M. Mohanan’s 916, which releases today, is about maintaining the sanctity of familial relationships.
Director M. Mohanan, who made a splendid debut with Katha Parayumbol five years ago, believes art is not just for art’s sake. “A film should always have something to tell its audience, a message that could make society better,” he says, while talking about his third film, 916, which releases today. “916 is all about relationships, both within and outside families and the need to maintain the sanctity of those relationships. If we look around, we can see that families are falling apart rather quickly, much quicker than they have ever done in the past in Kerala. The number of divorce petitions too is rapidly increasing; I read that last year alone there were 42,000 such petitions before courts in Kerala,” he says.
916 focusses mainly on the relationship between a single parent, played by Anoop Menon, and his teenaged daughter (played by Malavika Menon).
“It is through their lives that I try to tackle various issues in present-day Kerala. Anoop plays a doctor, who does not see his profession as a mere tool to make money. Quite often doctors forget that the State spends around Rs. 40 lakh on their education but many of them are not willing to pay that back through their service to society. After gaining a few years of experience in a Government hospital, some doctors rush to join a private hospital, attracted by fancy salaries,” he says.
The hero of 916, though, is different. “He is not after money and does not even have private practice,” says Mohanan. On a parallel track, the director has also tried to address issues of youngsters today and how their lives are impacted by technology. “The character played by Asif Ali shows how much of a positive influence one young man can be on people who he interacts with,” says Mohanan.
916, he adds, is a “simple film” that relies on straight narrative technique.
“It is about the common man. My characters do not wear shorts, they do not swear… ,” he says.
Mohanan also believes the film would enhance Anoop’s reputation as an actor. “He plays a character older than he actually is and he had no hesitation to do it. I had decided to cast him in this role after I saw his performance in Thirakkatha. As soon as I narrated the script to Anoop, he wanted to do the role of Dr. Harikrishnan and this is one of his better roles. Malavika, Mukesh and Meera Vasudevan in supporting roles too have done very well,” says the director.
It was while shooting 916 at Kozhikode last July that the State Film Awards were announced. And Mohanan won the award for the best story for Manikyakkallu, his second film. Katha Parayumbol too had won a State Award, for Best Film with Popular Appeal and Aesthetic Value. While Katha Parayumbol was a runaway hit, Manikyakkallu did not set the box office on fire.
“However, the response to Manikyakkallu after its DVD release was extremely positive. The film was enjoyed by families and it is families that I always target when I make a film.” 916 is produced by K.V. Vijayakumar Palakkunnu.