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'I wanted my superhero to laugh at himself'

January 02, 2022 14:45 IST
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'I want the audience to smile when they see my film.'

IMAGE: Tovino Thomas in Minnal Murali.

Basil Joseph, the 31-year-old director of the Malayalam blockbuster Minnal Murali, is a happy man. His film has become a rage on Netflix.

"We made the film against all odds," Basil tells Subhash K Jha.

"The very idea of a superhero film in Malayalam seemed illogical. I remained with the idea for a long time and finally took the plunge. I knew we didn't have the budget of the American superhero films. To even try to scale those levels of spectacle was ridiculous.

"We wanted to tell a superhero story that viewers of every age group could relate to. Minnal Murali is relatable to every age group, from grandparents to kids. That's how we wanted it to be. I am glad it's turned out that way."

IMAGE: Tovino Thomas on the Minnal Murali poster.

More than a superhero film, Minnal Murali is a film driven by characters and emotions.

Basil agrees: "Yes, that's how we planned it. There are two ordinary human beings, who acquire superhero powers in the film. My film is about how those powers change their lives. We wanted the story to remain light and enjoyable, but with dark undertones. Tovino Thomas was always my first and only choice to play the superhero.

"I had worked with Tovino in my second film Godha in 2015, so we had a certain understanding and rapport. You could say the idea for Minnal Murali developed with Tovino as an integral part of it. I had my heart set on Tovino as the superhero because he has a certain athletic personality but he can also be very funny. I wanted my superhero to have a sense of humour, the ability to laugh at himself."


IMAGE: Tovino Thomas and Guru Somasundaram in Minnal Murali.

Minnal Murali has two superheroes, and Basil explains: "We chose the very talented Guru Somasundaram for the other superhero. He is not known to play leading men but is an excellent actor. I had seen him in a film called Joker in 2016, where he was unforgettable.

"I had decided to work with him at the first given opportunity. Somasundaram brings a disarming complexity to his character. He invokes very conflicting emotions in the audience. He makes you angry, but by the end of the film, you feel deeply saddened by his plight. His character makes Tovino the superhero at the end."

Basil and Tovino are now planning the second superhero film.

"We have plans to make another superhero film. But at the moment, I have no idea where or how the story will go. Minnal Murali 2 will definitely not be my next film. I have other ideas for my next film."

IMAGE: Tovino Thomas with Basil Joseph. Photograph: Kind courtesy Tovino Thomas/Instagram

Basil reveals how difficult it was to shoot Minnal Murali.

"We started shooting before the COVID, then did four schedules during the pandemic. The climax of the film was shot at the height of the pandemic. It involved hundreds of junior artistes. I have no idea how we pulled it off. I remember it was 20 days of nightmare. Thankfully, the end-result is worth it.

"Minnal Murali is designed for the big screen. So yes, I did regret not having it in cinemas. But looking at the brighter side, my films will reach into millions of homes across the world on Netflix."

The best films in India are being made in Kerala, and he agrees: "I'm very proud to be part of the Malayalam film industry. Here, film-makers are willing to try new ideas and audiences are most receptive to any kind of story as long as it is relevant and resonant."

The director intends to keep the tone light. "It could be a serious film, but the darkness would dissolve into happiness. I want the audience to smile when they see my film."

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