On an average day, Alvin goes to church with his wife and daughter, socialises with his friends and occasionally drinks. But at night, when he catches a young couple inside a car, the mask quickly slips, to reveal a creepy pervert who wants to know the details of their intimacy.
Alvin, in the recently released Ishq, is that typical double-faced 'pakal manyan' and Shine Tom Chacko is riveting in the role. It also reinforces our belief in him as a competent actor, who hasn't been getting his due in Malayalam cinema.
Up next is Unda, starring Mammootty and directed by Khalid Rahman, in which he is one of the 10 primary characters in the film. TNM caught up Shine ahead of the release.
You are part of a large ensemble in Unda. Can you elaborate?
All the 10 main cops who are also the main characters in the film have got distinct character sketches. The story is inspired from a news item that came out in 2014, about a group of cops from Kerala who were assigned election duty at Chhattisgarh. Mammukka plays SI Mani. My character is Jojo Sampson, I am a Havildar (who is in charge in the absence of the SI). The junior-senior dynamics in the police camps, politics etc are shown.
What was the kind of preparation that went into it?
There wasn’t much of a preparation except getting a hang of the police parade, saluting seniors, handling guns etc. Besides, Khalid knew exactly what he wanted from his actors. Be it handling a senior actor like Mammukka, making him comfortable, or getting what he wants from the actor.
How do you fit into multi-starrers?
An actor is naturally and psychologically selfish — it’s always about I, me, and myself. We love looking at the mirror … constantly thinking of ways to get ourselves noticed everywhere. We are always performing. At least for us conceit isn’t a bad word. Naturally actors who feature along with us all come with these issues.
We do have that conflict about who gets more screen space. But this conflict will never be about belittling each other. In Unda, we bonded well from day one.
Ishq’s Alvin, was it a difficult role to essay?
With Alvin, everything was written on paper. I just did what was required. Anuraj gave us space. Also, it’s something different from the usual one-note villain. He isn’t entirely black, and the way he deals with the lovers during the earlier part of the film is very understated. There is no violence, he is very casual and cool about the whole thing.
Which was the difficult part—those scenes or the portions after the interval?
The second portion was difficult. The first was more real while the second portion had more drama; it is not something that happens normally—that is imagination. It was something new for me. He goes through a roller-coaster of emotions.
How important is logic in acting?
As actors we handle a situation — it’s a reaction. We have to think logically, more so from the character's point of view.
Are there characters that have influenced you?
I can’t relate to any of the characters because it is not something we normally do but these characteristics are all there in us. We know how not to behave. Good and bad is within us. We can show it only through our performances. Roles don’t influence me really. We can imagine how we would react if we were in that situation.
You have worked with veterans like Sibi Malayil and Jayaraj and Rajeev Ravi and Aashiq Abu. What’s the difference in their working styles?
Sibi sir is keen on moulding his actors. That’s his primary priority in filmmaking. The performances drive their narrative. I think most old-time directors are like that. Rajeevettan asks us what we can give in a scene, and we filter it from there. Both approaches are helpful depending on the situation given. Sometimes their instructions help.
Between sync sound and dubbing, which is easier?
I find sync sound more beneficial as an actor. Those who are familiar with dubbing might find this difficult as we have to speak louder. With dubbing, you can improvise your voice modulations later. With sync sound, you can get your act then and there. In a dubbing studio, you have to recreate everything without your co-actors and ambience. Dubbing will obviously give you better clarity.
Are you a homework actor?
I think an actor will always have his own understanding and observations about a character. Acting is when you perform the nuances that catch your eye subconsciously. And as for preparation, it’s more about learning to drive to play an autorickshaw driver or to dance to play a dancer. I don’t think you can learn to act. If a director asks you to follow certain things, the studied aspects of it can foil your craft.
You started as director Kamal’s assistant director in Nammal. How much did that help?
Being an AD made me understand cinema better. I was with him till Gaddama as an AD. Later, I worked with Aashiq Abu (Daddy Cool), Sameer Tahir (Chappa Kurishu), and Rajesh Pillai (Traffic, Hridayathil Sookshikkan). It helped me understand the nitty-gritty involved. It also made me realise that acting isn’t what I thought it was. That kind of killed my enthusiasm a bit. Sometimes they will begin with the climax shot, take the 4th scene first and 21st scene next. Then I thought of direction, but soon I got his offer to act in Gaddama.
Are you kicked by the kind of roles written for the supporting cast?
Not always. There aren’t many great stories for them. Not every day do you get an Ishq, Unda or Kammatipaadam, where the supporting actors shine well.
Are you ok with asking directors for a role?
I find it difficult as I think a director knows the actors he wants. I am not sure that simply asking them would change their decision. So why not spare them the dilemma? I have been chosen for all the roles that came to me. And that gives us a confidence boost.
Have you been at crossroads where you have been clueless?
Itihaasa was taking forever to release as no one was willing to distribute a film with a new director and cast. It was an uncertain period. And I wasn’t getting any supporting roles since I had played a main lead. It was like standing over the cliff and looking down at the mist.
Finally, what’s the one thing you learnt from Mammootty?
His personality is what impressed us the most. His social awareness, politics, reading…how to create an atmosphere of bonhomie for his co-actors, his dedication, discipline and his infectious energy and excitement.