At a time, when popular stars go for the safe zone, he steps up the game, and goes for the offbeat – but yet being rooted in realism.
It is a tough task to manage. On the one hand is the weight of box-office collections that he is accountable for as an actor, and on the other, is his own need to reinvent and stay relevant (lest he go the Jayaram way).
With his two releases this year (Captain and Njan Marykutty) and the remarkable success of Aadu 2 from end-December last year, Jayan has defined a place that is at once noteworthy and enviable.
From starting his film career as a junior artiste including being spotted in a miniscule fight sequence the Dileep-Kunchacko Boban starrer Dosth (2001), Jayan has traversed an arc of stardom, with over 90 films, as supporting actor, hero, and villain – in Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada.
Along the way, he also transitioned into an Indian National Film award-winning actor who constantly challenges himself. Success to him, he says, “is the success of the character – and thus, the actor in me.”
Jayasurya has fond memories of his start in the entertainment industry as a television presenter of comedy shows. He continues to maintain that link with the past. “For me, the bottom-line always has been that I must keep trying to better myself; the moment I stop trying, everything will be lost. I attribute my journey to a higher power, a blessing that gives you the confidence.”
He says he had always wanted to be an actor but it was not for fame or money. “I think there has been a change in the way I approach cinema now. I believe I did not see cinema seriously in my initial days. I could have handled many roles with greater involvement. That is the difference now. Today, I am totally involved in every character – from the costume to look and mannerisms.”
Today, he looks for characters that challenge him out of his comfort zone. Along the way, he also adds in a dash of social commitment – as films such as Njan Marykutty prove. “I want to evolve as the character, explore it further – and that gives me the real joy. I have done several movies where I was forced to like but now I have taken a call to do only projects that I like, without cutting corners.”
Playing Marykutty without bringing in the usual vulgarities and suggestive gestures that have been heaped upon the transgender community by Malayalam cinema (the most damage being done by Dileep with his Chanthupottu, so much so that the film’s title is today a choicest abuse) sees Jayasurya taking his act several notches high – one where you see one who was described as a comedy actor transcending the norms to be socially responsible. That must be seen from the fact that Jayasurya himself had done the dreadful stereotyping in 101 Weddings, an imminently forgettable film.
For example, he recalls his role as Sudhi in Su Sudhi Valmeekam: “Sudhi talks to you about accepting yourself – as you are without making comparisons with anyone. Many of us are fighting our inner demons and it is important to accept one’s shortcomings as the first step to positive change.”
Jayan’s Shaji Pappan in Aadu was of a different mould altogether. He played to the gallery with the film although he was initially hesitant to take up the role. “I didn’t have the confidence that I could pull it off. I was working with people my age or much younger, and Shaji Pappan – despite all his on-screen stupidity – is a hero, and the others need to look up to him. So, it needed a certain level of maturity in me that should make my co-stars see me as Pappan. I had to break that barrier.”
He is delighted with Pappan’s success because “people say, there is no Jayasurya in the film – there is just Shaji Pappan. It has happened before too – after Cocktail, Punyalan Agarbathis, Trivandrum Lodge, Pretham, Iyobinte Pusthakam.”
Jayasurya says his career can pretty well be categorized into two: Post-Kangaroo and pre. “Kangaroo was less noticed but it liberated me as an actor although it was Cocktail that had people discussing the change. To me, the task is to reach the goal I’ve set as a performer. When I see it that way, there is no anger or malice in me, whether recognitions come or not. And no one can stop me from working hard.”
Jayasurya agrees to have matured – as an actor and as a person. He cherishes the bonds he has formed with like-minded individuals – especially with director Ranjith Shankar. Their collaboration has brought out a series of hits that balance the fine art of commercial sensibility with meaningful cinema. While sometimes the message takes over the medium, the sincerity of their collaborative ventures cannot be overlooked.
But he says such bonding works because “we have the freedom to have creative differences; there is so much give and take when there is no ego holding you back.”
On his change, Jayasurya says: “It happens as you grow; you start an inner search and you realise that external things cannot give you contentment. I like to see everything as a witness and not let it go to my head. I don’t worry about what I don’t have, I don’t go after petty things, I don’t talk about a third person, I don’t see negative films or even read negative reviews. These things trouble me. What is the need for it when we can consciously stay positive?”