Director Arun Kumar Aravind on his new-age genre-bender ‘Ee Adutha Kaalathu,' which releases on Friday.

“Ee adutha kaalathu (in the recent past)...there has definitely been a change in Malayalam cinema,” quips filmmaker Arun Kumar Aravind, when FridayReview pops the very same question he asked the vox populi for an innovative teaser trailer of his latest film ‘Ee Adutha Kaalathu' (EAK). Arun is more or less spot on with this off-the-cuff assessment of Malayalam cinema.

Thanks to the efforts of young filmmakers and technicians and a few industry veterans too, over the past couple of years, clichés that ruled the roost in Mollywood have given way to a new cinematic language that is characterised by fresh and exciting themes, faces, and narratives, and new-age filmmaking and marketing techniques, all of which have left the audience wanting more.

Young Turks

Arun was one of the first of Mollywood's young Turks to jump onto this new bandwagon with his 2010 sleeper hit ‘Cocktail.' The film caused quite a stir in Mollywood, not only for its bold and riveting storyline but also for its crisp and slick style of filmmaking.

“The time for formulaic films is past. Malayali cine-goers simply don't want any more by way of repetition. Nowadays, they want or rather demand something different from their cinema. This is the reason why low-key films, but films with a difference, such as ‘Cocktail,' ‘Beautiful,' ‘Salt n' Pepper,' ‘Chappa Kurishu,' and ‘Traffic,' to name a few, have struck a chord with the audience and successfully balanced commercial and critical success. This is why every day we see more and more young filmmakers and technicians making their entry into and finding their footing in Malayalam cinema. This is why, for example, the efforts of a new crop of youngsters like Srinath Rajendran and Co. of ‘Second Show' has come to be appreciated,” says the 34-year-old from Thiruvananthapuram, who had a successful 11-year run as a film editor [he has been director Priyadarshan's principal editor from ‘Vettam' (2004) onwards] before he turned to filmmaking. with ‘Cocktail.'

Arun's EAK too, which reaches screens today, neatly fits into new-age Mollywood, what with its interesting storyline, scripted by journalist and actor Murali Gopy, his first after ‘Rasikan' (2004). Genre-wise EAK is “a mixed-bag of sorts” – a thriller, a mystery, a comedy, a horror, a family entertainer, a drama, and a romance, all rolled into one, which tells the tale of a handful of individuals from a cross-section of society, all of whom are interconnected by a quirk of fate.

Intertwined lives

“Essentially, it's the story of two people who meet at a certain juncture in their lives – the others unwittingly become part of the journey. There are no heroes and no villains in the film.If you think about it, our fates are closely linked with those of people we don't know. And yet, the irony of it all is that we call ourselves ‘strangers!'” says the director, rather cryptically, which only adds to the intrigue.

“The lead characters in the film (see box), for example, are as different as can be. And yet, when fate brings them together, knowingly or unknowingly, it is together that they play the game of their lives,” adds Arun, who says that his skills at editing definitely came in handy to piece together the “different kind of script.”

“It was a very challenging task. Murali has done a great job of crafting the script so that it seems as complex as a puzzle – kind of like a Rubik's cube, with innumerable twists and turns. But actually, it's a pretty straight narrative, the kind that makes a whole lot of sense when everything falls into place,” says Arun.

But that doesn't mean it wasn't a conundrum for Arun and his technicians, especially cinematographer, Shehnad Jalal… “Each part of the script was a conundrum – how do we tell this particular aspect, where should we place it, what pace does it need, how do we take it…endless conundrums that had us running around in circles! That's why the film took almost a year in the making. If you believe that cinema is bigger than any person or individual, then all the hardship and sacrifices are simply worth it,” says Arun.

When strangers meet

In ‘Ee Adutha Kaalathu,' Vishnu (Indrajith), a rag-picker, an errand runner, and a contract pitch hitter for amateur cricket clubs, lives a poverty-ridden yet contented life with his wife, Remani (Mydhili), a daily wage labourer, their two daughters, and his ailing mother. Meanwhile, Ajay Kurien (Murali) is the suave CEO of an up-market hospital and his wife, Madhuri (newcomer Tanushri Ghosh), is a Bollywood starlet-turned-homemaker. They are parents to an inquisitive 11-year-old named Ayur. Then there is Rustam (Nishan), a rakish North Indian salesman. Rounding up the leads are Tom Cherian (Anoop Menon), the egotistical Commissioner of Police, and his girlfriend, Roopa (Lena), a go-getter journalist.