Expat flavour, straight from the heart

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Expat flavour, straight from the heart

Kalyanism, shot fully in the UAE and with a cast and crew predominantly based here, depicts expatriate life straight from the heart.

By Deepa Gauri

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Published: Thu 19 Mar 2015, 8:57 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 7:25 PM

It is not often that Malayalam cinema showcases movies of substance made in the UAE. Typically, they are either sob stories of workers, often terribly melodramatic, or action-thrillers with little context or meaning.

That only those who live and breathe the reality of expatriation can understand the pulse of the so-called ‘pravasis’ has been aptly demonstrated by Dubai resident Dr. Iqbal Kuttippuram, who captured the ethos of Gulf residents with clarity through Arabikatha and Diamond Necklace.

And now comes Kalyanism, which not only has the enviable reputation of being the first Malayalam film fully shot in the UAE, but also has an impressive array of cast and crew members who are based here.

This could possibly set a new trend whereby Malayalam filmmakers do not necessarily have to bring a whole team of ‘experts’ from Kerala, but instead look at domain sourcing of talent. That is but only one aspect of Kalyanism that makes the film relevant and merits applause.

Beyond the production aspects, here is a film that also presents expatriate life from close quarters without exaggeration and frills, in a straight-from-the-heart manner.

It is easy to understand why. The film’s director Anu Ram has been a UAE resident for nearly a decade before he decided to shift to Kerala to chase his passion for filmmaking. Having already won multiple awards for his English short film titled Demolish, he was also closely associated with several Malayalam films that were shot in the UAE.

When like-minded individuals based in the UAE stepped forward to produce his first feature film, Anu Ram decided that the best bet was to narrate stories he knew, and to set it in the UAE, where his own experience and social network would come in handy.

“Kalyanism is indeed borrowed from a real life story,” says Anu Ram. “Only the basic plot – of a husband being imprisoned after he falls victim to a money-lending group and how his wife tries to cope with the problems – served as the inspiration. It, however, set me thinking. I have done business here and I know the difficulties we could face. But seldom have we discussed the perspective of women, and how they rise up to the occasion.”

Kalyanism is that story – of one woman (played by Ananya, a gifted performer) who stands up to the challenges and eventually triumphs in life and business. But the film, also starring Mukesh and Kailash, does not come garnished with melodrama.

Instead, Anu Ram, who wrote the script, presents it with positivity. “I wouldn’t call it a woman empowerment movie; there are enough of that already. I would say it is about real equality – of how wives must not be relegated to the backdrop and when decisions are taken they must be consulted. It is about making them participants in your life and not seeing business as something of a male bastion.”

Anu Ram says he hand-picked a number of people whom he had worked with on short films for Kalyanism. “It was an opportunity to give them a platform because we have incredibly talented people in the Gulf.”

One such talent is the film’s cinematographer Binu Pallickal, who works as senior videographer with the Dubai Municipality. A resident of Dubai for the past 11 years, his credentials are impressive with more than 1,000 Arabic music videos to his credit, including one shot in Kerala with an Emirati cast.

Having earlier worked with a music channel called Angham TV, Binu’s production firm Trios Media is today a go-to agency for Arab musicians for music videos. He has also wielded the camera for a full-length Urdu feature film shot in Dubai titled, Fragile: A World of Glass.

Kalyanism, in which his wife Geethu is a co-producer, presented him the opportunity to present life here with visuals that have now earned the acclaim of critics.

“My goal was to ensure a high-quality product, working to a tight schedule of just about a month,” he says. He has done the camera, VFX and graphics for the movie, and is happy that Kalyanism has gained word-of-mouth publicity in Kerala, where it enters the third week in several release centres.

With Abhilash Mallya and Prajeesh Chandran as main producers, and Jayasenan and Geethu Binu, as co-producers, all of them UAE residents, Kalyanism’s Dubai-connection also goes to its editor, Praveen MK. He was a senior producer with Ten Sports channel, and is now editing a Hindi film in India – highlighting how talent can flourish beyond geographic boundaries.

The cast-members, who consider UAE their home or were residents here, include: Albert Alex, Satheesh Menon, Shanil Nasser, Adil Ibrahim (who earlier starred in Persiakkaran), Soorya Prakash (a former employee of MashreqBank, who has taken up a new screen name Rishi Prakash through Kalyanism and will soon star in the lead role in a Tamil movie), Fanel D’Silva, Thara Abraham and child artiste Poojitha Prajeesh, among others.

Anu Ram and Binu say that the film’s shoot was a magnificent team effort. “We could not have wrapped up the film in a month without the cooperation we saw on the sets. All of us would do whatever we could,” says Anu Ram. “In fact, I would even drive the unit bus when the driver was not around (yes, he has a UAE heavy licence.)”

With the film gaining good acceptance among reviewers and word-of-mouth driving audience interest, Anu Ram says the film’s strength is its subject. “It has a positive message – and we are happy that Kalyanism has been noticed for what we intended to convey.”

Indeed, Kalyanism could be a catchword for women who rise up to challenges not as rebels without a cause trying to assert their independence, but as equal participants in family or at work. Kalyanism thus stands for humanism. And isn’t that what we want in life?

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