Director Hariharan and litterateur M.T. Vasudevan Nair team up again for Ezhamathe Varavu, a film about man’s relationship with the forest, juxtaposed with the relationship among three former college-mates.
It’s almost like being in the misty hills of Wayanad, what with the nip in the air and the dense greenery all around. The stately planter’s bungalow, which was built by the British, is over 150 years old.
It looks even more splendid through the lens of cinematographer S. Kumar as director Hariharan delightedly remarks after viewing it on the monitor in front of him. Hariharan has a busy day ahead, here at Kinalur, near Balussery in Kozhikode district. The shooting of Ezhamathe Varavu begins early in the morning and goes on until late in the night.
“Today I will be filming scenes involving Indrajith, Bhavana, Vineeth and Mamukoya. This bungalow is a house owned by a wealthy Wayanad-based planter, Gopinath (Indrajith). He and his wife, Bhanu (Bhavana), sometimes come here to get away from the crowd. At present they are hosting Prasad (Vineeth), their college-mate who is now an archaeologist,” says Hariharan, even as his crew, led by associate director Unni Narayanan, ensure everything is ready for the next scene.
The scene to be shot features Vineeth, dressed in white dhoti, grey shirt and black sleeveless sweater, and Bhavana, in a green-and-white sleeveless salwar, her straight hair left untied. She is seated in a rocking chair. The camera follows as Vineeth comes over for a chat. Bhavana begins to rock the chair and has a look of concern on her face. “Bhavana, don’t look at the camera,” Hariharan says, and the actor nods in assent.
After a couple of takes, the director is happy with the take and he moves on to re-take the shot from Vineeth’s point of view. “Prasad is quite surprised to see the changes in Bhanu; she has changed a lot from the innocent village belle she was in college,” says Hariharan.
He adds: “This film is mainly about the three protagonists – Gopinath, Bhanu and Prasad. But it’s also about man’s relationship with the forest. The forest is, in fact, almost a character and is the backdrop of virtually the entire film. I have to go abroad to shoot some of the scenes in the forest as there is a ban on shooting on film certain wild animals, including the tiger. Tigers are an integral part of the script,” he says.
The script has been written by M.T. Vasudevan Nair. Hariharan is “glad” that he is teaming up with his favourite scriptwriter once again.
This dream team had made classics such as Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha, Parinayam, Panchagni, Amruthamgamaya and Nakhakshathangal.
Vineeth, who has acted in most of their films, adds: “I am fortunate to have worked with the duo many times. The role of Prasad is one of the best of my career thus far. It is such a brilliant script,” he says.
Indrajith nods in agreement. “I loved the script the moment I read it. I have been working hard on my character. Gopinath, I feel, will be one of my landmark characters,” he says.
Bhavana, meanwhile, is convinced Ezhamathe Varavu will open a new innings for her in Malayalam cinema. “To do an M.T.-Hariharan film is a dream for any actor. I have grown up watching many of their films and I am happy Hariharan thought of me for the role of Bhanu,” she says.
Hariharan says he chose her because he felt this was a kind of role she hadn’t done before. “Although I have seen Bhavana's films, mostly comedies, I was convinced that she could pull off a powerful character like Bhanu. And she has more than justified my faith in her,” he says.
Enter Mamukoya, carrying a big suitcase on his head. He is essaying the role of Gopinath’s manservant.
As Gopinath, Indrajith cuts an imposing figure. He is dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, covered with a sleeveless jacket. He sports a thick handlebar moustache and carries a gun in his gloved hands. He looks exactly like one of those planters of yore that you would come across in the hill ranges of Kerala. He joins Vineeth and Mamukoya for the next scene.
Suresh Krishna, Mohana and Kanchana are also part of the cast. Ezhamathe Varavu is produced by Hariharan himself, under the banner of Gayathri Cinema Enterprises. He has also donned the hat of music director – for the first time in his four-decade-old career – and lyricist.
Stills are by Jayaprakash Athaloor. Ezhamathe Varavu will come to cinemas by Vishu.