‘Chattakkari’ would let people see me in a new light: Hemanth Menon in ‘Balcony Baatein’
A striking debut in a Fazil film is what every actor aspirant would dream of! Hemanth Menon, the markedly handsome young actor, who made an entry into the Malayalam film industry with the veteran film maker’s ‘Living Together’ comes across as a man of impeccable manners and charming ways. Here is Hemanth in a conversation with Balcony Beats, where he animatedly talks about himself, his film career and his latest film ‘Chattakkari’.
BB: They say there are two kinds of actors – the born ones and the trained ones. Which category would you fall into? Is it an actor that you have always wanted to become?
Hemanth: I would fall into the second category! I was doing my final year Engineering, and was travelling by train in connection with a project, when I happened to come across Rajan Joseph sir (the late Jose Prakash sir’s son). It was he who suggested that I looked apt for the leading role in a film that was being launched by Fazil sir. He also asked me to email him my pictures, and go meet him, if I was interested. Later he himself took me to Fazil sir who was impressed by my looks. As for the acting bit, Fazil sir took me under his wings and taught me whatever I needed to know.
BB: Fazil, no doubt is a film maker who is known to have launched some of the biggest names in the Malayalam film industry, from Mohanlal to Kunchacko Boban. He’s a legend, and how was your experience of working with him?
Hemanth: I was totally in awe of him as a film maker. In ‘Living Together’, he had before him an actor who was facing the camera for the first time, and it’s thanks to him that I could try my best. He is one of the most senior directors that we have, and yet he goes out of his way to act out and demonstrate a scene before us! I could remember any number of acting tips that he had provided us with during the shoot. He doesn’t approve of a take, until he is absolutely sure that it has all turned out perfect. As such, it was an immense learning experience for me as an actor, and I believe that I was truly lucky to have had the opportunity of working with him.
Hemanth: If you felt so, I would attribute the entire credit to Fazil sir, for having taken the trouble to painstakingly work with me. I did experience the fresher tremors during the scenes that we shot at the beginning, but eventually it got better, and it’s thanks to him!
BB: This seems to be the right time for youngsters to be making their entry into the film industry. There are so many new faces – be it directors, actors or technicians – coming on the scene right now, and what do you feel of this new gen movement in Malayalam films?
Hemanth: Absolutely. If you ask me, this is the perfect moment for a newcomer to enter the industry. ‘Living Together’ did not do that well at the box office, but even before the film was released, I had got another offer from director Biju Arukkutti, who was planning his first film as well, as an independent director. The film was ‘Dr. Love’ in which I was cast along with Kunchacko Boban and Bhavana. It was a challenge doing a key role with them in a project as ‘Dr. Love’, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
BB: And don’t you feel that over the last few years, the audience perceptions have changed as well?
Hemanth: Yes! The audience today is ready to accept new faces, and new people. They are all geared up to listen to new themes and ideas and willing to take a look at cinematic experiments. It’s a fast changing scenario, no doubt, and I’m sure it’s a positive change!
BB: Indeed! From Fazil to Biju Arukkutti, it must have been some journey for sure. You must have noticed some distinct differences in film making styles, when you landed on the sets of ‘Dr. Love’. Could you elaborate?
Hemanth: The major difference I guess is the way in which you communicate with the directors. While working with Fazil sir, you just leave everything to him and be exactly what he wants you to be in his film. It’s more of a paternal affection that you experience on his sets. While working with Biju chettan, you feel like you are working with your elder brother, and find yourself on a different plane altogether. And with so many youngsters on the sets, it’s a totally different ball game that is loads of fun, as much as it is a learning experience.
BB: I’m sure it should have been. As much as he is a youngster, Kunchacko Boban is quite a senior to you with the number of years that he has been around in movies. How was it working with him in ‘Dr. Love’?
Hemanth: It was amazing really, and I have tremendously enjoyed working with Chackochan. He is a gem of a person, and I believe he is one of those actors who is absolutely supportive of fresh talent coming into the industry. And with him being around, you are always on your toes, trying to improve your performance as well!
BB: I would term your role in Sugeeth’s ‘Ordinary’ as ‘short and sweet’. It’s one of those roles that make you feel that the length of a role doesn’t matter, as long as you leave an impact on the viewer’s mind.
Hemanth: I consider myself lucky to have been able to collaborate with a film like ‘Ordinary’. Sugeeth chettan has been a friend, and when he suggested that I do this key role in the film, I was more than happy. Chackochan too was all supportive. I was just waiting for a different kind of a role, after ‘Dr. Love’ since I didn’t want to do films just for the sake of it. But I knew that this role that carries the story forward at a vantage point would be noticed, and with the film turning out to be an extraordinary hit, I’m glad that my role has been appreciated as well.
BB: And now you are busy with ‘Chattakkari’, Santhosh Sethumadhavan’s remake of the classic film that goes by the same name. Have you seen the original film, and how does it feel stepping into Mohan’s shoes?
Hemanth: Yes, I have seen the original film. I should say that luck has favored me again, when it comes to ‘Chattakkari’. If you have seen ‘Living Together’, you might remember that it was Menaka aunty who played my mom in it. It was she who recommended that I play the role of Sasi in ‘Chattakkari’; the role that was essayed by Mohan years back.
When I saw the original film, this was a character that had me confounded. Later, when I read the fresh script, I could see that it has been chiseled to perfection. I agree it’s a different kind of a character no doubt, one with negative shades, and it should hopefully be one that helps me break away from the romantic hero image that I have built up with my first three films. I am tremendously happy with the way the role has turned out.
BB: Let me tell you that you are bound to be compared with Mohan, and how do you plan to take on the comparisons?
Hemanth: Comparisons are bound to be there, no doubt, and I hope I have done a decent enough job in ‘Chattakkari’ that would help me deal with it. The soul of this film is the character of Julie, that has been essayed by Lekshmi maam to perfection in the original film, and hence Shamna Kasim, who dons the role in the new version would be compared as well. I accept it’s a huge challenge for all of us, but I guess its fine!
BB: It was way back in 1974 that ‘Chattakkari’ was released, and it’s been around forty years! Do you feel the theme of the film holds promise still?
Hemanth: I would say ‘Chattakkari’ has a theme that stands the tests of time. Inter caste relationships still manage to rake up a furor in our society. As much as it remains at that, the script has been thoroughly reworked to incorporate into it the changes and alterations that the forty years that have passed by, demand. There is bound to be a freshness in the film, since the makers have seen to it that the visualization of the script is top notch.
BB: How was it working with Shamna Kasim? This is probably the most important film in her career as well!
Hemanth: She is an incredibly talented artiste, no doubt! I definitely feel this film is going to work wonders for her. She’s a through professional as well, having acted in other language films beside Malayalam. We were very comfortable with each other and hopefully the results would be well appreciated.
BB: So what are your future projects going to be?
Hemanth: At the moment, a few discussions are on, though it’s not yet time to make official announcements. I have pinned great hopes on ‘Chattakkari’ that would let people see me in a different light.
BB: You mentioned about being a singer as well! Are you a trained musician?
Hemanth: Not really, but I do come from a family of singers. My mom and my sister are good singers. I do sing and I even studied music for about one and a half years. I have sung for Ganamelas too in college, but that’s it.
BB: Such a pleasure talking to you, Hemanth! And all the very best for ‘Chattakkari’!
Hemanth: Thank You! Pleasure talking to you as well!
Tags: Chattakkari, Hemanth Menon