It is his willingness to experiment with movies that makes Malayalam filmmaker Lal Jose different from his peers. With films like Oru Maravathoor Kanavu, Meesa Madhavan, Classmates, Chanthupottu and Arabikkadha in his profile, he has found a place among the best in the business.
Right now he is gearing up to make two different films. The first one is a new version of Neelathamara, which came out in 1979. Again, he is among the ten directors who will join hands to make a film based on a common theme.
Lal Jose talks about his films and more. Excerpts:
What made you to decide on remaking Neelathamara?
I have heard a lot about the movie for years now, though I haven't watched it. I was fascinated by the script. It's a movie where love and lust have been addressed without prejudices, which obviously means that it came before the times when pseudo-morality became part of Malayalam cinema.
I had to face lot of flak even for the lovemaking scene that was shown during a song in Chanthupottu. Here, Neelathamara was made without such mindset and that's the best thing about it as well.
Nowadays, our heroes and heroines are full of virtues, without any weaknesses or emotions of a normal human. They are irritatingly perfect. This film belongs to a time when such hypocrisy hadn't affected our thoughts.
Image: Archana with a poster of Ambika
'I haven't seen the original Neelathamara'
How do you feel about directing a film scripted by M T Vasudevan Nair?
It's just unbelievable and it's a dream come true for me to direct a film scripted by a legendary writer like him. Neelathamara has been made before, but for me it's an altogether new project, especially since I haven't seen the earlier movie and the story will have the changes required for the current era.
My aim is to make a different film that will be enjoyable even for Yusufali Kechery, who directed the original version in 1979.
You have gone for fresh faces in the main roles?
I would like to put it this way; I have gone for the faces that suited the characters. Archana will play Kunjimalu, the character that was played by Ambika in the earlier version. Ravi Kumar's character named Haridas is being played by Kalesh.
Suresh will do the role of Appukkuttan, played by Sathar earlier. Rima Kallingal is doing the role of Sharathe Ammini and Samvrutha Sunil is Padmam in the new version.
Image: Lal Jose with the new star cast
'I'm doing a film with Mammootty'
Is your Tamil film Mazhai Varapoguthu going on as well?
We have completed the first schedule and there were certain financial problems later on. We hope to sort it out and complete the rest of the shooting soon.
Have you decided when to shoot your film in the ten directors' project produced by Ranjith?
I am planning to shoot my film before starting Neelathamara. It will be a 12 minute film, based on writer C V Sreeraman's story, Puram Kazhchakal. Mammootty is expected to be in it and we are also thinking of casting T G Ravi.
Image: M T Vasudevan Nair lighting the lamp
'Passenger was an unconventional film'
Looking back, why do you think Mulla wasn't well-received by the audience?
Frankly, I have no clue about it. Perhaps it was not an experiment like my recent films like Classmates, Achanurangatha Veedu, Chanthupottu or Arabikkadha.
Or maybe the viewers expected a love story from the Dileep-Lal Jose team. Mulla had a nice storyline and it seemed to have the perfect grammar that was required from a film. But I don't know what went wrong.
A remake in the pipeline, ten directors coming together to make a film...with such experiments happening, do you think there's still hope for Malayalam cinema?
These changes, experiments and new thoughts are bound to happen. Films like Thirakkadha and Gulmohar are indications of such a change. The most recent example is Passenger, which is unconventional.
The film stars Dileep and Sreenivasan, but it has shown the actors in completely different roles. The changes that we are talking about have always been brought about by people who risked their careers, those who were passionate enough to experiment with newer ideas and by rank newcomers. We are perhaps witnessing such new thoughts and happenings again.
I hope that the new experiments will make a change in our existing scheme of things.
Image: A scene from Neelathamara