As an actor, I’d prefer to keep boundaries at bay: Jishnu Raghavan in ‘Balcony Baatein’
The year is 2012, and Jishnu Raghavan no longer seems the teenager who had left a mark in our minds way back in 2002, in ‘Nammal’. Ten years later, Jishnu has transformed into a strikingly handsome young man who is all set for yet another stint in Malayalam films. Here is the mechanical engineer turned actor in a conversation with Balcony Beats, where he talks about a self imposed break from films, the much talked about comeback and his plans for the future.
BB: Where have you been all this while, Jishnu? And what was it that prompted this comeback in 2012?
Jishnu: It was around in 2003, that I had the opportunity to associate with an educational organization, the chief motive of which was to establish educational institutions that would promote Information Technology in the rural areas of the country. We started an NGO that would help open up before the rural population, the immense possibilities of IT education. Around 3500 branches across the country were set up, through which we could instruct and train lakhs and lakhs of people in the subcontinent. It was a splendid feeling to realize that scores of people had actually found a direction in their lives through our program.
I should admit that it has been a huge learning process for me. It was an enriching experience in that it helped me get closer to the true meaning of life. As a person, I had never been interested in living a life just for the sake of it; I was the kind who wanted to think out-of-the-box, I wanted to travel around and get to know the country and the world. This was the right opportunity for me to do all that and more, and in the realms of management and teaching, I could find myself evolving as an individual.
I would confidently say that my years away from the film industry have been productively spent. It was all going splendidly well, but the strain was a bit too much, I admit. It was quite difficult for me to be back in films, when this offer came, since I held a very responsible position in the company, and added to that I was very passionate about what I was doing as well. Resigning the job and getting back before the camera was a tough decision, but here I am exploring my prime passion yet again!
BB: Now that you look back at it, how does it feel to have entered the film industry having just stepped out of college?
Jishnu: I had just passed out of the Regional Engineering College at Calicut, and six months later I was acting in films. Now that I think about it, perhaps it was a bit too early for me to have entered the mainstream film industry. One of the major drawbacks of being in showbiz at a young age is perhaps that you tend to get disconnected from the real world. With little experience, there is a penchant to be lost somewhere in all the glitz and glamour that stardom offers. It does happen, though I’m glad it didn’t happen to me.
BB: I’m sure most of our readers know about it already, but could you tell us how the ‘Nammal’ offer came your way?
Jishnu: The campus selection at the Engineering College got me placed at a reputed company in Delhi, which is when I realized that this wasn’t really my cup of tea. I started wondering what sort of a person I was going to be, ten years down the lane. I wasn’t getting to explore myself as an individual, and the chances of discovering myself were real slim. I used to have a tremendous liking for the stage, right through my school and college days, and not much later I opened up to my dad and told him of my desire to take up acting as a career. Quite coincidentally, my dad was acting in a film directed by Kamal Sir at the time, and he happened to be a part of a discussion for a new film, for which Kamal Sir was on the lookout for a new face. I was asked to come down from Delhi to meet up with Kamal Sir, and he was impressed. I didn’t have a proper portfolio or anything back then, and Kamal sir had seen my college photographs instead. Luckily it worked in my favor, since I came across as the kind of youngster that he had in mind! I had quit my job to be a part of ‘Nammal’.
I had however had an experience already facing the camera, long back, when I was just five years old. The film was ‘Kilippaattu’, that was directed by my dad. It was a nationally acclaimed film that had veteran actors like Sukumaran, Ummer and Adoor Bhasi in it, and I still consider it an honor to have had the opportunity to work with all of them.
BB: Your acting debut with Siddharth Bharathan happened way back in 2002. In 2012, when we heard of Jishnu making a comeback, it was through Siddharth’s film again; the one which marked his directorial debut. What kind of an equation do you share with Siddharth?
Jishnu: Above everything else, both of us happen to be steadfast movie lovers. Cinema is the common ground on which both of us function; that’s what we discuss all the time. We would love to create good movies, and would love to be a part of good cinema. We have lots of common friends, and whenever we are together, its cinema that hogs our conversation. We had been busy with our respective lives during the past ten years post-Nammal, and hadn’t really had the time to catch up with each other, and even then it was all splendid when we met up again for ‘Nidra’.
BB: I am one among the several viewers who came out of the theatres tremendously impressed, having watched ‘Nidra’. What do you think went wrong, since the film was a disappointment at the box office?
Jishnu: It’s very difficult to predict the box office performance of a film, since there are so many factors that determine it. Now, probably I could give a hundred reasons for its box office failure. But the irony is that these reasons never crop up while the film is being made! However we didn’t really want to compromise on the quality of the film, and add up elements that could have generated viewer interest further. We were focusing instead on the key concept that we wanted to put across to the audience. But I do feel that the marketing aspect of the film left a lot to be desired. The film deserved a greater hype, and somehow the marketing campaigns of the film couldn’t project it as the kind of film that it truly was. The result was that at least a section of the audience had developed misapprehension regarding the film that kept them away from the theatres.
BB: You played an adorable character in Sugeeth’s ‘Ordinary’. How was the experience of working with all-youngster crew?
Jishnu: I was seriously involved with ‘Nidra’ and I had a tremendously enjoyable experience working in ‘Ordinary’ as well. We had a lot of fun on the sets of ‘Ordinary’ and had a blast during the shoot. It felt like having one great vacation out there!
BB: Do you feel acting has something to do with the genes? As the son of an exemplary actor, how much do you think have you inherited the skill?
Jishnu: There are things that each one of us is able to do, or unable to do. For instance, acting is something that I can very well understand, whereas there are other skills that I might not equally comfortable with. I might not be a great actor today, but I’m confident that I would evolve as a good actor one day or the other. I do agree that the chances of the son of a good actor turning out to be a good performer are quite high. I was born in the world of films, have seen plenty of films, and have seen how films work. It’s easier for me probably to fall into the groove than it is for a person who is a fresh entrant to films.
BB: 2012 has already started off on a brilliant note, and we have already registered a few hits, that also happen to be distinctly different from the run-of-the-mill kind that the market had been flooded with during the last several years. Is the new generation movement in Malayalam cinema happening for real?
Jishnu: Obviously. The prime requirement of the film industry or any industry for that matter is the maintenance of a proper balance. For the last few years, this lack of balance has indeed been haunting our industry as well. The demands and expectations of the audience were perhaps a bit too limited and the industry faithfully followed suit, catering to the needs of the audience. There weren’t many film makers out there who were willing to take the risk of experimenting with something different in a structured scenario as this. Ours is a small industry that functions on a shoe string budget, and you couldn’t blame the film makers either. Luckily the change emerged from the part of the audience that started getting critical of what they got to see on the screens. This is the movement that we are talking about now; one that had arrived much earlier in Bollywood and a few years back in Tamil films, and though a bit late which has finally arrived in the Malayalam film industry as well. Added to that there is a massive influx of fresh talent into the industry. If you are on Facebook, you must have noted that there are any number of short films being made these days, several of which I find extremely interesting.
BB: We have come to an age when actors refuse to be tied down to a particular image, whether it be that of a hero or that of a villain. What kind of roles are you on the lookout for, during your second outing in films?
Jishnu: The times are gone, when you would categorize actors into definite image slots. The new breed of actors just wants to be a part of good cinema. As an actor I would never want to experience boundaries and would love to walk around and see what I could possibly do. I would love to connect with the public, live the moment and be unconcerned about tomorrow. I won’t be willing to compromise either by demanding that I would be just doing hero centric roles. I would love to do challenging roles and surprise the audience with each role of mine. I would hate to be predictable.
BB: Do you have plans of moving on to any other department in film making? Like writing or directing, for instance?
Jishnu: I’d definitely love to direct a film, though there aren’t any immediate plans as such. Probably two to three years from now, I’d think about it.
BB: You have changed a lot, when it comes to your looks, and I mean it in a very positive sense. Have you been working out vigorously at the gym?
Jishnu: Thank you. My food habits weren’t up to the mark during the last ten years, with all the travelling and stuff. I had very little opportunities to work out as well, and all of this did take a toll on my health. Yes, now that I’m back, I have been paying attention to all that and more right now, and I’m glad that the results are there for you to see.
BB: What are your future projects going to be?
Jishnu: I have signed up for this new film called ‘Annum Innum Ennum’ to be directed by Rajesh Nair, that has a wonderfully creative team of youngsters working behind it. There is also another film that I’m quite excited about -‘Banking Hours: 10 to 4’ – a thriller that would be directed by K Madhu. There are also a couple of other projects, discussions of which are currently on.
BB: All the very best, Jishnu, and we hope to see more of you on screen in the coming days. Pleasure talking to you!
Jishnu: Thank You!
Tags: Annum Innum Ennum, Banking Hours, Jishnu Raghavan