Thursday, November 6, 2008

Best for laughs: Cochin Haneefa

KK Moidu talks with versatile Malayalam film artiste Cochin Haneefa on his roles in films and new projects, while he was in Dubai recently

Director-actor-scenarist Cochin Haneefa was roped into the UAE by the organisers of Gulf Mappilappattu Awards 2008 as the chief guest. The ishal night held at Al Nasr Leisureland in Dubai on Oct. 31 honoured the veterans and latest talents of Mappilappattu (Muslim songs).
Despite of the fact that Haneefa was tired after the journey, he managed to chat without showing any sign of discomfort. This shows his personality, a very humble man indeed. He is one of the most popular comedians and a favourite among children and young audience. Although he entertains all kinds of audience with his stylish wit and humour as an actor, he also won the hearts of family audiences for years as a director-scenarist. He has directed seven Malayalam films and six of them were re-mad e in Tamil. His superhit movies like Valsalyam, Veena Meettiya Vilangukal, Moonnu Masangalkku Munpu, etc. are indeed the pillars of family oriented Malayalam films. However, his last directorial venture Bheeshmacharya, a commercial film, unfortunately bombed at the box-office. Haneefa plays second fiddle to superstars in the last couple of years, but he has proved his mettle as an actor by playing all kinds of roles. As a comedian his unique style of dialogue delivery and his flexibility in donning any kind of role made him closer to the audience. His special skills for making the audience laugh in any kind of role; like an ordinary man or a senseless police officer makes him different from other comedians. His role as Dharmendra in Pulivaal Kalyanam, Philippose uncle in Swapnakoodu, Vikraman in CID Moosa, Thrivikraman in Meesa Madhavan, Kittunni in Narendran Makan Jayakanthan Vaka, Veerappan Kurup in Ee Parakkum Thalika, Sundaresan in Friends, Gangadharan in Punjabi House, etc. are only few examples of Haneefa's touch. Even after gaining popularity as a comedian, he managed to create a deep impact by playing a negative role like Victor Sebastain in Dubai. He also played a full length title role in CI Mahadevan Anchadi Nalinchu as a police inspector. "The low budget film was a commercial success at the box-office" says Cochin Haneefa. Although former screen villains like Bheeman Raghu, Janardhanan, Rajan P Dev etc. won appreciation by playing comedy roles, none of them succeeded like Cochin Haneefa in handling comedy. He continues his comedy ride with recently released Malayalam films like Kurukshetra, Thirakkatha, Thaavalam, Parunthu etc. Cochin Haneefa is equally popular in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and has won appreciation for his performance. He has done prominent roles in recently released Tamil films like Aegan, Poi Solla Porom, Jayam Kondaan, Pattiyal. He won rave reviews for his role as Sami in the Arya-Bharath starrer gangster film Pattiyal and the land broker role in the Karthik Kumar starrer Poi Solla Porom directed by Vijay. His hands are full with offers for several Tamil films like Aa Aa Ee Ee, Mothi Vilayaduthu etc. and also important roles in forthcoming Malayalam multi-starrer films like Twenty Twenty and Mammootty's Pattanathil Bhootham. Haneefa developed an early love and passion for acting and mimicry. He won many prizes in mimicry and drama in his school and college days.

He was adjudged the best actor of Kerala University and remained the best for four years in school and five years in college. His mimicry skills and acting talent earned him an easy entry into filmdom.

He made his film debut as an actor in Azhimugham directed by P Vijayan as a boat driver. Madhu and Jayabharathi played the leads and the film was an average hit at the box-office. Haneefa was a first year degree student at the prestigious St Alberts College and got the opportunity to exhibit his mimicry talent in the debut film. "I appeared in a small role in the film, my imitation of late Tamil heroes MGR and Sivaji Ganesan was enough for gaining the attention of audience," says Haneefa.
He sailed with the passage of time and managed to evolve in other aspects of film making, like script writing and directing.
He has acted in around 300 films in a variety of roles in more than two-and-a-half decades. He terrorised the audience as a screen villain in several films and was a favourite for directors in negative roles especially in Vadakkanpattu films.
Haneefa always made his presence felt in the films he directed. As a director, he could have easily made his roles bigger in films but always preferred to appear in small roles, this shows his passion for film making. "I never did roles which I don't deserve in my films or other director's films. I could have easily made my little roles longer at least in my films like Valsalyam. But that appearance was enough for the character and why should I drag my role," says the actor, with his trade mark laugh.

As a successful director he did not face any problem in finding a producer. He is planning to direct films in the future either in Tamil or Malayalam. He added, "at present, I am busy as an actor in Malayalam and Tamil. But I will direct a film in one of these languages in the near future." He is not ready to disclose the story and details of the film because he fears others will make the films with the subject.
His real breakthrough role came in 1989 as a street rowdy in Kireedam. Mohanlal played the lead in the film directed by Sibi Malayil and written by Lohithadas. "The transformation from villain to a comedian was accidental. "My role in Kireedam was welcomed by the audience as a comedian. After the success of the film, directors started casting me in comedy roles and as an actor I have succeeded in satisfying the audience," says Haneefa.
Kireedam, released in 1989, was recently remade into Tamil and Telugu languages and Haneefa played the same role in both the versions. He has succeeded in making the audience laugh with his humorous performance but the actor said, "the character lost its originality in a jeans costume."
Tamil remakes of his successful Malayalam films put his name on the top directors lists. His three Tamil films scripts were penned by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.
Haneefa is a regular in the films of famed director S Shankar. He proudly said, "S Shankar is one of the best film makers and it is my luck to play roles in hit films like Vikram-starrer Anniyan, Rajinikanth-starrer Sivaji The Boss etc. I am playing an important role in the forthcoming big budget film Robot directed by Shankar. My co-artistes of the film are superstar Rajinikanth and the former Miss World Aishwarya Rai."

Cochin Haneefa not only had the luck to play important roles but also shared screen space with senior and young heroes. A good friend of legendary actor Kamal Hassan, Haneefa made his Tamil film debut in Kamal Hassan-starrer Mahanadi by frightening the girls as a pimp.
The multi-talented actor is trying his luck as a singer in a Mappilappattu Album, which will be released next month. He said, "I love Mappilappattu and it is my first attempt, I am singing six songs for two albums."
pics: Nisham A Manaf/The Gulf Today


Anonymous said...

Indeed Cochin Haneefa is a class of its own. His humor look very natural, it does not feel that he deliver the dialogues per the script , his expressions and dialogues looks so natural.

To mention a few that missed out from the listed post, the role of Varghese in Azhikiya Ravanan, "eldho" in Mannar Mathai Speaking

Vijayan said...

May his soul rest in peace!!To read about Cochin Haneefa on the day of his death makes one so much more emotional.

A great artist and film personality.
We will all miss you for years to come!

Thank you Moidu for the excellent write up.

Pyari said...

Were these pics taken by you?

KK Moidu said...

These pics were taken by TGT staff photographer Nisham A Manaf for my interview with Haneefa on his last visit in UAE on October 2008.