Shyamaprasad says his ‘Arike,' which releases on Friday, is a light, breezy love story that evaluates and explores sentiments like companionship, friendship and romance.
Shyamaprasad's movies navigate the emotional milieu and psychological boundaries of relationships. His films capture on reel the gossamer-like yet tenacious sentiments that shape our lives for the better or the worse. The filmmaker's oeuvre has given Malayalam cinema some captivating movies that delve into familial and societal expectations and pressures that can mar or make lives. Shyamaprasad's latest offering ‘Arike' is a film that falls in that category. But if his previous movie ‘Elektra' explored the dark side of those affiliations, his ‘Arike', he says, is a light, breezy romantic flick that explores the many aspects of love and friendship.
“It is a classical triangular story of a man and two women told from a different perspective. What is love, what is loyalty? What leads to commitment and what does it entail? What and where is that thin line that divides friendship and love? When does friendship lead to love? What role does commitment and loyalty play in a relationship? These are all different but related threads that are woven into the narrative of the film. Instead of twists and turns at every turn, the movie is rather like an exploration of how a person thinks and behaves when he/she is in love or thinks is in love,” explains Shyamaprasad.
A kind of tribute
Based on a Bengali short story by Sunil Gangapadhyay, ‘Arike' explores the circumstances and emotions that make us friends and lovers. “It is a kind of tribute to my favourite film directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee, and the kind of films they made. Gentle, romantic and laid-back, it is a celebration of the common man and his choices. Remember ‘Rajnigandha', ‘Chhoti Si Baat'? Those movies led to the emergence of an actor like Amol Palekar and focussed on the middle class in Bombay [Mumbai] They have disappeared from mainstream Bollywood movies,”' says Shyamaprasad with a smile.
Dileep (Shantanu), Mamta Mohandas and Samvrutha Sunil play the three main characters in the film. Dileep and Shyamaprasad come together several years after ‘Kallu Kondoru Pennu', the filmmaker's first feature film.
“Acting is all about observing life and an actor's ability to use that to transform his body and his emotions to flesh out characters. If you consider that, I think Dileep is number one, he is one of the finest actors in the industry. It is just that he chooses to act in movies that are made with a commercial angle. But that does not take away the actor in him. Unfortunately, he has not got a role of that stature that challenges the actor in him. He can be hugely entertaining even without a solid script. Not many actors can do that,” says the director.
Mamta essays the sensitive Anuradha while Samvrutha plays the moody and impulsive Kalpana. “Both of them are extremely talented actors and so it was a pleasure to work with them,” he adds.
The story unfolds in contemporary Kozhikode and is told mainly through the eyes of Anuradha. Innocent, Vineeth, Ajmal, and Urmila Unni play important characters in the film while Chitra Iyer enacts a cameo. The filmmaker reunites with his favourite cinematographer Azhagappan. Music director Ousephachan, who scored a national award with his music for ‘Ore Kadal,' wields the baton for ‘Arike'. He has composed five songs that have been sung by Mamta, Srinivas, Swetha and Manjari
With synch sound enhancing the real feel of the reel journey, the actors, says the director, were more natural while acting and emoting. Since, they had to memorise the dialogues, they were able to get into the skin of the characters while doing a scene without the prompter shouting out the lines, points out Shyamaprasad.
Like in all his movies, Shyamaprasad refuses to be judgemental or moralistic about his characters' decisions. “It has an open ending like all my films. I don't like coming with pat answers because life is seldom like that,” he reasons.
If at all there is an inkling of an actor in a person, then it is Shyam ettan who is capable of getting the best out of that actor. I have never worked with a director who read out the script to us and made us understand the mental make-up of each character. Moreover, since it was sync sound, there was no artificiality in our dubbing or acting. He idea was to revive the Amol Palekar image of the common man and I hope I have lived up to his expectations. The story is universal. As I read it, I felt it was my story! Each of us would have faced such situations in life!
Anuradha is a role every actor craves to add to her filmography. She is a woman who has definite ideas about romance, love and friendship. A past relationship that soured has scarred her but that does not stop her from trying to match make between her friends Kalpana and Shantanu. Wary and sensitive Anuradha does not plan to fall in love but somewhere cupid strikes and that is when she is forced to confront her own ideas of love and companionship.
Kalpana is so not me. I thought a director would give me a role like Anuradha. But trust Shyamaprasad to think differently and give me a role that really challenged me. I took time to understand Kalpana and her feelings. She is forever moving from one extreme emotion to the other. But then I realised I know so many Kalpanas in real life. Sync sound was another challenge. We had to memorise the dialogues and even our movements had to be thought out carefully since we had mikes on our body. There were rehearsals and we had to decide how each person would move and speak and so each shoot was quite an experience.