijo Jose Pellisery’s Amen, VK Prakash’s Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla and a few others.

Fahadh Faasil in Njan Prakashan. Youtube screengrab.

Fahadh was able to connect with modern, internet-savvy youth audiences basically due to his unconventional choice of roles and refusal to be straight jacketed into traditional hero roles. He chose his scripts and directors with great care, was not awed by big names and preferred to work with young raw directors with a “bright idea”. The 2016 rural comedy Maheshinte Prathikaaram directed by debutant Dileesh Pothan and written by Syam Pushkaran was a trendsetter. It was followed by editor-turned-director Mahesh Narayanan’s Take Off with which Fahadh took off as an actor with a minimum guarantee. Next Dileesh Pothan and Syam Pushkaran (who co-wrote the film), the hottest director-writer team currently in Malayalam cinema, came up with Thondi Muthalum Driksakshiyum, where Fahadh played a petty thief became a super hit.

Veteran journalist and close friend of Fahadh, Vijay George says: “ Fafa’s journey in Malayalam cinema has mostly been in such a terrain that no one until then thought would work. His brilliance as an actor is just amazing as he gets into the skin of characters and literally gives life to them. The actor can be a suave, funny, romantic or menacing as the situation demands. He is like a magnet on screen and is able to grab the attention of the viewers . Just think about his role in Take Off, Thondi Muthalum Driksakshiyum or recent Kumblangi Nights. Which other actor can make the kind of impact that he has made in those roles?

Strangely Fahadh’s first flop after he became a star, was a conventional hero in Role Models (2018) directed by hit maker Rafi, known for his slapstick comedies. He went back to experimental films with Venu’s Carbon (2017) which also bombed. After taking time over his scripts, he came out in 2018 end and early 2019 with his hat trick of hits, that has established him as a saleable star who has now an opening. One of the major plus points about Fahadh is that unlike his contemporaries (read: Dulquer Salmaan, Nivin Pauly or Prithviraj) he has not been enamoured by the lure of Bollywood or Kollywood. The actor loves doing scripts which are rooted in the Kerala milieu, which has now become his USP.

Fahadh did just one Tamil film as antagonist opposite Sivakarthikeyan in Velaikkaran (2017) as he was paid three times his salary. At the same time he agreed to do Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s Super Deluxe free as he was kicked about the script. He shocked the industry when he said “No” to the great Mani Ratnam after going through the script of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (subsequently Arun Vijay did the role). The buzz is that he is still in talks with Mani Ratnam for another exciting project soon.

Fahadh Faasil in Kumabalangi Nights. Youtube screengrab.

Raju Mathew, the oldest distributor and producer in India, who distributed Fahad’s home production Kumbalangi Nights, says: “Fahadh is an actor par excellence, the best to emerge in Malayalam cinema after Mohanlal. I have seen his growth at close quarters and always admired his capabilities as a performer. Fahadh is clear about what he wants in his scripts and choice of films. While other new generation stars are struggling to strike the right balance in their career, he has found it.”

A director who has worked with Fahadh and now looking for another date, says: “What really excites Fafa is the script and he is not bothered about his image or whether the film will work at the box-office. He was one of the producers of Kumbalangi Nights and could have done any role he wanted but preferred to do the psychopath role, because it excited him the most. His success comes from being unconventional and doing roles that are close to reality. Take all his successful films, the conflicts that his characters face are from within.”

On the personal front Fahadh’s marriage to actress Nazriya Nazim has been a stabilising factor, as she looks after his production company. Fahadh’s close friends in the industry who have his ears are director Anwar Rashid, Amal Neerad , Dilish Pothan and writer Syam Pushakaran. For more than a year, Fahadh and Anwar along with cinematographer-turned-director Amal Neerad has been making their magnum opus Trance (on a budget of Rs 20 cr). Fahadh is said to be playing five roles in the film, which has an ensemble supporting cast.

His next release is Athiran, a romantic thriller directed Vivek Thomas in which he is cast opposite Sai Pallavi. Among the older generation of directors, he has worked only with Sathyan Anthikad in two films, Oru Indian Pranya Katha, an average grosser, and Njan Prakashan, a blockbuster. Fahadh knows what he is doing and that has earned him the place that he is in now, with a string of critically acclaimed hits and the best of the projects in his kitty.

Updated Date: Feb 28, 2019 19:40:43 IST