Malayalam actor Sunil Sukhada has recently ventured across borders and made an impressive debut in Tamil cinema. Known for his versatile roles, he has now taken the spotlight as the antagonist Muthu Selvan in the runaway hit 'Por Thozhil'. Based in Thrissur, the actor expresses his delight at the film's reception, acclaimed as Tollywood’s best crime thriller in recent times. In an interview with Onmanorama, Sukhada sheds light on how he secured the role and the extensive preparations that went into his portrayal of Muthu Selvan, arguably one of his most celebrated roles to date.
Q: It was a pleasant surprise to see you in a Tamil film. How did this project come about?
A: A friend, Preman, who works as a production designer with E4 Experiments, informed me about the project. Later, Vignesh Raja, the director of 'Por Thozhil', personally contacted me expressing his interest in casting me after having seen my previous works. The filmmakers kept my role under wraps, which is why I was absent from the film's promotions. I even skipped the 25-day success celebrations and refrained from giving interviews until the film had left theatres, to maintain the element of surprise.
Q: How did you prepare for your role?
A: The director recommended that I read articles on serial killers. I watched various interviews of serial killers on YouTube to grasp their modus operandi. Additionally, as my character was physically robust, the filmmakers wanted me to have a muscular appearance. Consequently, I hit the gym for the role.
Q: Would you consider this your most satisfying role so far?
A: No, I wouldn't say that. As an actor, it's important not to harbour such thoughts as they could hinder our growth. An actor's journey is a progressive one. We should leave behind our past characters and focus on moving ahead, aspiring to secure better roles. Nevertheless, I'm thrilled to be part of a groundbreaking film. The thought that my role might be remembered for a long time brings me joy.
Q: How was your experience collaborating with stars like Sarathkumar?
A: It was a fantastic experience. I had scenes with Nikhila Vimal, whom I was already familiar with, as well as Sarathkumar and Ashok Selvan. All of them were excellent co-stars. I recall Sarathkumar assisting me with the action sequences, particularly since I had never attempted them in any of my previous films.
Q: 'Por Thozhil' has also received a fantastic response in Kerala. How do you perceive this accomplishment?
A: I'm elated. It's been quite some time since a Tamil crime thriller has performed so well in Kerala's theatres. I watched the film in a Thrissur cinema hall and witnessed the audience engrossed in the narrative. I shared the same experience. As an actor, I usually view the film during the editing and dubbing stages. Since I didn't dub for the movie (I had only a couple of lines), watching it in the theatre was a fresh experience. While I tend to be self-critical about my acting, 'Por Thozhil' provided a seamless viewing experience for me.
Q: Would you attribute this to the director's vision?
A: Certainly. Despite being a debutant, Vignesh displayed a deep understanding of his craft. I recognised this when he showed me the pilot shot of the film. Before shooting began, he provided me with an intricate backstory for Muthu Selvan, delving into his past, preceding generations, and their journey towards ruin. It's intriguing that the film itself only lightly touches on these aspects, yet his detailed briefing greatly aided me in comprehending the character. I recall even Sarathkumar mentioning something similar about his role in one of his interviews.
Q: Your background in theatre seems to have influenced your approach to films.
A: Yes, I'm still actively involved in theatre. My latest play, 'Tarzan', directed by Jayaprakash Kuloor and featuring Marimayam Sreekumar and me, will be staged in Thrissur in September. Theatre and drama paved my way into the film industry. Director Martin Prakatt discovered me while I was performing in 'Spinal Cord', directed by Deepan Shivaraman. This led to my involvement in 'Best Actor', followed by my big break in the film 'Chaappa Kurish'.
Q: Do you have plans to explore cinema in other languages?
A: Absolutely. I'm open to exploring roles in various languages, particularly given the surge in OTT releases. Kerala and Mollywood boast actors of exceptional talent, yet language barriers have prevented their widespread recognition. I aspire to delve into all languages, including world cinema.
Q: How do you perceive the reception of Mollywood actors like Fahadh, Vinayakan, and yourself in other languages?
A: This phenomenon has always existed. We have welcomed actors from outside Kerala who have excelled in Malayalam roles. The same acceptance extends to Mollywood actors beyond the state's borders. Cinema transcends language barriers. People readily embrace quality films and characters, regardless of the language they are presented in.