For family dramas, Jayaram was always an essential pick in Malayalam cinema. Warmth of a cheerful family atmosphere, spontaneous humour laced with a bit of mimicry, a pinch of sentiments and an assertive hero who upholds patriarchal values -– these had long been the key recipes of typical Jayaram movies.
As his latest flick 'Pattabhiraman' is charming audiences, Jayaram, who also plays a key role in Telugu star Allu Arjun's 'Ala Vaikuntapuramlo' slated for 2020 release,
the star gets eloquent about the changes in Malayalam cinema, the transformation of his own character selection criteria, typecasting and much more.
Why this surprising transformation in your physical appearance?
It was my own decision. My children always compelled me to follow a workout plan and get into shape. There is a consistent and rigorous effort spanning over seventy days behind this change. I wanted to prove that age is just a number. It is not the age you look, the age you boast or the age on your papers that matter – but the age that your heart tells. In that case, I am just 18.
At the same time, my new look got some very interesting responses. Some of my followers on social media asked whether someone cropped my head and placed it on Kalidas's body. Others wondered whether my new photo was a 'FaceApp' version. It might sound funny for you, but only I know the struggles behind it. I could prove that getting into shape isn't impossible for me.
About your character in 'Pattabhiraman'
I am a food inspector in Pattabhiraman. It was TN Seshan IAS who made us realize the real powers of Election Commissioner. Pattabhiraman is about the powers of a food inspector and the changes he could bring about in the society. Food is the most important topic we should discuss. People from all sections relish good food. It is a basic responsibility to ensure the quality of food our dear ones and children eat. It is not just the responsibility of a food inspector or the government, but of every citizen. That is the message conveyed by 'Pattabhiraman.'
How did you get typecast as a responsible family man?
I think my first movie 'Aparan' was its beginning. I have played a number of family dramas. Family values, the bond between a man, his wife and children and in-laws are all unique features of Indian culture. Audience will still accept family movies.
You have done a lot of lead characters that asserted Malayali male ego over female leads. Even after a long break, you returned to the industry with movies like 'Bhagya devatha' and 'Veruthe oru bharya' having lead characters with superiority complex. Why did you opt for such characters at a time when gender and sexuality are hot topics?
Somehow, I like to perform such characters. I was born and raised in a patriarchal set up. That might be the reason behind such a character preference. Apart from the assertion of my character, the female lead would also have some draw back. Either she would be mentally unsound or there would be other issues. Have you noticed it?
I think there were a lot of such couples in our society during that period. Those movies were successful because audience could relate with the characters. I love such relatable family dramas. I would love to perform such a character even now.
Do you wish to perform progressive characters that demand some home work, ditching the typical male chauvinist ones?
Fortunately, I have started getting such characters. I used to get the same kind of typecast roles earlier. Recently,I started getting different roles like those in 'Panchavarna thatha' and 'Pattabhiraman' which needs some preparation and home work.
Do you regret selecting or rejecting any character in your career?
There are plenty of decisions which I regret now. I have acted in a lot of unnecessary movies. The reasons were many -– either I couldn't say 'no' to the directors or I couldn't let my friends down. Sometimes, I worked in movies only due to my friendship with its technicians.
There are several good movies which became super-hit after I turned them down. I used to worry about them initially in my career. Later, I learned to forget about a project the moment I turned it down. That is the main lesson life taught me. Take a decision carefully and do not regret it.
What difference do you find between romance at your time and now?
Love in this new-gen era is quite different from our times – be it in real life or cinema. When I was in love with Parvathy, we struggled to get a conversation on track many times. I still remember the time when we played lead characters in the same movie and still failed to have a personal chat with each other. My children would laugh at us whenever we recalled those days. “You could have headed her freely. Why couldn't you just ring her up?” they ask. The social set up was different that time. We were afraid even to write letters. The portrayal of love in movies then reflected the social reality of those times.
Look at 'Mazhavilkavadi.' What a beautiful love story it is. The love story of Velayudhan kutty and Amminikkutty develops in a small village in Kerala and travels to Palani. Someone asked director Sathyan Anthikkad why he cast Jayaram instead of Mohanlal in 'Mazhavilkavadi.' The Sathyan Anthikkad–Mohanlal combination was a rage that time. Sathyan replied that the story wouldn't proceed to Palani had he cast Mohanlal as Velayudhan Kutty. “Lal would smash Amminikkutty's father the first time he objects to their affair. He would deliver a punch dialogue and take away Ammini. Only Jayaram could elongate the story-line as it is now,” he said.
About your friendship with director Kannan Thamarakkulam
There was a director who used the best of my talent in each phase of my career. I think I am the actor who played the most number of lead roles in Sathyan Anthikkad's movies. I have worked in a lot of movies with Kamal, Rajasenan, Anil Babu et al. Of late, I find it easy to relate with the kind of characters, stories and shots being narrated by Kannan Thamarakkulam. 'Pattabhiraman' is entirely different from the earlier movies we did together.
Which movie was a turning point in your career?
I don't think there was a turning point in my career at all. I haven't done characters who smashes fifty villains at a time. I prefer light, family-centric movies to extra terrestrial super-hero movies. I want people to relate with the characters I play.
Which scene from Kalidas's movies impressed you the most?
'Ente Veedu Appoontem' is my favorite. There is a court scene in which he recalls the circumstances which led him to murder his little brother. That was a brilliant performance for his young age. We hadn't instructed him on how to handle emotional scenes. He delivered it in his own way, after a brief discussion with director Siby Malayil. I was really impressed by his performance in that scene.