Spirit, a Mohanlal-starrer directed by Ranjith, explores how and why a person falls prey to any kind of addiction.

Ranjith is on a roll. His last two movies (Indian Rupee and Pranchiyettan And The Saint) raked in the moolah and won critical acclaim as well. The director-writer-actor's latest film, Spirit, which reached theatres yesterday, discusses alcoholism. Not a common or popular subject in Mollywood which seems to prefer tackling subjects such as real-estate mafia, smuggling, terrorism and so on to issues such as alcoholism.

That Kerala is tipplers' haven is a well-known fact. However our movies and filmmakers have continued to ignore the topic or turn a blind eye to it. Some movies do make a passing reference to the problem of alcoholism but many of our heroes are shown as drowning their sorrow in drinks or reaching for that glass to celebrate!

This time around, Ranjith, whose past movies had taken booze for granted, nay celebrated it in some scenes, focusses on alcoholism. “The movie does not, in any way, advocate or proscribe alcohol. Spirit discusses the subject and examines what happens when a person, however intelligent, falls prey to an addiction, any addiction for that matter,” explains Ranjith.

After a fairly long break, Mohanlal and Ranjith, who have created box office magic in the past, team up for Spirit. Putting to rest rumour mills that the two had a fallout after Rock n' Roll, their previous movie together, did not really rock the cash registers, Mohanlal acts as Reghunandan, the lead in the film directed and scripted by Ranjith.

Casting the right actors

The film director makes it clear that he opted for Mohanlal as he felt he was the best for this character. He adds that it is the characters that choose an actor and the casting is done on that basis. “Each of my leads, whether it be Mammootty in Pranchi… or Prithviraj in Indian Rupee, were cast because I believed that only that particular actor could do justice to that role,” he clarifies. Kaniha plays the female lead, Meera.

Talking about the film, Ranjith explains: “I believe there are two kinds of people in Kerala. On one hand, you have intelligent, successful people who become slaves to alcohol. They cannot function without it. As a result of it, their families suffer. Many of these alcoholics have marital problems and often, physically and emotionally, abuse their spouse. On the other, there are many others who are not teetotallers but they don't need booze 24X7 to keep them in good spirits," says Ranjith. Reghunandan falls in the first category. A divorcee, Reghunandan's fatal addiction towards alcohol takes a heavy toll on his personal and professional life. However, good sense dawns, albeit late, when he comes across a man who is worse than him because of his drinking problem.

“That is a plumber who is so drunk that he cannot distinguish between what is real and unreal. His character manifests all the worst characteristics of an alcoholic, including abusing his wife. The role has been enacted by Nandu. This man forces Reghunandan to rethink his priorities in life. That is when he decides to take charge of his life,” narrates Ranjith.

While Reghunandan struggles to become the master of his life, his best friends turn out to be Alexy Thadeus and Meera, Reghunandan's former wife, who is now married to Alexy. Shankar Ramakrishnan makes his screen debut as the suave Alexy.

Ranjith points out that contrary to popular perception of divorcees on screen, Reghunandan and his former wife are not enemies. They remain friends even after their marriage breaks up.

Instead of a diatribe on the ills of alcohol, a few of the trailers on YouTube show that Ranjith has used humour with devastating effect to make his points. Thilakan, Suraj Venjarmoodu, Kalpana and Siddarth Bharathan are in the cast.

An obviously pleased Ranjith says that Priyadarsan complimented him after seeing the film and told him that although the theme was not common, it would connect with a lot of viewers in Kerala.

And while viewers get into the spirit of the film, Ranjith will go back to his writing table to script Malabar, a Mammootty-starrer that will be directed by G.S. Vijayan.

Welcoming the new spring in Malayalam cinema that has seen a handful of young directors go where no Malayali filmmaker has been before, Ranjith says that a churning has to take place in Malayalam cinema that will weed out the fly-by-night operators, leaving only those genuinely interested in cinema in the field.