Malayalam film Thanneer Mathan Dinangal is a sweet, coming of age movie

Malayalam film Thanneer Mathan Dinangal is a sweet, coming of age movie

Vineeth Srinivasan talks about his new movie that's releasing in the UAE on August 8.

By Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Thu 8 Aug 2019, 6:10 PM

Last updated: Sat 10 Aug 2019, 4:35 PM

With filmmakers making a beeline for school campuses in Kerala, it would seem coming-of-age higher secondary romantic comedies are passé in Malayalam cinema. However, producer and actors of Kerala's latest high school rom-com, Thanneer Mathan Dinangal defended the movie saying its 'simplicity' sets itself apart from other movies of the same genre.

Thanneer Mathan Dinangal, loosely translated?as Watermelon Days, is being called a romantic comedy co-written and directed by newbie Girish AD. It was jointly produced by Plan J Studios and Shebin Backer Productions.
With the exception of Vineeth Sreenivasan and the 16-year-old Mathew Thomas, from Kumbalangi Nights fame, and Anaswara Rajan who debuted with Udaharanam Sujatha, most actors in the movie are newcomers. The movie opened to rave reviews in India on July 26, and is awaiting a highly anticipated release in UAE on August 8.
City Times caught up with actor, director, singer Vineeth Sreenivasan, the young actors of Thanneer Mathan Dinangal, and Dubai-based producer Shebin Backer ahead of the movie's UAE release today. Backer has delivered hits such as Charlie and Take Off.

For most of the cast and crew, the movie's phenomenal success in Kerala comes as a pleasant surprise. Providing a small gist of the movie, Backer said it is Jaison's (Mathew) story. For a teenager with many insecurities, he has three things that trouble his young mind and that's enough to push him into despair.

One of these things has to do with a girl, the second is an ongoing tiff with a senior, and the third and worst one - he has an arch nemesis in the form of a Malayalam teacher, who is popular with all the students, but picks on Jaison at every available opportunity.

The Sreenivasan charm
While producer Shebin Backer is calling Vineeth's performance in Thanneer Mathan Dinangal one of the best in his career, the movie's shooting experience was extremely enjoyable for the junior Sreenivasan. "It was like a big family on-set," Vineeth told City Times over a phone call from Kerala.

"Though I've donned the role of a teacher before, this is the first time I've played a character like this," he said. "The character (Ravi Padmanabhan) is someone unusual. Also, most of the actors are newcomers and many young kids are acting for the first time. Shooting it was an amazing experience. The kids were really dedicated. Most of them had the scripts by-heart," he laughed.

Speaking about the movie itself, he said, "It's a very simple film highlighting the angst kids in Grades 11 and 12 go through. We've shot the movie through Jaison's perspective. It showcases various life incidents, the issues he confronts, a lot of regular issues kids in high secondary school face, their insecurities..." He added, "The best bit about the narrative is that the story is very relatable to anyone who has experienced high school. It's a story about ordinary children, with ordinary upbringing, unspoiled by contemporary issues."

Sreenivasan explained, "While dealing with complex issues such as insecurity, the director has gone back to a technique that was common during the 80s. in some of dad's (Sreenivasan) old movies, such as Vadakkunokki Yanthram, where humour was used to depict these basic human emotions. And the audience has responded very well." He called this narrative technique very entertaining and relatable at the same time.

School-based friendships
Chipping in, Backer said, "It is a school-based movie about friendships. In many movies, there are teenagers who are doing drugs and other crazy things. This one is a simple story, with a simple treatment that makes it relatable. Our aim was to make it a light-hearted entertainer. The kids have done well, the music is great." Thanneer is the Dubai-based producer's sixth movie.

He said, "We auditioned in schools to select the teenagers in the movie and organised a 15 to 20- day workshop for them. That's where the students were given some accent training on the Thrisshur - Chalakudy slang."
Backer also refuses to plug it with other coming-of-age movies. "Everything from casting to treatment and direction of the movie is very different from teenage comedies," he added.
Did they pick this theme because it's trending? "Now, that's purely coincidental. We didn't plan it in that manner. 2018- 19 has been a year for very realistic, relatable movies. We've had hits such as Thamaasha, Kumbalangi Nights. These stories are average stories of average people, and are doing very well. At the same time, mass movies like MadhuraRaja are also doing very well."
According to Vineeth, 2019 has been a great year for Malayalam cinema so far. "The digital penetration has opened the platform for wide-viewing. People speaking other languages and working in other cinemas are now watching and talking about Malayalam cinema."
He said there's a huge demand for Malayalam cinema from youth in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh as well. "For example, when I was watching Uyare in a theater in Chennai, the audiences were mostly non-Malayalees," he added.
According to Vineeth, a dramatic increase in the quality of scripts, improved investments, and the sticking to rooted-story telling, use of simple plotlines and relatable characters have greatly improved Malayalam cinema in recent times.
Meet the young stars of Thanneer Mathan Dinangal.
For 16-year-olds Mathew Thomas and Anaswara Rajan, Thanneer may just be the movie that propel them to the limelight. Both said they entered the industry without much ambition to "make it big". Thomas was picked to play Jaison after his phenomenal performance in Kumbalangi Nights.

The young lad grew up in Bahrain and moved to Ernakulam for high school. A student of Gregorian Public School, where he is doing commerce with Mathematics, he aced his auditions for Kumbalangi. "I didn't have too much interest in acting. It was very coincidental. Of course, I want to focus on my studies, but I've not fully figured out how to pursue the acting career. But I've grown to really enjoy it."

Thomas said, "After reading the full script, I really liked it. Acting with Vineeth Sreenivasan was like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The director, the rest of the cast and crew, working with everyone was great. About the shooting experience, all the actors were from my age group and the sets were really chill. The energy was great."
Speaking about his character, Thomas said, "Teenagers with a lot of angst is very relatable. He has three big tragedies in his life, and he is riddled with insecurities. A lot of which is problems he has created in his own head.

Speaking to City Times from her hometown in Kannur, Anaswara said, "Shooting for the movie was like working with a big family. Everyone was together, we enjoyed it a lot. It was like a vacation." Anaswara entered the industry with Udaharanam Sujatha. She shot for Thanneer exactly a day after her Grade 10 examinations. "I really enjoyed the script. March 29 was the last day of the exam and we started shoot the very next day.

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