Sathyan Anthikkad’s Puthiya Theerangal narrates a seaside story that maps the lives of people in a fishing village.

Sathyan Anthikkad has always been in the mainstream of Malayalam cinema and yet he has never been part of the herd. Trends come and go, but he has always stuck to his style of filmmaking and narrative; a style that makes him one of the most dependable and popular directors of Mollywood. While many of his contemporaries struggle, and often fail, to find their footing in their attempt to cater to a new generation of viewers and address a different set of concerns, Sathyan continues to move from strength to strength without resorting to any kind of gimmicks.

Puthiya Theerangal, which opened in theatres yesterday, is Sathyan’s offering for the marquee this year. For the last 11 years, the film director had voluntarily restricted himself to a movie a year. His explanation is that he wants to be more of a viewer than a filmmaker to recharge himself as a director. Looks like his mantra for rejuvenation is working. Last year his flick Snehaveedu, scripted and directed by him, gave Mohanlal a much-needed hit.

After eight years, Sathyan is working on a movie that has not been scripted by him. “Lohitadas passed away. Some of my favourite scenarists such as Sreenivasan, Raghunath Paleri and Ranjan Pramod have not been very active on the writing front. So I was forced to begin writing my own scripts. However, Puthiya Theernagal has been scripted by Benny P. Nayarambalam. We had been planning a project for some time and when I heard the one-line story of this film I felt we had a script for my movie. Although Nattika beach is only a few km from Anthikkad, I have never been tempted to narrate a seaside story. Puthiya TheerangalThe characters and storyline had a refreshing feel to it and that is why I have also steered clear of my favourite team of actors without whom I have seldom made a film,” explains Sathyan. Puthiya Theerangal narrates the story of Thamara, a plucky girl who lives on her own on the beach after her father fails to return from a fishing expedition. An elderly man (K.P.) is washed ashore on the beach and soon the two develop an unusual friendship. The lead roles are enacted by Namitha Pramod, whom we saw in a tiny role as Rahman’s ailing daughter in Traffic, and Nedumudi Venu. Nivin Pauly enacts the character of Mohanan, a youngster whose friendship with Thamara blossoms into a romance. “The sea takes away her father but it is the sea that gives her a surrogate family too. I was moved by the spirited Thamara and was in search of a girl to breathe life into her,” says Sathyan.

After going through several profiles and photographs, it was Anto Joseph who told Sathyan about Namitha. “I felt she had that spontaneity and naïveté that I was looking for,” he adds.

Instead of the memorable rustic characters that we have seen in Sathyan’s frames, this film has a new set of characters that we find in a seaside village. But, as in every Sathyan Anthikkad film, each character, no matter how small a role in the film, is a well-etched one with a story of his/her own. “For instance, there is this superb actor called Molly. She impressed in a bit role in Bridge in Kerala Café. In my film, she plays a spinster who lives in the village. Her fiancé went missing at sea but she waits in the hope that some day he might return. So when K.P. is washed ashore, rumours are rife that it could be her man,” narrates Sathayan with the skill of the masterly raconteur that he is.

The entire film but for a song sequence was shot on Arthungal beach. “The song sequence featuring Nivin and Namitha was shot in Hampi. The lyrics of ‘Rajagopuram’ seemed apt for that location. I am sure that it will be one of the memorable songs in this film.”

Innocent, Siddique, Sidharth Siva, Dharmajan, Chembil Asokan and Malavika enact some of the key roles in the movie. Shifting the conversation to the young Turks in the industry like Aashique Abu, Ranjith Shankar, Samir Tahir, Arun Kumar Aravind and Salim Ahamed, Sathyan says they are creating waves in the industry because they are passionate about the medium and are telling their kind of stories. “I admire their work, their movies and their conviction, but I walk my path,” says Sathyan.

He says that while several new-generation films explore the urban spaces and the underbelly of the big cities, Kerala is still a state of villages and ordinary people with dreams of their own. “And that is where I place my stories –tales of hope and terms of endearment.”

Ilayaraja composes the music for this film as well, the tenth film they are working on. Sathyan Anthikad and the master composer have been on song since they first worked together for Kochu Kochu Santoshangal. “For almost 30 of my films, it was the late Johnson who composed the music. When I decided to work with Ilayaraja, I informed Johnson and he told me that since it was someone who so much greater than him, he had no complaints whatsoever,” reminisces Sathyan. He adds: “During the composing of songs for Manassinakkare, I invited him to Kerala. I was over the moon when he agreed and it was in a houseboat on the Vembanad Lake that the song ‘Mele onnu paadi nine’ was born. Over the years, our relationship has matured into a warm friendship. Moreover, I make it a point never to misuse any friendship of mine. Perhaps that is my bond with many in the film industry has remained alive all these years.” The songs of Puthiya Theerangal have also been composed in Kerala and Sathyan is confident that the songs will be chart toppers.

Chip off the old block

Looks like Sathyan’s twins Akhil and Anoop plan to follow in their father’s footsteps. While Anoop is polishing his skills in National Institute of Design and winning awards for his work, Akhil has begun assisting his father. He has done the graphics of the titles of Puthiya Theerangal. Eldest son, Arun, however has stayed away from movies so far. “He is an excellent viwer,” says Sathyan.