Shyamaprasad's ‘Elektra,' releasing today, examines what happens when love and loyalty are set on a collision path.
Expectations are always sky high when a Shyamaprasad film reaches theatres. It is no different this time too. His latest film ‘Elektra,' which was screened to a packed house in Goa in connection with the International Film Festival of India, releases on Friday.
But the director admits he is anxiously waiting to see how viewers receive the film in Kerala as it is the “darkest of all the films I have made so far. It is the darkest tone of black.”
Each of his films has explored the ups and downs of relationships of several kinds. In ‘Elektra,' the filmmaker turns the focus on a family, on how love and loyalties can warp, stain and rip apart familial ties.
‘“Electra' is a play that has stayed with me since my student days in the Thrissur School of Drama. “My film is a modern retelling of the Greek classic in a Malayali setting. But it closely follows the philosophy of the ancient text and the Grecian theory of drama that intense fear and pity lead to a purification of the emotions of the audience, making it a cathartic experience,” explains the director.
‘Elektra' explores what happens when loyalties collide and descend into darkness, followed by purgatory, and finally there is light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, the English title of the film is ‘Light After Dark.'
“The film goes into the dark depths of the soul. How much evil is the human mind capable of and how can we redeem ourselves? How do we recognise and deal with the guilt? I am interested in why human beings do certain things or choose not to do certain things. To what extent do we go to achieve meaning and happiness in life. Is the process rewarding? Is there a price to be paid? It is a philosophical and psychological quest,” elaborates Shyamaprasad.
He adds: “We make these choices every day in our lives. It is a critical and fundamental question that is being examined in an emotional family story. It is not overly philosophical until the very end when Diana, the lead character, evolves into this wiser and better person.”
Diana is played by none other than Nayantara who had initially called the shots of the film after she expressed her wish to work with Shyamaprasad. Her enthusiasm persuaded leading actors Prakash Raj (Alexander) and Manisha Koirala to play her parents in the film.
“My films are about very strong individuals who are caught in a vicious cycle of relationships. To portray those characters, I want actors who are capable of understanding that emotional intensity. I want actors who have proved themselves and are capable of diving into the depths of the characters. Not someone who is just beautiful. ‘Elektra' is minimalistic in its setting and cast. There are only five main characters and it is a frugal, no-frills mood that pervades the film. There is also a thread of a detective story as Alexander is found killed on the very day he returns to his house after a long stint in Sri Lanka,” says the director.
To place the film in a context and give it a time frame, Shyamaprasad has shown Alexander returning to India on the day LTTE supremo Prabhakaran is killed. The external war (in Sri Lanka) and internal war in Alexander's household due to the breakdown of marital bonds accentuate the drama.
One film that inspired Shyamaprasad and served as a point of reference was K.G. George's masterpiece ‘Erakal,' which tells the story of a wealthy, aristocratic, land-owning Christian family's descent into evil and the twin threads of revenge and remorse that run through the film. “The film is very ascetic, I like that frugality and I have attempted to do the same in ‘Elektra.' It goes straight to the guts.”
Minimalism on screen
Capturing that minimalism on film is cinematographer Sanu George whose studied framing of each scene was noticed by film buffs in Goa.
Says Shyamaprasad: “He has no preconceived ideas. The visuals are so married to the mood of the film; the film's content, the visuals and the music (composed by Alphons) are all on the same pitch, like a well composed and sung song. The entire team contributed to the film. Costume designer Sakhi ensured that materials, colours and costumes were in synch with the film. ”
Skanda, Biju Menon, Srikumar and Sruthi Menoon play important roles in the film.
‘Elektra' is the only Malayalam movie included in Dubai Film festival. It will also travel to Greece for a film festival.
Post-‘Elektra,' Shayamaprasad hopes to work with Mammotty on a story Joshua Newtonn is writing for the director.