As Nivin Pauly completes a decade as an actor, he continues to bring a fresh burst of energy to every film he is in by constantly reinventing himself.

Nivin Pauly knows how to reinvent himself. The Malayalam superstar burst on to the screen as the boy next door, and wooed the audience as a charming lover with his impish and disarming smile. He soon moved to drama and action roles and, eventually, turned into a mass hero. But in Geetu Mohandas’s directorial debut in Malayalam, Moothon (2019), he is transformational. The bilingual film in Hindi and Malayalam premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, yet another milestone for Nivin. After less impressive outings in Mikhael and Love Action Drama in 2019, the emotional gravitas he brought to Moothon reminds us of the superlative actor in the star. The Premam actor has referred to the role as his most challenging, so far. “Playing Akbar in Moothon was challenging but exciting as well,” he says

In the dark and gritty narrative, he ditched his star tag, and piled on the kilos to become Akbar Bhai, the troubled and vicious gangster of Mumbai’s Kamathipura. The transformation is not just physical. That his is a face of a thousand expressions is no doubt, but here, his eyes do full justice to a role that demands a duality. As Bhai, he is all searing intensity and menace. But as Akbar, he oozes vulnerability and tenderness. The script-smart actor has also made the most of a deftly handled gay romance angle. Watch him in a scene where he smiles shyly into a mirror in the first flush of love. “I always look at the script before choosing any film. That is my obsession when it comes to doing a film,” he says. It’s not a specific genre, but the scope to perform that attracts him. “If there is a space where I see an opportunity to perform, I will grab it. Every movie is a learning experience. I stick to my basics and go for what is right for me. If there is something that I feel I can’t take, I will say no to it,” he rightly states.

This year marks the 10th year at the movies for the engineer-turned-actor. With more than 30 films, three Filmfare Awards, two Kerala State Awards, and a production company to his name, his has been quite a journey. “Frankly, 10 years is not a long time. With every movie, I am still learning the nuances of acting, but yes, looking back at those awards and appreciations, I feel content to have done some amazing films over the years,” he says. Like Nivin said, he has been in numerous hits like Ohm Shanthi Oshaana, Bangalore Days, Oru Vadakkan Selfie, and Action Hero Biju. But his best work has mostly been with friends, owing to a “comfort factor” he shares with them. “We understand each other. We know each other’s negatives and positives, and we don’t have to think twice to speak our mind. There is an almost instantaneous understanding, and this shows in the film,” he has said, in an interview.

But for Moothon, he has made a departure. His director, Geethu, has said in an interview that Nivin was scared in a really good way when he came on to the project. “He said he didn’t know anything, and he wanted to start from scratch. He had 100 per cent commitment, mentally and emotionally,” she had said. Along with friends and Bangalore Days co-stars Fahadh Faasil and Dulquer Salmaan, Nivin forms a trio that has given Malayalam cinema a fresh burst of energy since the turn of the decade. “We are good friends, and are in touch whenever we get time. All of us are busy with work, but this pandemic has given us some time to stay in touch,” he says. The down-to-earth actor says he still has miles to go. “When people come and say they loved the character I portrayed in a film, that is the biggest award for me,” adds Nivin.

The actor is set to have a busy 2021. Period drama Thuramukham with Rajeev Ravi, feel-good Bismi Special, another drama Padavettu, and action film Gangster of Mundanmala, which he will also produce, are some of his projects for 2021.

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