'Seeing the characters you had conceived come alive, saying the lines you had written for them... or the actor giving it a totally different meaning from what you had originally thought... is unbelievable!' Sreebala K Menon tells Paresh C Palicha.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan has company this Eid.
There are four mega Malayalam movies slated for release on the same day; and one of them is Love 24 X 7 starring Dileep (in the picture) and newcomer Nikhila Vimal.
It is directed by Sreebala K Menon, who is a long-time associate of Malayalam director-screenwriter Sathyan Anthikkad.
Sreebala is also known as a short story writer and columnist. She has made short films like Panthibojanam and Journey From Darkness to Light, which won accolades at the first Abilityfest held in Chennai in 2005.
In this interview, Sreebala tells Rediff.com contributor Paresh C Palicha about her first directorial venture.
Tell us something about Love 24 X 7.
I had started it as a short story in 2013. As I went forward with it, I felt the subject has the scope of being developed as a full fledged script.
I was also searching for a subject for a film but it got delayed, as the film industry almost came to a standstill after television channels became strict with films' satellite rights.
What was it like working with Dileep?
Dileep is a director's actor, a director can mould him as he or she wishes.
If you see the spectrum of the characters he has handled, you can see that on the one end there is Kathavasheshan (directed by T V Chandran) and at the other end there is Chanthupottu (directed by Lal Jose).
He is branded as a hero, who excels in lowbrow humour because those are the films that have been most successful. He did take some time to decide to do this film. But once he came on board, he even decided to be a partner in production.
Tell us about the rest of the cast.
The story is about five characters. Sreenivasan was the first one to read the script and come on board.
I had mailed the synopsis of the story to Suhasini Ma'am and then went to meet her and narrated the script. She had agreed on the spot.
I also met Sasikumar Sir.
It was very comforting that all these senior artists stayed with me even after the inordinate delays in the making of the movie.
How was the experience of directing them as most of them are also directors and writers?
Most of my cast was technically well versed.
Dileep started his film career as an assistant director. Sreenivasan Sir, Suhasini Ma'am, Sasikumar Sir, Siddharth Siva and Shankar Ramakrishnan are accomplished directors. But they never interfered with my work. In fact, it was an advantage to have such people around who understood the job.
The leading lady has been played by newcomer Nikhila Vimal.
When I was writing the story, I felt a new face would be suitable for the character. Nikhila had played the role of Jayaram's younger sister in Sathyan Sir's Bhagyadevatha, where I was an associate director. She was studying in the eighth or ninth standard then.
She had also appeared in a TV show about Sr Alphonsa. We are Facebook friends, and she had uploaded a few pictures there. I liked them and asked her to send some more different looks. I didn't feel she needed to be auditioned, as I had liked what she had done in Bhagyadevatha.
What would you like to be known as: a writer or a director?
I like to think of myself as a writer. I joined the film industry to learn scriptwriting. As I went along, I understood that scripting and direction go hand-in-hand. The only thing I miss now is pure writing.
There are a lot of people who are depending on you when you direct a film, so you cannot seek solitude when an idea strikes you. There are lots of stories that have gone unwritten because of this.
How was the experience of seeing something you had written transform into a visual experience on the big screen?
It was a marvelous experience for me. Till then, I had just seen something I had written.
Seeing the characters you had conceived come alive, saying the lines you had written for them... or the actor giving it a totally different meaning from what you had originally thought... is unbelievable! I am totally satisfied.