Aavesham to Pushpa: Fahadh Faasil’s shades of deranged, deluded, and demonic

Fahadh’s mastery over his craft is evident in how he brings a range within his portrayal of manic characters, not letting his performance rest on the character’s quirks alone. Here’s a look at some of his more eccentric roles.
Aavesham to Pushpa: Fahadh Faasil’s shades of deranged, deluded, and demonic
Aavesham to Pushpa: Fahadh Faasil’s shades of deranged, deluded, and demonic
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Spoilers ahead

In Jithu Madhavan’s Aavesham (2024), there is a chilling scene where a rowdy plays dumb charades with his assembled gang. As the newbie in the group struggles to guess the title of the movie, the rowdy becomes increasingly agitated. Any moment now, he may resort to violence. There is so much menace built into what is frankly a ridiculous premise that when the correct answer is given, it is also the audience who is relieved. 

The man playing the rowdy is, of course, Fahadh Faasil, Malayalam cinema’s go-to actor when it comes to pulling off manic, disturbed characters. As Ranga Annan in Aavesham, Fahadh brings layers to a character that was clearly written as a caricature. Ranga Annan is a braggart and a buffoon, but he’s also a lonely man. A gangster who feels unloved and abandoned. 

Covered in gold and talking of his promise to his mother, Ranga Annan’s affinity to Rocky Bhai from the KGF world is unmistakable. But Fahadh takes the role seriously, and doesn’t allow it to end up as a predictable spoof. There’s a scene in Aavesham when he’s staring at a red patch of paint on the wall, and he brings so much pathos to the moment that Ranga Annan leaves you feeling destroyed for laughing at him. 

Fahadh’s mastery over his craft is evident in how he brings a range within his portrayal of manic characters. He doesn’t let his performance rest on the quirk or eccentricity that’s given to the character, reducing a person to that one trait. Instead, he treats the quirk as a natural part of the character, allowing it to become real to the audience. Here’s a look at how Fahadh has portrayed the deranged, deluded, and demonic in some of his films. 

Shammi in 'Kumbalangi Nights': Shammi is such a “complete man” that he can’t tolerate even the presence of a bindi on a mirror that he’s staring at. He looks down upon the feminine, and when his masculinity is threatened, he transforms into a psycho on a killing spree. In Aavesham, his “Eda mone!” refrain has the exuberance of a child. In Madhu C Narayanan’s Kumbalangi Nights, his “Endha moley?” refrain is so creepy that it will make your skin crawl. Fahadh’s strength is his ability to make these characters look so unthreatening, almost comic, and then bludgeon you with a scene where he pulls the carpet from under your feet. 

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Viju Prasad in 'Trance': From a motivational speaker to a cult leader, Fahadh’s transformation in this Anwar Rasheed film is spell-binding. Viju is heartbroken when his younger brother kills himself. He is then hired to pose as Joshua Carton, a Christian pastor who can perform miracles. Somewhere along the way, JC starts to believe in the farce himself. The film operates on the premise that religion is the opium of the people, and Fahadh grabs the role and runs away with it. If Shammi preens before the mirror in Kumbalangi Nights, Joshua wears a calculated expression of divinity as he gazes at himself. The shift in Shammi comes as a shock even as we suspect something is off. In Trance, it is as if we’re being drawn into a spider’s web. 

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Joji in 'Joji': A contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, this Dileesh Pothan film is set during the pandemic and has Fahadh playing the youngest son in a family ruled by a tyrant. Joji, at first glance, is meek and subservient. His desire to kill stems from his inadequacies, and his father’s looming presence in their lives. The abuse Joji suffers at the latter’s hands and the subtle encouragement he receives from his sister-in-law push him to the brink of committing murder. Once he tastes the freedom of giving in to his base instincts, Joji cannot stop himself from going down that route further and further. Unlike Shammi and Ranga Annan where the manic character has flair and shades of hilarity, Joji is a subdued character who is pushed into a well of darkness. 

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Rathnavelu in ‘Maamannan’: In Mari Selvaraj’s rewrite of Thevar Magan, Fahadh plays the antagonist, Rathnavelu, who is from a dominant caste. He can’t stand losing, so, when his dog loses a race, Rathnavelu beats it to death. Fahadh plays Rathnavelu with a chilling calmness and it’s only if you look closer that you will observe how much he’s seething within. The interval block scene when Rathnavelu is outraged by a Dalit man daring to sit before him, has the character staring in disbelief, struggling to process the challenge thrown at him. His “Enna pazhakkam-na idhu?” dialogue that follows the violence is delivered with a sense of betrayal, as it marks the crumbling of an order that he deeply cherishes. 

Watch it on Netflix.

Sibi in ‘Carbon’: Sibi is a dreamer, a man obsessed with money and ways to make it. He’s convinced that if he goes deep enough in the jungle, he will find a treasure that will be his ticket out of misery. Venu’s film flirts with magic realism as we view Sibi’s intriguing journey from his shoes. It’s difficult to tell apart reality from illusion as Sibi becomes increasingly desperate and conjures up elaborate fantasies. Sibi’s grandiose schemes have a touch of humour about them, but as the film progresses, his crazed eyes are all you can see. This is a man who is seen as a bit of an absurd loser, and yet, Fahadh’s performance draws out your empathy for the character. 

Watch it on Zee5.

SP Bhanwar Singh Shekawat in ‘Pushpa: The Rise’: A canvas as wide as Pushpa demands a villain who can hold his own, opposite the charming Allu Arjun. In Sukumar’s action drama film which marked Fahadh’s debut in Telugu, the actor plays a Haryanvi cop with a psychotic streak. With his clean shaven head and sunglasses, Shekawat is deranged and unpredictable. His “Party ledha Pushpa?” taunt lands perfectly, as he plays cat and mouse with Pushpa. The overblown climax may not be to everyone’s taste, with the two men stripping down to their underwear and throwing challenges at each other. Here, Fahadh wears his masculinity in all seriousness, unlike films like Kumbalangi Nights or Aavesham where it is a subject of mockery. 

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Sowmya Rajendran writes on gender, culture, and cinema. She has written over 25 books, including a nonfiction book on gender for adolescents. She was awarded the Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar for her novel Mayil Will Not Be Quiet in 2015.

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