Actors are not born. They evolve. They experiment with their choice of scripts. They delve deep into the conscience of the character they are chosen to play. They are mavericks when it comes to the learning process. They play around with the character in a bid to lure the character’s soul to themselves. They perfect the art. They behave. They evolve.

This is what Suraj Venjaramoodu too has done with the Joselet Joseph-Jean Markose script while getting into the skin of Plachottil Kuttan Pillai. And, right from the word go, we don’t see any trace of Suraj Venjaramoodu.

Kuttanpillayude Sivarathri, Jean Markose’s second outing as director, is technically a flick that runs less than two hours on screen. Watching Kuttan Pillai for these couple of hours is like diving into unfamiliar waters. The recent slew of characters Suraj has played on screen vouch for the potential he holds. With characters in films like Perariyathavar (for which he won a National award), Varnyathil Aashanka and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, he has proved his capabilities. Kuttan Pillai takes a giant leap forward on that terrain.

Kuttanpillayude Sivarathri is Suraj’s own. The actor in him has evolved to blossom. On screen, Suraj goes missing the moment Kuttan Pillai makes his presence felt. From then on, it is the partriarch of Plachottil doing the rounds. The senior police constable who would go to any extent to safeguard the large jackfruit tree on his backyard, is safe in the actor’s hands. The way he enacts the role is magical.

A relevant theme wrapped in the conscience of Kuttan Pillai’s character converses well with the audience just the way the director envisages it to be. The interweaving of half a dozen different tales into the script is done to perfection. And, Suraj lords over it all as Kuttan Pillai, most of the time dominant, and then as vulnerable as it could be.

Supported by a handful of actors who don’t sport the star tag, Suraj takes Kuttan Pillai to heights no one would have ever imagined. He is seriously witty, excruciatingly rude, and flawlessly matter of fact. He puts himself in the driver’s seat, drives through unreal terrain, and makes things happen the way he wants them to be. In his vulnerability phase too, he is adamant and tough. He wants his jack tree to live even after his life is snuffed out by destiny’s cruel joke. He has for company the many souls he used to fearfully spot when he was alive. His aversion towards crackers has a reason, and he stands by his stance. He doesn’t want death to come calling all of a sudden, as he has already seen the worst. Kuttan Pillai is what you and I are, and should be.

Playing with fire could mean playing with life, Kuttan Pillai exhorts through his fear for anything that bursts with a noise. Suraj plays the police constable with panache. Apart from his wife, it is the jack tree on his backyard he trusts the most. Ironically, it is this tree that renders him lifeless. And yet, he lives on to see his tree survive when his partner in life stands up to save the tree from the blade that would have brought it down.

The class actor in Suraj blossoms to the core here, as the camera captures the very essence of what he was supposed to do in that final scene. This is where Suraj stamps his authority over the script and the role he was chosen to play. He breathes life into the role as no one could ever have. This man, has evolved to be a film maker’s dream. This, for sure, is how an actor should be.

(Originally published in the writer’s personal blog)

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