Two of the greatest actors in Malayalam, Bharath Gopi and Nedumudi Venu, were not known for their good looks. They were never called superstars. Still, during the '70s and '80s, they both played the lead actor in numerous movies. They also won several awards.
Their ability to transform to any character made sure any genre - comedy or drama - suited them equally well. Most importantly, they never minded playing second fiddle to other heroes even in their young age.
Most of these characteristics perfectly fit an actor of this generation- Fahadh Faasil.
This is to not claim that Fahadh has reached the ranks of Nedumudi Venu or Gopi. However, you cannot help but notice that he is steadily moving in the direction of those legends more than any of his contemporaries or Mammootty and Mohanlal.
Take a look at Fahadh's characters in the year 2013 alone when he also won the Kerala state award.
In Annayum Rasoolum, when Fahadh falls down on his knees before his lover's corpse, you can see pure love in his eyes. In Artist, on the other hand, he portrayed to perfection a blind man who is selfish, mean and has no respect for his wife. In Amen, he poured his heart out while blowing the trumpet in the final competition. In North 24 Kaatham, on the other hand, his OCD meant he wouldn't like to be anywhere near such a village or such a crowd.
In Red Wine, he plays an upright comrade. In Oru Indian Pranayakadha, he was again a politician but a crook who seeks shortcuts to climb heights. This is the kind of range that Bharath Gopi would have been proud of.
Comparing Fahadh with Mammootty or Mohanlal is not ideal. Mohanlal and Mammootty are far superior actors, among the greatest the country has seen. But they are also big superstars. Which means once in a while, they have to be in movies which play to the gallery and please their fans. Some of these movies were classy action films. But many others just ended up wasting a good part of their careers.
Here is where Fahadh enjoys an advantage that the two superstars did not.
To begin with, Fahadh doesn't have a superstar status. He never entertained the formation of fan associations. What he once famously said in a stage show was -"Let the kids study".
Fahadh is also lucky because he's working in an era where the audience prefers realistic, life-like movies than mass action movies. Interestingly, an era which the actor helped usher. Chaappa Kurishu, which had his career-changing role, is often referred to as the beginning of the New Generation Wave.
Fahadh possesses other traits, too, that set him apart as an actor. He doesn't really care if his characters are virtuous enough to be accepted or prominent enough to outshine others.
Who can forget the devilish and despicable Cyril in 22 Female Kottayam in which Rima Kallingal was the hero? Not many mainstream actors would have dared to do that role. But Fahadh even let his character's genitals be chopped off in the movie's climax. That was a never-before-seen act in Malayalam cinema.
In Bangalore Days, he let younger actors, Nivin Pauly and Dulquer Salmaan, take the limelight. In Take-Off, his next release after the successful Maheshinte Prathikaram, Fahadh gladly played second fiddle to Parvathy.
Fahadh has a very fine command over dialects which lets him play various characters easily. He is equally good whether he has to deliver the Kochi dialect in Annayum Rasoolum, Kottayam dialect in Oru Indian Pranayakadha or the Koyilandi one in Ayaal Njanalla.
Fahadh leaves a mark even in his forgettable movies which is not common for most actors. Who can forget him jumping out of his chair and laughing when writing a story in Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla or the series of his hilarious expressions when he opens the bag with money in Money Ratnam?
In Maheshinte Prathikaram, in the scene before the interval, Fahadh has a very angry face when he looks at Soubin. But you can't help but smile at the predicament in which he finds himself. In the interval scene in Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, Fahadh has a mischievous and embarrassed smile when the X-ray results come out. Once again, you can't stop laughing and applauding, seeing the expressions on his face. To evoke similar reactions for two entirely contrasting scenarios takes serious talent.
Undoubtedly, Fahadh Faasil is taking us back to an era where actors were not stars. He reminds us of an era where the sole duty of actors was to let viewers cherish the beauty of their acting.
Note: Views expressed are the personal opinions of the author.