For Malayalam cinema, the script will remain king, says director Lal Jose

The director spoke to City Times ahead of the promotions for his latest movie - a romantic thriller 'Solomonte Theneechakal'

by Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Fri 26 Aug 2022, 9:22 AM

The movie script will always remain 'king' in Malayalam cinema, said veteran director Lal Jose.

"A strong script is one of the main reasons why the movies from Kerala enjoy a global audience compared to our counterparts in other parts of the country," said Jose while promoting his latest movie.

"When we make a movie, we select the cast based on the script. The characters are chosen based on their features, characteristics, etc. In that way, the script is greater than every other movie aspect," he added.

The director's much-awaited 'Solomonte Theneechakal' released across the GCC on August 25. Stars Holiday Films handle the GCC distribution. City Times caught up with the director and its young stars for a chat ahead of its UAE release.

Jose is well-known for directing smash hits like 'Meesa Madhavan,' 'Classmates,' 'Achanurangatha Veedu,' 'Rasikan,' 'Mulla,' and 'Kerala Cafe.'

A romantic thriller that has gained critical and commercial acclaim since its release in Kerala last week, the film explores the friendship of two young women police constables. From a breezy tale of friendship, the film transforms into a thriller, with actor Joju George starring as the investigating officer.

Moreover, the film stars newcomers Darshana Sudarshan, Shambhu, and Addis Antony Akkara - winners from the 2018 reality show 'Nayika Nayakan.' The Indian Malayalam-language reality TV talent show was broadcast on Mazhavil Manorama from May 28 to October 17.

The movie also features Vincy Aloshious, Johnny Antony, Manikantan Achari, Binu Pappu, Shaju Sreedhar, Sivaparvathy, Sunil Sugatha, and Shivaji Guruvayoor, among others.

A movie made for newcomers

Written by PG Prageesh, the film’s cinematography is by Ajmal Sabu, and Ranjan Abraham is the editor. It also marks the return of composer Vidyasagar with lyrics by Vayalar Sharath and Vinayak Sasikumar.

"To be honest, the movie was made for winners of the reality show 'Nayika Nayakan'," said Jose. "Two winners were chosen to star in leading roles. However, I selected two more of the show's contestants to act in the movie," he added. Though the initial script for the new actors had a budget of INR20 crore, Jose had to write another script for this purpose.

"I had given them my word, and the shooting schedule was wrought with several challenges. However, I am glad we pulled through, and the movie has received rave reviews in Kerala," said Jose.

"Moreover, I've been working with them for four years, and I know their strengths, features and characters. It was easy working with them," he stated.

The premise of the movie - the friendship of two young women police constables, Suja and Glyna, is tested when Suja's lover Sharath gets involved in a crime.

What drew him to this script?

Though Jose's 2006 hit 'Classmates' qualifies as a romantic thriller, Jose said he was drawn to this script because it had a theme he had never worked upon.

"The movie starts with a slow pace with many comedic elements and picks up speed. It's like a flight going through a runway," added Jose. He also praised Joju George's performance in the movie. "George started his career doing small roles in some of my movies, and today he is a state-award winner and leading hero. It's great to see his progression," stated Jose.

Interestingly, the entire movie was shot backwards, according to the director. "Our initial plan was to shoot the film in sequence - from start to finish. Unfortunately, the schedule of George, who appears in the movie's second half, changed. We had to shoot the more challenging, emotional scenes in the beginning. However, the young actors said they benefitted from this change, and it became easier for them to shoot the funnier, more comedic scenes after," he said.

Another challenge 'Solomonte Theneechakal' faced was when the director's father passed away in December 2021. "This also caused a setback and delayed production. The entire shoot took seven to eight months," he said.

OTT or theatre?

Theatre would always remain a fast favourite among movie lovers in Kerala, said Jose. "When television came around, everyone called it the death of movie theatres. However, they are still thriving. The same is the case for OTT platforms. As far as audiences in Kerala are concerned, an average regular family would always enjoy going to the movies," he said.

Moreover, from an average of 65-75 movies released yearly in Malayalam cinema, approximately 200 movies are coming out now. "While it gives everyone an opportunity, the sheer volume of movies releasing now might not be good. There are no specialities now. Great movies would have to stand out to get the viewer's attention. Moreover, there are 3-4 movies that come out on OTT platforms at the same time," he added.

"Competition has become stiff. Unless movies have immense social media hype, they can't do well," he added. Despite making 27 movies in 24 years, Jose still aspires to touch on a subject he is yet to. "I am yet to do a complete horror or a complete action film. I am working towards such themes," he said.

A dream come true for fresh faces

For newcomer Darshana S Nair, a nurse from Pala, Kottayam, an opportunity to star as a lead actor in a Lal Jose movie is a dream come true. "As this is my first movie, I was under a lot of stress. However, Lal sir helped us, and my co-stars have become close friends."

Darshana commented on her role in the movie, "My character Suja plays a traffic police cop and is very beauty conscious. I began paying attention to traffic policewomen after working on this movie. The shooting in reversal was a bit of a challenge. However, it was also a great learning experience. I feel like I've made lifelong friends."

Meanwhile, Vincy Aloshious from 'Bheemante Vazhi' and 'Vikrithi' fame said, "Since Suja is the central character, I am playing her best friend. We play regular girls who work in Kerala Police as lady constables.

She added, "Since I've known Lal sir for four years, the fear factor was not present. Moreover, this is the first movie I can call entirely my own."

One of the male actors, Shambu Menon, said his character required limited, quirky preparations, such as growing long hair and having the knowledge of driving luxury vehicles like an Audi or Bentley.

"Sarath's character is not as mature as me as a person. He's a lot more impulsive. I had to think differently to get into his shoes. Moreover, I was fortunate to drive some luxury vehicles in the movie. I come from a middle-class family and have not driven any luxury vehicles. It was exciting to do that for this movie."

Addis Antony Akkara, who plays the role of CI Binu Alex, said, "I've always been fascinated with characters with grey shades, and that is something Lal Jose sir executes to perfection. He has maintained that everyone has grey shades in their personalities." Akkara said he was able to play a police officer with grey shades on his terms. He said he also drew immense inspiration from a cop he met in real life. "I designed the character and Jose Sir perfected it," he added.

'Solomonte Theneechakal' is out now in all leading movie theatres.

Dhanusha Gokulan
Dhanusha Gokulan

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