Destiny’s child: An interview with the man of the moment, Fahadh Faasil
His looks set him apart, so do his roles. There’s no real explanation for why I’ve made it, says the star of C U Soon.
Fahadh Faasil believes in destiny. There’s no other way, he says, to explain his journey from the son of a famous Malayali actor-producer-director, to a flop actor, to a student of philosophy, to a national-level star people seem to always be talking about.
The 38-year-old’s latest release, C U Soon, is now out on Amazon Prime Video. Shot on an iPhone, it challenges traditional ideas of cinematic storytelling. With his receding hairline, small stature, soft voice and eyes, Fahadh is not the traditional Malayali hero either. The roles he chooses set him further apart.
FAHADH FAASIL: IN CLOSE-UP
Over 10 years, he’s played a schizophrenic killer in Athiran, 2019, an endearing thief (Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, 2017), a blind painter (Artist, 2013), and the villain with the warm smile and chilling eyes in the critically acclaimed Kumbalangi Nights, 2019, among other characters.
The first question he asks himself when presented with a role, he says, is, “Will it address the nation?” Not in the shrieking TV sense we’ve come to associate that phrase with. “I mean it in the context of entertainment. I tend to think, will the larger audience relate to it?” Fahadh says.
His first film, made by his father Fazil and watched by very few, didn’t really check that box. It was a cookie-cutter rom-com “and I came into it without any preparation... but life’s lessons have kept me grounded.”
If universal appeal is the goal, why only Malayali films (with two Tamil exceptions)? “I have enormous faith in the future of Malayalam cinema,” Fahadh says.
Faasil in a still from ( Amazon Prime Video )
The truth is, it’s not Malayalam cinema any more. It’s just cinema. On smaller screens, it’s easier to take in subtitles and the language barrier has begun to lean, if not topple. How the audience views his medium is changing, and like any true artist, this excites Fahadh.
“Look at what happened with the City of God [a modern Brazilian classic; 2002]. The Fernando Meirelles / Kátia Lund film was about one particular city, but the people from all over the world watched, re-watched and loved it,” he says. “I, along with my friends in Kerala, watched it. That is the power of the ‘global’ audience.”
It is a time when cinema can grow creatively, he adds, and C U Soon is one such attempt to experiment. “The lockdown took all our lives and turned them digital. We just planted our new film within that interface.”
But even before the lockdown, the change was visible. Millions around the world tuned in to watched the Alfonso Cuaron-Netflix film Roma, though it was in Spanish; Parasite, the 2019 South Korean sleeper hit, won the first Best Picture Oscar ever awarded to a non-English movie. Kumbalangi Nights went viral on Amazon Prime Video and YouTube.
These were films in different languages and genres, with one thing in common — they were stories of the now, told carefully, delicately, surprisingly.
“Be it Tamil, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali or Malayali… the formulas are out. For me, actual cinema is cracking a puzzle, never doing the same thing time, and always having fun,” Fahadh says.
By fun he means excitement. It was very tough, for instance, he says, to play a man masquerading as a miracle-working pastor in Trance (February 2020), but tremendously exciting. “I had to play someone who makes people believe in fake miracles. I needed to portray a vibrant, almost vibrating charisma. It was fun, yes, but exhausting.”
What’s next for formats, does he think? Who knows, he says. Maybe interactive storytelling, as with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, where the audience can determine the plot twists. “We need the support of both platforms — theatre and OTT — so maybe,” he says laughing, “you can give the first part of a film to OTT and the second part to theatres.”
His shyness evaporates when he talks about film. But discuss his popularity — the gushing tweets and posts about his ‘expressive eyes’ and ‘sensitive face’ — and all you get is a quiet giggle. Fahadh is known to be a private person. Even before this interview, he clarified that he wouldn’t discuss his wife, family or private life. Other than a Facebook page managed by his team, he has no social media presence, and says he doesn’t use WhatsApp.
His retirement plan is to move to Barcelona, become an Uber driver and spend the rest of his years driving across Spain.
“I could still disappear, you know,” he says.