Shane Nigam would probably have merged more easily into that audience of mostly school-going children. But instead he was on a makeshift stage in front of Thiruvananthapuram’s Kairali Theatre, with a mic in his hand, answering the difficult questions the kids were asking. It is the children’s film festival in the capital and Shane, as a Malayalam film artist, was visiting them.
Till a few years ago, he was a child himself, perhaps asking the same difficult questions to another celebrity. The recent celebrity status – as an actor who got picked by offbeat filmmakers – appears to rest uncomfortably on the actor. “I am not really sure what you call offbeat, I select the films that come with good stories,” he says seriously, but with a wonder in his voice as if trying to figure out if he could label certain movies offbeat. The newest, coming out on Friday, is Ishq and Shane ‘thinks it is not offbeat’.
“I took it because I liked it,” he says in one line. One word, in fact, when said in Malayalam – Ishtamayi, to the question, ‘Why Ishq?’. Not a man to make grand speeches, our Shane. His longest lines are of Ishq: “a movie that deals with social issues and one that doesn’t have the concept of a typical hero-heroine love story”.
The movie shows both sides – negative and positive – of his character, he says. Much like Kumbalangi Nights, right, I suggest. “Yes,” Shane agrees. The last of his films to release, Kumbalangi Nights, has been a little different for Shane – it made him look cheerful onscreen, not something he gets to do often. He is one of the lead characters in the film, one of the brothers of a broken family, each coming to terms with life in his own way. Madhu C Narayanan’s debut movie and all the actors won a lot of praise.
“It was a good experience, so many talented actors on the set to work with (he must mean Soubin, Fahadh, Sreenath Bhasi and the lot). The surroundings too were so beautiful,” says Shane.
Before Kumbalangi, his characters have had a tendency to be miserable, a pain written on his young face in most movies. Annayum Rasoolum, one of his first and much-acclaimed director Rajeev Ravi’s debut, saw him as an angry younger brother to Anna, the heroine. Kammattippadam, Rajeev Ravi’s last release, saw him again as another angry, revengeful young man. C/o Saira Banu, perhaps the one not-so-offbeat film, too however did not spare him from looking dejected.
Shane doesn’t think Kismath – the first movie in which he played the male lead – could be called offbeat. “I don’t think it is,” he says. The film had him play a 23-year-old Muslim in love with a Hindu Dalit woman who is five years older than him.
But it is before Kismath that he had all these offers come in search of him, including Kumbalangi. So he must have been doing something right in the short, moody roles he appeared in. And quite a few of these have him play a Kochikaran (man from Kochi). “Do they?” he asks. Kumbalangi Nights, Annayum Rasoolum, Parava, we count together. Eeda was, however, set in Kannur and he spoke the Kannur slang.
But when he speaks of another new film – Velya Perunnal – that too is set in Fort Kochi. “I play a dancer in it,” he says and I imagine there is some joy in his voice. That’s probably because I know that he was once a contestant in a dance reality show as a child. His movies, however, have not presented that side of his to the audiences so far. “No, I don’t miss it. I stopped dancing after school. It was when I went to college that cinematic dances were banned in campus.”
Shane then shoots down my one last attempt to get him talking. Comedy – does he like comedy? His dad, the late actor and mimicry artiste Abhi, had dwelled in comedy. You can spot elements of that in Shane in Kumbalangi Nights but the young actor takes no credit for it. “It is situational humour, I was just doing what the director asked me to,” says the man of few words when it comes to interviews like these.
To the children at the film fest, he is however more open, laughing freely, dancing too when the kids sang for him. Makes you wonder if he is a lot like the characters he plays, quiet and moody, or has a hidden side of wicked humour like Bobby of Kumbalangi Nights.