Indian cinema’s maverick man: Fahadh Faasil does it again - Hindustan Times
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Indian cinema’s maverick man: Fahadh Faasil does it again

Apr 27, 2024 02:59 PM IST

With the Malayalam film Aavesham, the actor adds another memorable rogue to his oeuvre. Other actors could watch and learn.

Electric. To fully comprehend the meaning of that term, watch Fahadh Faasil in Aavesham (Malayalam for Excitement).

Faasil plays a cheerfully unhinged don named Ranga, in the darkly funny film. PREMIUM
Faasil plays a cheerfully unhinged don named Ranga, in the darkly funny film.

He plays Ranga, a Bengaluru don who befriends three engineering students and becomes their protector / elder brother from hell. Ranga is cheerfully unhinged, mercurial and violent but also generous, affectionate and eager for validation. (In one hilarious moment, he complains about not getting enough likes on Instagram).

His sartorial style is all-white paired with thick gold chains, multiple gold rings and Aviator sunglasses. His mother has disowned him since he became a gangster; he now has a soft spot for mothers.

Writer-director Jithu Madhavan (who directed the fabulously funny comedy-horror Romancham, released last year), builds a delirious, flamboyant, relentlessly colourful action comedy in Aavesham, that switches moods in a heartbeat. The script, also by Jithu, toggles from laughs to violence and back again.

The students, played by the terrific debutants Mithun Jai Shankar, Hipzster and Roshan Shanavas, are bullied by seniors and desperately seeking a saviour. They hang out in bars hoping to find a gangster to befriend. This is how they encounter Ranga and his sidekick Amban (a fantastic character played so marvellously by Sajin Gopu that they now deserve a spin-off of their own.)

Over the last few years, Fahadh, one of India’s finest actors, has created a gallery of memorable rogues. There was Shammi in Kumbalangi Nights (2019). He is introduced perfecting his moustache in a mirror. He admires his reflection and calls himself “the complete man”. It is somehow both absurd and unsettlingly malevolent; which is exactly what he turns out to be.

There was the Fahadh in Dileesh Pothan’s Joji (2021), a masterful retelling of Macbeth. He plays the subservient youngest son, who commits patricide. In Mari Selvaraj’s Maamannan (2023), he is a man from a dominant caste, who hates losing so much that when his dog loses a race, he beats it to death. He is the menacing and murderous Haryanvi cop in Pushpa: The Rise (2021), guaranteed to unleash more mayhem in the upcoming Pushpa 2: The Rule.

What’s fascinating is how Fahadh builds this air of unhinged power and swag, on the strength of talent alone. He is a lean man, unimposing in size. And yet on screen, he towers.

In Aavesham, he does a towel dance that made me laugh out loud. Ranga is a source of comedy, but we never lose sight of the fact that this is also a man who can kill without flinching. In one of the film’s best scenes, the tension is ratcheted up again, as he and the students play a game of charades. When his team can’t guess the name of a film, one is genuinely afraid for them. It’s darkly funny but also unbearably tense.

Fahadh’s performance serves as a reminder that movie magic doesn’t come from bloated budgets, sculpted bodies or dazzling costumes. More actors should watch and learn.

(To reach Anupama Chopra with feedback, email feedbackforanu@gmail.com)

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