Suraj Venjaramoodu is on cloud nine. The actor, who won the 2019 Kerala State Award for Best Actor for his roles in Android Kunjappan 5.25 and Vikruthi, says the award comes as an honour. “Awards are recognition for the hard work and sincerity you put into a role. It is even more valuable when it comes from your state, your home, your people,” he says, speaking to The NationWide.
If the actor played a speech and hearing challenged person, who is trolled and ridiculed after an unflattering picture of his goes viral in Vikruthi, he donned the role of a septuagenarian who develops fatherly feelings towards his robot caretaker in Android Kunjappan 5.25.
Suraj, who started off as a mimicry artiste, began his career in film with comedic roles. He received the Kerala State Award for Best Comedian in 2009, 2010, and 2013. In 2015, he won the National Award for Best Actor for his poignant portrayal of a person from the marginalised community in D Bijukumar’s Perariyathavar.
“I was fascinated by my character of a widowed father who works as a scavenger in Perariyathavar and felt encouraged by the fact that Dr Biju saw my potential to perform the role. While I was delighted with the National Award, I was disappointed that not many went to theatres to watch it. As a result, many must have wondered if I was truly deserving of the award. After all, I am known for my comic roles,” says the actor, who admits that he had often longed to try his hand at “something different to break free from the creative rut” he was in.
And although, he hoped the National Award win would bring him varied characters, he was still however, offered comedy roles. “So, I began requesting directors for diverse roles instead.”
Pavithran, a man who is wronged by his wife in the film Action Hero Biju is what Suraj feels made people sit up and take note of his ability to portray characters with depth. It was a breakthrough role for the actor, who was till then, mostly just a comic sidekick.
“Although it was a cameo role, it was an eyeopener for many,” says the actor who went on to play note-worthy characters in films such as Thondimuthalam Driksakshiyum, Karinkunnam Sixes and Kuttanpillayude Sivarathri.
Suraj, who is trying to play characters with substance these days, has quite a few films in his kitty. The actor who hails from Thiruvananthapuram, is quick to add, “Be it a brief role, I pick it up only if I feel I can do justice to it. For instance, I don’t think I would be suited for the role of Karnan in the Mahabharata,” he chuckles.
While Jana Gana Mana is a “family emotional thriller”, Great Indian Kitchen, which has him share screen space once again with his Thondimuthalam Driksakshiyum team mate Nimisha Sajayan, is a woman-oriented film.
Roy, which stands for Reality of Yesterday sees the 44-year-old donning the lead in the film. “It’s a romantic thriller.”
Although “OTT platforms reaches a wider audience,” Suraj hopes that the Covid-19 situation settles and that theatres are open to the public. “A movie, I feel, is best experienced in a theatre. The fellow audience, digital effect, seating, munching on snacks…all of these contribute to the difference,” he says.
With the current Covid-19 pandemic, shooting on the sets is based on Covid-19 guidelines.
Suraj was shooting Jana Gana Mana with Prithviraj when the latter was diagnosed as Covid positive. “I was tested negative at first, but tested positive the second time round.” He chuckles saying he had to show the doctor’s certificate to get his family and friends to believe he was down with the virus. “They believed media reports that said I was Covid negative,” says the actor, who went into self-quarantine after being diagnosed with the Coronovirus.
Mild fever, body ache, a temporary loss of a sense of smell and taste, were some of the symptoms he experienced due to the virus.
A firm advocate of the use of N-95 masks and sanitizers, Suraj emphasises the need to don the mask properly and wash one’s hands properly with soap. The actor who is now Covid negative will soon be busy on the sets of Kaanekkaane. The film starring Tovino, Aishwarya Lekshmi and Suraj, has all three assuming equal roles in the film.