Alagappan: Pattam Pole is an out an out commercial film
As a cinematographer, Alagappan has shot more than 50 films for directors such as Shyamaprasad, Blessey, Priyadarshan, and Sathyan Anthikad etc. His many awards include a National award and also a Kerala state award.
He has taken to directing with the Malayalam film Pattam Pole (Like a kite) starring Dulquer Salman and Malavika Mohanan (daughter of well known cinematographer K U Mohanan).
In this interview, Alagappan speaks about turning a director and his film.
Has it been a long-time desire of yours to direct a film?
Yes, I have been thinking of directing a film for a very long time. In fact, this is not my first film; I have directed a full length feature film Salute, which I made for the defence service.
It was targeted at army widows, to make them strong. It was appreciated by the academic world. It was not a commercial film and not intended for theatrical release. But it was shown at various film festivals.
Why is it that many cinematographers want to be directors?
It is not only cinematographers but everyone connected with films from a light boy to a production boy to an actor to an editor, everybody dreams of being a film-maker one day.
All will have a story in mind to make into a film. Not many get the opportunity to realise their dreams.
The advantage cinematographers have is, they work very closely with the directors and actors. Every aspect of film making is closely associated with the cinematographer.
Image: Dulquer Salman and Malavika Mohanan in Pattam Pole
'The film is about today's youth who fall in love quickly and separate also quickly'
How did the idea of Pattam Pole come to you?
Karunakaran, the producer, wanted me to make a film four years ago after I adapted Anna Karenina for TV. The serial won nine Kerala state awards. But at that time, I didn't have a good story to be made into a film.
I wanted a story that is fresh, not something that has been told from time immemorial.
Later I felt, even if the story is not new, with a new treatment, you can give it a fresh look.
What is the inspiration behind Pattam Pole?
The story came to me after watching today's youth, including my own son. I got the feeling that they are restless. They are also unpredictable. In my time, people were happy when they got a government job. Today’s youth keep changing jobs, never feeling happy with what they have.
A young relative of ours fell in love with a girl, they got married, then separated and then decided to live together again. They would like to have more freedom compared to those of my generation.
This is from where I picked up the idea.
Is the film about romance or about the new generation?
It is about the new generation who fall in love quickly and separate also quickly.
Image: Dulquer Salman and Malavika Mohanan in Pattam Pole. Inset: Director Alagappan
'I want the film to reach everyone in Kerala'
How did the title come to your mind?
My father used to tell me that I was like a kite when I jumped from one thing to another as a youngster. He used to ask, why are you like pattam?
He told me, your mind should be strong. You shouldn’t fly like a kite. He gave me this piece of advice more than 20 years ago. I felt I would not get a better title than this, comparing the mind to a kite.
Though the story can happen anywhere in India, I wanted my film to be based in Kerala as I had decided to make the film in Malayalam, in the backwaters of Kuttanad. I am in love with the place and the backwaters.
It was also nostalgic for me as I had shot Kaazhcha for Blessey there. There is romance in the air in Kuttanad, one of the loveliest places on earth. Whenever I needed a holiday, I go there.
You have worked on many off-beat films. Is Pattam Pole an offbeat film?
It is a hundred per cent commercial film. A romantic film with subtle humour.
Why did you make it a commercial film? Is it because you wanted the film to reach more people?
Yes, I want the film to reach everyone in Kerala. I feel this happens and can happen in any household, not only in Kerala but all over India where there is a 19-year-old daughter and 25-year-old young man.
What is the story of the protagonists?
They have known each other from childhood. They work together in an event management company and realise they were more than friends.
But they reach a point where they can’t understand each other. Like they became friends, they drifted apart too. For no reason, they wanted to be away too.
Image: Dulquer Salman in Pattam Pole
'Working with two young actors made me feel fresh!'
How did you choose Dulquer Salman and Malavika Mohanan?
I have seen Dulquer’s first film. What I liked about him is that he looks innocent for his age. I thought he would look nice as Karthik, a Tamil Brahmin boy from Kerala whose family is originally from Thanjavur.
I thought of having a well-known actress as the girl, and spoke to Priya Anand. She was very interested but couldn’t give me dates. I decided to have a newcomer.
Mammootty told Dulquer that there is (cinematographer) K U Mohanan’s daughter but he was not sure whether she was interested in acting. When I asked her, she said she was interested. We did the audition and I was happy with the result.
How was the first day of shooting?
I’ve always aired my opinion when working as a cinematographer and also done many ad films and a feature film, so everything went smoothly.
The camera is my friend, so I am doing the cinematography of the film too. It is easier for me to direct and shoot. What I have in mind, I can show through my camera.
Will you be making more films and doing less of cinematography now?
The camera is my first passion. Direction is a new area for me. But I enjoyed the process thoroughly.
Working with two young actors made me really fresh! It was like playing with two kids.
Image: Dulquer Salman and Malavika Mohanan in Pattam Pole