'I have grown up watching Malayalam cinema'
Manjadikuru, the internationally acclaimed film directed by Anjali Menon, makes it to the theatres this weekend. The film has Prithviraj in the lead and Jagathy Sreekumar, Rahman, and Urvashi among others.
The audience is familiar with Anjali's work. She had contributed Happy Journey, a short film, in the popular Kerala Cafe series. She has also scripted the much awaited Usthad Hotel directed by Anwar Rasheed.
Anjali Menon talks about her experience of directing her first film, getting the cast and what the audience can expect from Manjadikuru.
What can the audience expect from your film Manjadikuru?
A viewer can expect a trip down memory lane to a simpler yet richer life from the past. I hope it's an experience where they will become the hero of the film.
You have got a top-notch star cast. How did you manage this casting coup and what was it like working with such big stars?
I personally met each of them with a copy of our script and requested them to be part of it and they agreed. It was as simple as that.
I think most of them were happy to be part of a different story-oriented project.
It was a rewarding and humbling experience to work with such senior actors. I have learnt much from them and they have imbued soul into the characters in our script.It's amazing how they willingly allow even a first time director like me to mould their performance to suit the character.
Image: A scene from Manjadikuru. Inset: Director Anjali Menon
'Its a humbling experience to work with such senior actors'
Manjadikuru is an internationally acclaimed film. Do you feel that the 'festival/award' tag is detrimental to the commercial prospects of a film?
I don't think so because we are not pitching the film to the audience on the strength of the awards.
In fact, we haven't even mentioned it anywhere to the media!
Instead, we are reaching out with other factors like the characters and the nostalgia, which from the Facebook feedback I think people are connecting to.
You have been brought up in the Middle East and studied filmmaking in London, and could have worked in the international film industry. Why choose the tiny Malayalam film industry instead?
It's just one of those things beyond logic.
I have grown up watching Malayalam cinema and it has been a part of my basic sense of film. Instinctively it felt right that I make my first film here.
Image: A scene from Manjadikuru
'I wrote Usthad Hotel when I was pregnant'
Coming to Usthad Hotel, how does it feel that your script is being directed by a director (Anwar Rasheed) who may be on a different wavelength?
Actually I found that we were on a similar wavelength with this film. Anwar and I connect as people and the film is about people who connect across generations.
It's been a wonderful experience to work on this project because the commitment levels were high and yet it was a lot of fun.
I was pregnant while I wrote the script. In fact, I had my baby before finishing the climax of the film. Anwar's cooperation and understanding is what enabled me to work through all of this.
Also, it was wonderful to see how intensely he was involved with the script and its interpretation. His audience connect is great and I think that has taught me quite a bit.
What is in the pipeline after Manjadikuru and Usthad Hotel?
I am making my next feature at the end of the year. It is an an urban romantic comedy, something full of fun and exuberance this time!
Also looks like I'm going to be writing for another filmmaker as well.
Image: A scene from Manjadikuru