Anoop Menon: I find acting easier than writing

The actor-screenwriter on juggling writing and acting duties, his directorial debut, upcoming release Twenty One Gms, and more
Anoop Menon
Anoop Menon

Anoop Menon hasn’t yet figured out whether being an actor or screenwriter is more exciting. However, he sees the former as the easiest and most lucrative profession, that is, “if one has learned the craft and established oneself.” Both, he adds, require frequent updates. “If a writer doesn’t update himself, then it’s not going to be on paper. An actor, however, has many people to assist with the updating if they get it wrong. Help comes from the director, cinematographer, editor and even the music composer to disguise flaws. A performance, then, becomes the cumulative effort of these people. But when you write, you’re painfully alone,” he observes.


Recently, in a conversation with us, Vineeth Sreenivasan bemoaned some filmgoers’ tendency to ridicule soft emotions on screen. You are among the few writers in contemporary Malayalam cinema who, like Vineeth or Sathyan Anthikad, remain unapologetic about retaining that old-school charm in your scripts. Thoughts?

We have to understand that we, as a nation, are sentimental people. We are connected and interdependent; we are so rooted in our culture and family. That won’t change. Of course, over-dramatisation doesn’t work because as time changes, people gradually get detached from it. But no matter how detached we get, we are emotional people deep down. That’s why Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar still sell. We know some things are over-the-top, but we still like it. I don’t subscribe to the notion that only something that portrays a lack of education or characters conversing in local dialect is ‘great’ cinema. We need all kinds of films.

It’s great that we have brilliant films like Kumbalangi Nights, but there is a tendency to make pale imitations of it. Cinema doesn’t necessarily have to educate, but as human beings, we need to be educated, not in academic terms I mean, but being upfront about things and being updated. It’s just fleeting waves otherwise. I believe the old school way of making films will remain. That’s why even now, a film like The Godfather is relevant. Or something like, say, Yash Chopra’s Waqt or Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool. Take someone like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, for example. Despite following an old-school format, he continues to amaze us.

Do you find gratification in playing parts you wrote for yourself?

Actually, I enjoy writing parts for others more (laughs). I don’t enjoy writing for Anoop Menon, the actor. But I figure in my films only because I can’t wait one year for another actor’s date. That’s the only reason. Otherwise, I would’ve killed to have another actor in my movies. But to rope in another actor at this point when I’m doing films of other writers and directors is very difficult. And it is a beautiful experience to go and work for other writers and directors wherein you don’t have to care for anything else but yourself. You just have to make the character look good and do what the writer or director says. It is the easiest thing to do. But to write, direct and act at the same time is quite taxing. But since I work at a leisurely pace and my team works accordingly, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the pressure of directing.

You have written some notable female characters. Your second directorial, Padma, has a female protagonist. Do you find inspirations from women around you—and once you’ve written them, do you take inputs from them?

Not just around me, but, mostly it’s my imagination that spawns them. I like that the most. Taking attributes from a lot of people and creating a character is a challenge. Padma (played by Surabhi Lakshmi) is a composite of many women I’ve interacted with. The same goes for Honey Rose’s character in Trivandrum Lodge or Kalpana chechi’s character in The Dolphins or Miya’s character in Ente Mezhuthiri Athazhangal. As for seeking inputs, I ask my wife. I rarely indulge in discussions with others.

And all these scripts are spontaneous creations. I work well with spur-of-the-moment, very extempore kind of writing. I’ve noticed that what I’ve jotted down earlier doesn’t turn out that good. David and Goliath, for example, is something I had written much earlier, but it didn’t work out. It was a bound script, that too. Funnily enough, those which didn’t have bound scripts—Trivandrum Lodge, Beautiful, The Dolphins, Mezhuthiri, or the upcoming King Fish, Padma or Varaal—worked out well. These are usually built on a one-line and have a scene order but lack a script, dialogues or fully fleshed out characters. All that happened after the actors arrived on set. I wouldn’t say that’s the right way to work, but that’s how I do it (laughs).

How did it feel to be behind the camera?

I initially had no plans to direct, but I had to take on King Fish when VK Prakash sir, who was supposed to make it first, couldn’t do it. But Padma, on the other hand, was completely my choice. It was something I wrote during the lockdown. I enjoyed writing and directing it. When the lockdown was in place, we shot some portions at my house and some at Hyatt. After the lockdown, we went outdoors and shot in places like Munnar and Cherthala.

Is the Trivandrum Lodge sequel still on?

Yes. Madras Lodge might happen this year. It will have a completely new cast, except for, maybe, Saiju Kurup. Jayasurya might return too, but this time as a different character. There is no chance of him reprising the role of Abdu because even he feels that he has nothing else to do with him. As for directing it, we are yet to decide.

You play a cop in your upcoming release Twenty One Gms.

The script came to me while I was shooting Padma. I couldn’t put it down because it was so engaging. It blew me away. We started shooting it in a month of me saying yes to Bibin Krishna (director). I don’t know how it will be for others, but in my view, it is one of the best thrillers I’ve been fortunate to be a part of.

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