Published: 13th February 2018
This Valentine's Day, find out how Kerala's heartthrob Tovino fell in love
Ahead of Valentine's Day, Tovino Thomas talks about his love story, vacationing with the wife in the UK and why he won't stop posting on Facebook about things that irk him in society today
Tovino Thomas isn't a big fan of text messages. What he is big on are WhatsApp voice notes. When I heard that he was out of the country, I'd all but given up on getting the lowdown on his love story for Valentines Day. But, I figured, what the heck....one text can't really hurt.
"We can talk at a time that works for both of us, given the time difference," his voice note said in that now familiar voice. The one from Guppy. Or Mayaanadhi. A day and four texts later I began to wonder if his schedule had gotten the better of him. And then he called. WhatsApp called, if you're a stickler for details, and we got chatting while he was over in the United Kingdom,
As I grappled to find decent cell reception, my thoughts drifted back to Malayalam cinema's latest blockbuster Mayaanadhi Truth is, no one can be blamed for falling in love with Mayaanadhi's hero Maathan — easily one of the most compelling roles essayed by Tovino. Funnily enough, when I tell him this, Tovino Thomas tells me that even he fell in love with the character. Because Maathan as a character resided partly within him — and it's a part that he quite likes. "Maybe a happy version of me is the Tovino in You Too Brutus and a sad version is the Tovino in Mayaanadhi."
Love is all you need. Really?
For the actor, Mayaanadhi is special because of the way love is portrayed in it. Flawed and unrelenting. Not just candy floss and cupid's arrows. "This is exactly how love is. It isn't perfect. It is flawed," says Tovino. Ask him what went into a love story so powerful that it can shake you to your core, and all he does is laugh demurely. I even wonder if his own love story, in real life, also a runaway success, had anything to do with it.
Love's Maaya: Tovino as Maathan in Maayanadhi
Seeing as how he gets ever-so-slightly philosophical when speaking about love, we had to ask if he'd shared his opinions to the legions of broken-hearted people who bemoan an occasion like Valentine's Day, "Love is the same throughout. The emotion is constant. It is just that it is expressed in different ways," he says forcefully and feels that one doesn't need to advise anyone on how to love. "Let them love!" he says with a lot of verve.
The Irinjalakuda Diaries
Tovino's real-life love story began almost a decade and a half ago. The year was 2004. "My wife Lidiya and I met in St Mary's Higher Secondary School, Irinjalakuda, where both of us were 11th graders. Our families knew each other way before that," he explains shyly, "Later, we both went to Coimbatore to study engineering. There are so many memories associated with that city," Tovino reminisces. For him, the memories of those days are very special.
The family man: Tovino with his daughter Izza and wife Lidiya
After a 10-year-long relationship, the couple tied the knot in 2014 and now have a daughter called Izza. So much for the romance, you think, adding a customary 'eyes rolling' emogi. Dead wrong. As much as he is there for work, there's a heady bit of holiday cheer thrown into his England sojourn, '''"My wife and I are backpacking across the UK right now. We wanted a change," Tovino tells us, excitedly, but also in a hurry.
V-Day in Europe? Maybe, maybe not
Valentine's Day in the UK perhaps?. (That would be super romantic). "No no, I'll be shooting then. This is just a short trip when we had the time," he says quickly. I can't really tell if he was blushing, but combing through those super-cute pictures on his Instagram feed, I think that won't be too much of a hard sell.
That's probably why it doesn't surprise me when he says he doesn't have a definition for a perfect day. After pondering over the question for a few seconds, he says, "I am a seeker of novel experiences. If something new and exciting happens to me and I'm around the few best people in my life, then what more can I ask for?" That's #lifegoals right there.
I am a seeker of novel experiences. If something new and exciting happens to me and I'm around the few best people in my life, then what more can I ask for?
Tovino Thomas, actor
Unlike the previous generation of Malayalam cinema superstars. Tovino Thomas is seldom larger-than-life — both on the screen and off it. But that doesn't mean that he's not living it to the fullest. Part of that comes from drawing inspiration from pretty much anywhere. "There is no one person. There are a lot of people who have inspired me. What life has taught me is to see the good in everyone. Imagine I'm stranded in an unknown place and I'm trying to go home. Nothing seems to work. But all of a sudden, I see a face smiling at me. They come up and ask me what is wrong and on hearing my troubles, they're ready to help me find my way back. That moment, the stranger becomes the most favorite person in my life," he explains. And it doesn't just stop there. "I try to accommodate the most intriguing part of that person's character, according to me, into mine."
Raising his voice...Over and over again
None of that stands in the way of Tovino speaking up. Even if it comes at the cost of landing him in the epicentre of controversy. The murder of Shyam Prasad, a youngster in Kannur was something that shook Kerala. A few days prior to the incident, Shyam, a fan of Tovino had uploaded a selfie of his with the latter on his Facebook profile.
When Tovino came to know about the murder, he was shattered. "I didn't know him. We just took a selfie together and that's the only connection I had with that young man. Nevertheless, the news of his murder shocked me. How can a man kill another man?" he asks. He went on Facebook and wrote, "It is so much easier to love one another and live a peaceful life than killing each other."
Going online: Read Tovino's post about Shyam's death here
While many applauded him for speaking up about a sensitive issue, the backlash quickly got political. Many accused him of supporting a particular political party, while a few posted hate comments, giving his page a 1-star rating.
Strolling over trolling
The silliness of the issue is something that had angered him. But he says that he will never stop airing his beliefs. "Previously, I'd used social media to support my colleague Alencier Lopez to support his cause (of sticking up for director Kamal). Even then I was called the supporter of another political party," he explains quietly. The right-wing has been particularly critical of Tovino and his views, especially after he plays a unionist who ignited the student movement in Maharajas College in Oru Mexican Aparatha.
Inquilab Zindabad: Tovino in Oru Mexican Aparatha
His clarity and disdain is refreshing at a time when few actors, Prakash Raj, for instance, are willing to voice their dissent. "People will talk. There are many who are unnecessarily politicising my actions. I am standing up for human life. I have no religion and no political affiliation. It is just not right to kill each other. I can't take it," he says strongly.
Now, that's classy Inquilaab for you.