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Nivin Pauly, who is celebrating his 37th birthday today, has made a successful career featuring in romantic Malayalam films. He made his screen debut with Vineeth Sreenivasan’s directorial Malarvaadi Arts Club in 2010. But, his first major break came with the 2011 romantic drama Thattathin Marayathu. His performance in the film made him instantly likeable. And he continued to bank on his boy-next-door charm in movies like Ohm Shanthi Oshaana, Bangalore Days, Oru Vadakkan Selfie and of course Premam.

In the last five years, however, he has been making some unconventional choices to break away from the mould of ‘chocolate hero’ or the boy-next-door.

Here are five unconventional roles that Nivin Pauly played to redefine his onscreen persona.

Fresh off the blockbuster success of Premam, Nivin Pauly didn’t repeat himself with another romantic comedy. But, he did the opposite. He picked a procedural drama that steered clear of any big romantic gestures. As the title suggests, the film was all about Biju’s actions. At times, the action takes place within the four walls of Biju’s office, and sometimes it requires him to engage in a car chase, fistfights and knife battles. Nivin played the role of an honest cop, who just goes about doing his duty, which usually involves a lot of paperwork, something a run-of-the-mill cop drama won’t show us.

Nivin Pauly further experimented with his looks in this period drama. He played the role of a legendary highway robber who becomes a nightmare for the wealthy and the British, while being a saviour for the poor.

If anyone ever makes a list of the worst Malayalam films in the last decade, it would probably begin with this film at the top. The migraine-inducing movie was Nivin’s desperate attempt to ape the success of Mohanlal and Mammootty in the over-the-top, larger-than-life space. It failed and how. This film, however, was part of Nivin’s continued effort to rid himself of the image of a ‘chocolate hero’.

This film would be a hard watch for any die-hard fan of Nivin Pauly, who developed their admiration for the actor due to his romantic and funny movies. In a way, it was Nivin’s obituary to his boy-next-door image. It is the grimmest film of his career so far. Written and directed by Geetu Mohandas, Nivin plays the role of a low-life thug in Mumbai. He has been cast out of his house by his family and community for being a homosexual and ends up being a small cog in Mumbai’s underbelly, which is so dense and dark that no matter what he does, he can’t find redemption.

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