Taking On The Reigns! – A Chat With Tovino Thomas!

The ‘Greek God Of Mollywood’ Stands Poised To Take On The Reigns! 

It has definitely not been all sunshine and smooth sailing for this young star. With no roots in the industry, his journey has had to brace its fair share of rough weather. But through it all, the burning fire within him has been his strong passion for cinema! His versatile acting skills have always won him much critical acclaim. Now, with back to back hits, this handsome ‘Greek God of Mollywood’ stands poised to take on his reigns! RITZ is in conversation with the hot Macho man, Tovino Thomas!

Interview: Riya Sonny Datson

Photography: Shafi Shakkeer

Location: Prime Décor

Styling and Art: Akhil Anandan & Savad

Make Up: Subi Ganesh

Costume Courtesy: North Republic, Lulu Fashion Store

Accessories Courtesy: Lulu Fashion Store, Aldo, Vision Opticals

Footwear:  Aldo, Lulu Mall, Lulu Fashion Store

Image Retouching: Jineesh Boss   

When looking back, how do you think your journey as an actor has taken shape?

Like any new actor in the industry, it was a step by step climb for me too. For a start, I just wanted a role in good cinema, after which I started looking for a break – a chance to perform. Then came the yearning for a lead role, a search for a director and team who were willing to trust me with the responsibility. The journey was indeed a tough one especially because it was a tremendous struggle and a lone one at that. But I am happy that through it all, I have survived and reached where I am today. I know hits are not permanent and thankfully, I always try to focus on critical acclaim and performance-oriented roles. More than the profits in production, I always hope and pray that there are no losses, because at the end of the day, people cast you in the lead because they trust you. I am indebted to people who have had the faith in me and have stood by me and most importantly, I owe it to the audience who have accepted me.   

Without a background in cinema, it can be tough to survive in the film industry. What prompted you to take the leap?

I have always had a love for cinema. When we were kids, not a single weekend passed when we didn’t watch movies. I used to love visiting shooting locations, to watch stars perform and thoroughly enjoyed reading about cinema. Even after I got hired, during my break, I used to always google and research the theory behind cinema! I was inspired by real life stories of stars like Mark Wahlberg, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger who proved that you could succeed through sheer hard work and dedication. I knew at the bottom of my heart that cinema was my passion and that I couldn’t survive doing a job that I didn’t enjoy.

How did you prepare yourself to follow your passion?

I should say, there were two main life changing events for me. The first was when I was a 12-year-old. I was facing some health issues and was admitted at CMC Vellore for a period of 4 months and it felt like a period of self-introspection. I had been an introvert since childhood and that was the time when I felt I needed to change, I was determined to push myself out of my shell. Amazingly, once I got back to school, everyone felt I had indeed changed. It was literally a character transformation. I soon became the assistant school leader, a sports champion and the school leader consecutively for the next three years. I won subtitles at the Mr. Thrissur competition and later became Mr. University while at college.

“There have been times when fans have hugged me and even kissed me. I understand that it is an expression of their love. But the scenario changes when people start to hurt you physically or make you feel uncomfortable”

The next life changing event was when I got hired right after college. I was stuck in a cubicle all by myself again and I had enough time to think about my future. I knew I had to at least try following my dream. I decided to give it a shot and once I got a role in a film, I gathered courage to resign and follow my passion. Unfortunately, that role didn’t work out and I was really hurt and disappointed then but looking back now, I feel it was a blessing in disguise.

How does it feel to be called the ‘Greek God of Mollywood’ or ‘The Most Desirable Man’?

It definitely feels good and I am happy when someone compliments me but I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses and so I don’t give it too much thought.  

How has life changed with the celebrity status?

As far as my friends and family are considered, I am no celebrity. The Tovino I know has never changed. I think it is the way you are perceived that changes.  I have always felt that people around me have changed. For example, now, I don’t think I have the freedom to crack the same joke in the same manner that I did when I first started out. I would be criticised and would come under the scanner. But I still enjoy doing all the things that I used to do. My friends still treat me the same way except that, now they have the added excitement to watch the first day first show of my new releases. I still go cycling, hang around with my friends, visit their homes and grab a snack from their kitchen. There are changes in terms of privacy but I always knew it was a part of the game!

Recently there have been controversies about the way you reacted to your fans…

I enjoy my fan following and there have been times when fans have hugged me and even kissed me. I understand that it is an expression of their love. But the scenario changes when people start to hurt you physically or make you feel uncomfortable physically. Then I am bound to react. This is not the first time it has happened, I have faced similar situations even before I became an actor and I have reacted in the same way.  

Do you get to spend time with your family amidst your busy schedules?

I admit that there has to be a lot of extra effort. But whenever possible, I try to take them to my shooting location or try to spend as much time as possible with them when I am not doing films. They also understand my pressures and know that I will make it up to them. The fact is cinema will not wait for anyone and you have to make yourself available when it is ready. I am a person who respects my work and my team and I don’t like to be the reason for any delays. I am not comfortable with the idea of people waiting for me.

Are you a party person?

Not at all! In fact, my idea of relaxation would be to laze around, eating yummy home-cooked food, reading a good book and sipping good coffee on a rainy day. More than heavy duty parties, I enjoy solitude and taking a break at home.

You have had the opportunity to portray different characters and sport different physical looks in every project. Is it intentional?

Yes, definitely it has been intentional. I don’t think I have portrayed a similar character twice so far. Even if I have enacted two police officers, the characters and the physical traits would have been totally different. Thankfully, in terms of physical looks, a small change like a long beard or a clean shave gives me a different image each time, so that has been an added advantage for me as an actor.

Some of the roles you have portrayed are very intense. How do you prepare for your roles?

The first and most important thing is to understand what and who the director wants you to portray. It is based on his research that I prepare for my roles. My biggest learning would also be from observation – of the people around me, their reactions to various situations. Whenever I take up a role, I try to empathise with the character. Unless I am able to justify his actions, I can’t successfully portray him. Be it a villain or a hero, to me, I am the character. There have been times when I have cried uncontrollably after a scene or have felt haunted by a character even after the shoot ended but I feel that’s what adds to the perfection of the act.

Many congratulations on your latest hit, Godha! Tell us more about it.

Thank you! Godha has been in the planning since 2013 but I was roped into the project in 2015. It has been a dream project for the entire crew right from the tea vendor to our director. It was a difficult movie but we are very happy with the output and I am glad the audiences are enjoying the experience. As far as my character is concerned, I was not expected to have 6 pack abs or the physique of a supermodel. The character required me to be naturally healthy with a strong build and a broad torso and I worked out extensively for that look. I had to learn Gata Gusti and Minnal George from Fort Kochi was my Guru. It was an amazing experience and I am happy with the results. I believe that there has to be a perfection in whatever role we portray for cinema will stay forever even after we are gone.

Upcoming Projects…

I just finished shooting for a Malayalam movie titled ‘Tarangam’ by Arun Dominic, it is a Dhanush production and also his first Mollywood venture. The movie, which is a dark comedy is a new concept, but it has turned out well. Let’s hope the audience enjoy the experience. There is also another project with Ashique Abu. There are a couple of other exciting ventures in the pipeline but I can’t comment about the same right now.

We hear that there is a Tamil movie in the making, how does it feel to be working in Kollywood?

Its ‘adipoli’ (awesome), in terms of the experience. I wouldn’t want to comment about my Kollywood project right now but in terms of working with a new industry, it’s great. I always try to create a comfort zone where I go. It’s not possible to do movies with friends all the time so I always try to make new friends wherever I go.

Your learnings from cinema…

My biggest learning has been how to act! Though, through the years, I have learnt and grown a lot as an actor, I still feel I am just a student of cinema and I have a long way to go!

“I don’t like to be the reason for any delays. I am not comfortable with the idea of people waiting for me”

Rapid Fire:

Challenge: Is creating hits and being a part of good movies

Inspiration: Is all around

Dream role: Would be to portray a role that would be a dream for others

Interests: Experiential travel and adventure sports

Favourite Food: Any dish that has Chicken as an ingredient

Favourite Movie: Into the Wild

Favourite Holiday: Rishikesh

Style Statement: Dressing for the occasion and being comfortable