Santhosh Keezhattoor says his role in ‘Odunnon’ has been one of the most challenging so far
Santhosh Keezhattoor may not have had too many author-backed roles in his career in Malayalam cinema yet, but he has proved his talent every time he was given an opportunity. It is not often that a film revolves completely around him. Odunnon does.
The film, which reached cinemas this week, has given Santhosh one of his most challenging roles of his career. He plays a man who is gripped by an unusual fear of snakes. “It is the kind of a role an actor dreams of,” says Santhosh, who was in Kozhikode to promote the film. “When the film’s director, Noushad Ibrahim told me about Odunnon, I decided to do it right away.”
It is Noushad’s directorial début, but Santhosh has known him for several years. Both have a background in theatre and have been winners of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Awards for best actor.
“The year Noushad won for his performance in the title role of Thacholi Othenan, I had given him the toughest competition with my performance as Ochira Velukkutty in Avathara Purushan,” says Santhosh. “I told Noushad that I didn’t mind losing that award, because he was the winner.”
That was in 2009. At that time he could not have imagined that he would act in a film directed by Noushad.
“I liked the concept of Odunnon,” says Santhosh. “And it has been a very challenging role, physically and mentally. I am an actor who loves to act my whole body rather than dialogues.”
Since his character in Odunnon is someone who keeps on running, that too barefoot, filming was tough for him. “For one of the sequences, I had to run non-stop for two-and-a-half hours, and it was a difficult terrain too, with so many sharp-edged stones along the way,” he says.
But he didn’t mind the hardships. “A role like this does not come easily in Malayalam cinema, where it is easy to get typecast,” he says. “But I am grateful to cinema, though. I am recognised for my work in films, and not for the best-actor award I won for theatre.”
His roles in Pulimurugan and Vikramadithyan that made him popular. “But some of the good I work did went unnoticed because they were much smaller films,” he says. “Samarpanam and Nilavariyathe were fine films, but hardly anyone watched them in cinemas. Many peoplecalled me up after watching Samarpanam on online streaming services, though.”
He says he has interesting roles in upcoming films, like Kallan, Vellam and Bhoomiyile Manohara Swakaryam. And once he finishes his assignments, he wants to go back to the stage and get dressed in saris and put on his long wig once again, for his one-man play Pen Nadan.
His portrayal of an actor who became a legend for portraying female roles, at a time when women did not dare to act in Kerala, has wowed audiences across the country and even overseas.
“No role has given me as much appreciation or gratification,” he says. “But that was possible because of the popularity I gained as a film actor.”
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