Saju Navodaya is hardly known by his real name as he is familiar to the audience by his screen name 'Pashanam Shaji. He is also known as 'Lokanath Behera' for his uncanny resemblance to Kerala's top cop who is called so. The eternal pessimist who finds a fault or misfortune in everything, Saju's 'Pashanam Shaji' has become an indispensable character in Malayalam movies these days. Having acted in nearly two dozen Malayalam movies so far, Saju's first movie as a protagonist, 'Karinkannan' reached the theaters on December 6.
In a candid chat with Onmanorama, Saju Navodaya touches upon his spirited struggle in the filmdom while sharing his dreams...
Do you miss your real name as you become famous?
I didn't accidentally lose my real name. I left it out for a good reason. I gained my screen name 'Pashanam Shaji' after participating in a mimicry show called 'Comedy Festival' telecast on 'Mazhavil Manorama'. For some reason, we Keralites have a special liking for negative characters. My team used to present skits on television every fortnight. I remember how enthusiastically my neighbours used to ask me "You don't have any TV show these days, do you?" during my off days. There are people who impulsively ask "Did anyone die?" whenever they come across a road accident.
'Pashanam Shaji' is a representative of all those pessimistic people. My character gained huge popularity among TV audience that I started getting identified as 'Pashanam Shaji' rather than as 'Saju Navodaya' which is my real name. So I decided to utilise it to the best.
Are you a victim of typecasting in the film industry?
Yes, I am. After my first movie 'Vellimoonga' was released, every other project that came to me has the same character with a similar name and shade. I have declined some projects for that reason but slowly I started getting rejected for my reluctance to play 'Pashanam Shaji.' I realise that I am still a junior artist. I'm not yet a biggie in this industry to read the script in advance and suggest changes to my character. So I accepted that 'Pashanam Shaji' is here to stay with me. Still, I have a feeling that I could explore other areas of my talent had I been offered with a different character. I'm typecast as pessimistic villager now.
You are often mistaken as DGP Lokanath Behera for the queer resemblance. Aren't you?
People have a misconception that I am the duplicate of DGP Lokanath Behra. It is actually the other way round. Respected DGP is my duplicate. I became a familiar face to Keralites long before he got transferred to Kerala. (Laughs.)
You would be confused if Behera stands with me, my mother and my sisters. Everyone would look alike. DGP resembles my mother more than me. However, this resemblance helped in developing a good friendship with the DGP. We have had a friendly conversation for almost two hours during a television show. His son recognises me as his father's duplicate.
As your much-awaited movie has finally reached the theatres, what message have you got for your audience?
I have a humble request to everyone - please don't wait to appreciate a movie until its DVD is out. The public have their own preferences about where to watch a movie and what to watch. Some seek comedy, Some romance, some technical perfection and some others seek action. Still, a movie turns successful only if you watch it in the theatres.
When did you realise that acting is your vocation?
I realised that there's an actor in me when our skits on 'Comedy Festival' started getting popular. Even then I didn't image about getting a break on silver screen. I just had an intuition that I'd become an active presence on television shows.
My movie debut was strictly coincidental. I spent almost a month with the writers of 'Vellimoonga' as the script-writing progressed. I could perform my character in that movie with much ease. 'Vellimoonga's' success paved way for further movies. I never imagined that I would one day become a film actor.
What was your childhood ambition?
My childhood ambition was to eat a full stomach's meal! My parents have 10 children including me. I would rush home in the afternoons to check whether my mother had prepared anything for lunch. My parents were farmers. They literally struggled to feed us.