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Lukman Avaran says Jackson Bazar Youth “defies categorization”; responds to FEUOK’s decision not to exhibit substandard films

The cast lists of the majority of good recent movies all share one thing in common: the name of Lukman Avaran. Whether it’s Operation Java (2021, Dir. Tharun Moorthy), Virus (2019, Dir. Aashiq Abu), Thallumaala (2022, Dir. Khalid Rahman) or Saudi Vellakka (2022, Dir. Tharun Moorthy), Lukman constantly finds himself among all talented.

With an unwavering dedication to his roles and a remarkable ability to seamlessly immerse himself in characters without duplicating his own essence, Lukman has established himself as a name synonymous with exceptional performance. Even in movies that may fall short of expectations, her presence ensures a strong and compelling portrayal.

The 32-year-old Malayalam actor is now gearing up for his third outing this year, Jackson Bazaar Youth, which hits theaters on May 19. Unveiled on May 5, the film’s trailer teases a joyful escapade alongside a fiery marching band. In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, Lukman Avaran discusses his expectations for the film, his meticulous project selection process, the profound impact his friendships have had on his personal and artistic development, and more.

“Jackson Bazar Youth encompasses all of the gripping elements featured in the film’s trailer. It defies categorization within a single genre as it interweaves thrilling moments, elements of revenge, survival challenges and mass sequences hard-hitting, while placing great emphasis on the music,” Lukman said.

As mentioned earlier, in the realm of recent commendable films, a harmonious pattern emerges among their cast lists, in which the name of Lukman Avaran constantly shines. Although not all of these films were box office successes, several of them, such as Saudi Vellaka and Naradan, set the stage for significant debate and shifts in perspective. When asked if it was a conscious decision to only be among such movies that have a strong core, Lukman said, “I can’t claim it was solely my decision or my merit. Credit goes to the makers of these films who came up with such amazing projects. I am extremely grateful that these filmmakers, in making their respective works, thought of me and chose to include me. I consider it a stroke of luck and I feel privileged to be part of their creations.

Additionally, Lukman’s body of work stands out from his contemporaries due to an unparalleled level of diversity. The actor, who made his debut in 2013 with Harshad PK’s Dayom Panthrandum, has been part of several breakthrough films such as KL 10 Patthu (2015, Dir. Muhsin Parari), Sudani from Nigeria (2018, Dir. Zakariya Mohammed) , Unda (2019, Dir. Khalid Rahman) and Virus and Thallumaala. In the past two years, Lukman has starred in Fantasy Romantic Comedy (Anugraheethan Antony), Crime Thriller (Operation Java), Sci-Fi Horror (Churuli), Action Thriller (Ajagajantharam), Comedy Drama (Archana 31 Not Out), a neo-noir psychological thriller (Naradan), drama (Saudi Vellakka), suspense thriller (Aalankam), sports drama (Aanaparambile World Cup) and romantic comedy film (Sulaikha Manzil).

“I try to make sure that when I choose a new film, it has a distinctive character that sets it apart from my previous projects. I’m not referring to a simple physical distinction between the characters, but rather a deep divergence in their outlook on life and their state of mind. Each individual reacts to emotions in their own idiosyncratic way, even when faced with similar situations or grief. So in each film, I strive to explore new territory, seeking to portray a fresh and distinctive portrait of each character,” he adds.

One feature that seems to be slowly disappearing from Malayalam is dance songs. Although most recent Malayalam movies don’t have songs like this, two movies that caught the public’s interest – Thallumaala and Sulaikha Manzil – garnered high praise for their dance numbers. In both films, Lukman’s characters gracefully dance to these songs. Asked about his personal enjoyment of dancing onscreen or if it happens purely because of the demands of the film, Lukman says, “I’m ready to take on any task required by the script. After having had many dreams about it, I finally entered the world of cinema. Therefore, I’m fine with such dance sequences if the movie calls for it.

One of Lukman Avaran’s greatest assets is his circle of friends who also happen to be his frequent collaborators, especially filmmakers Khalid Rahman, Muhsin Parari and Zakariya Mohammed. “I believe that every individual in this world is shaped by the people they surround themselves with, especially their friends. Although family members are also influential, it is often our friends who we spend a lot of time with. Thus, they play a central role in the formation of our identities. If these friends are also our colleagues with whom we collaborate, our professional paths are also influenced and take shape accordingly. My life would have taken a different trajectory if I had part of a different group of individuals I am currently satisfied and comfortable with where I have arrived.

Filmmaker Aashiq Abu, with whom Lukman has worked in films like Virus and Halal Love Story, recently said he had disagreements with the films, made by a group of young people from the Malabar region, which focus on identity politics. During an interview with Malayalam news channel Media One, the presenter asked Aashiq, who funded the comedy-drama Halal Love Story, his views on Malabar-based films, helmed by filmmakers like Muhsin Parari and Zakariya Mohammed, who discuss identity politics. To this, Aashiq replied, “I cannot agree with the (identity) politics discussed in the films featuring the said newcomers from the Malabar region. However, I would cooperate with them while registering my disagreements.

“A few people from the Malappuram-Malabar region, generally considered disadvantaged, came to make good films. All are people with a proper political consciousness. You can see it in the movies they did early on. I had associations with many movies that I had disagreements with. It’s about their films, it’s about their politics. This friendship exists while communicating these disagreements. They also know that I have my own point of view,” he added.

As someone who has featured in almost every movie made by the aforementioned directors, indianexpress.com asked Lukman for his take on Aashiq’s statements. “Aashiq Abu has made his position clear and there is no need to consider it further. Each individual has the right to decide who they want to work with and who they don’t. Movies aren’t just determined by one factor, are they? They encompass a multitude of elements. As a director or producer, it is in their right to decide on the projects they undertake. However, Aashiq expressed his willingness to cooperate on such projects while expressing his disagreements. I am not saying that his position is right or wrong. What I insist is that I respect his opinion and his right to express his point of view.

In a bid to save Malayalam cinema and theaters in Kerala from the severe crisis they are facing, due to consecutive flops, the Film Exhibitors United Organization of Kerala (FEUOK) announced plans to refrain from screening substandard films. In the event that a film producer, whose film was rejected by cinemas, wishes to exhibit his film in cinemas, he would be required to pay screening fees to cinema owners, FEUOK announced. Elaborating on the decision, the chairman of the organization, K Vijayakumar, told indianexpress.com that the theater owners themselves will determine the quality of the films.

Since Lukman continues to appear in such small films without any hesitation, indianexpress.com asked him if he thinks this decision will affect small projects that arrive without the support of any stars or celebrities. “The movie industry has constantly faced various challenges throughout its existence. Financial limitations and other issues have always plagued it, even decades ago. Recently, I had the opportunity to watch some interviews featuring famous movie personalities of the past, including the late actor KP Ummer, which originally aired many years ago. industry was facing at the time. A particular concern they discussed was the alarming state of Malayalam cinema, especially due to the emergence of television. At that time, television was the main concern Nevertheless, despite these obstacles, the film industry has always managed to move forward and overcome these obstacles.Compared to those earlier times, the procedures for entering the industry and producing a film are have become relatively simpler these days. However, in this transformed landscape, the focus on quality becomes crucial. Personally, I believe audiences are already making good decisions by selecting good films and rejecting those they deem unworthy of their time. Our own experiences testify to this fact, as we have been extremely pleased with the financial results of our films such as Sulaikha Manzil, Saudi Vellaka, Thallumaala, Operation Java and Unda. Several factors undoubtedly contribute to this trend. For example, films such as Romancham and 2018 – Everybody’s a Hero… have achieved great success thanks to the support of viewers. Therefore, I think viewers are already being discerning in their cinematic preferences.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that theater owners should have completely ignored such a decision, given the expenses they have to meet for each film screening, such as electricity and rent. However, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely acceptable for them to base their choices solely on the quality of the film. I think there should be more in-depth discussions about this. Moreover, implementing such decisions without careful consideration would not be wise. As people are already filtering their film preferences, the number of individuals entering the film industry just to create mediocre projects will decrease. They will realize that the industry is no longer a platform where they can thrive without putting in real effort. While anyone can make a movie, it takes significant dedication and hard work to establish a lasting presence in the industry,” he suggests.

Lukman shared that his next film, Corona Javan, is set to hit theaters in June, following releases by Jackson Bazar Youth this month. Additionally, the actor is working on upcoming films such as Tiki Taka from Rohit VS and in a film that marks the directorial debut of Ullas Chemban, brother of Chemban Vinod Jose, which will be financed by Chembosky Motion Pictures.

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