Director B. Unnikrishnan on his political satire ‘Pramani' starring Mammootty, which releases Friday

With his film ‘Pramani,' B. Unnikrishnan hopes to revive the genre of ‘political films' that used to rule the marquee in Kerala during the late seventies and early eighties. “The I.V. Sasi-T. Damodaran combine has given us some of the finest films in that category. Films such as ‘Ee Nadu' and ‘Angadi' tackled contemporary political and social issues that were making headlines then and were commercial successes too. Those films have become milestones in Malayalam cinema. My attempt has been to make a film in that category; a story that treats political subjects within the format of a mainstream entertainer,” says Unnikrishnan.

Tale of two villages

Scripted by Unnikrishnan, ‘Pramani,' a Mammootty-starrer, narrates the tale of a corrupt panchayat president called Viswanathan Pannicker (nicknamed ‘America') who has a penchant for playing saviour whenever he smells trouble but ends up becoming the biggest problem for the warring parties. “That was the one-line story I told Mammootty. As soon as he heard that ‘America' was a character in the film, his interest was piqued and he replied in the affirmative,” says Unnikrishnan who is working with Mammootty for the first time.

Like the previous films in this category, ‘Pramani' is a multi-starrer that also has Tamil actor Prabhu playing an important cameo role. Yesteryear actor Lakshmi, Janardhanan, Jagathy Srikumar, Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, Siddique, Salim Kumar, Suraj Venjarmoodu and Fahad Fazil also star in the film.

Master of many a taut, award-winning thriller, Unnikrishnan's flair for writing and narration should help him unfold with ease the tale of two villages, each mirroring the individualistic style of working of its panchayat president. Bordering Mammootty's fiefdom is the panchayat run by Castro Vareed (Janardhanan), an honest but hardcore radical whose panchayat is in dire straits as Pannicker has blocked all the roads leading to it. In comes Mao Murugan (Suraj Venjarmoodu), Vareed's adversary in the village. Rosy teacher (Lakshmi) is Pannicker's mentor and the only person he listens to while her son, Varkeychen, is an idealist whom Pannicker respects. However, Unnikrishnan points out that unlike certain films that advocate politicians to set their own houses in order before attempting to take on the problems in legislative ‘houses,' ‘Pramani' is about how people entering the public domain should be ready to sacrifice or transcend their personal interests for the good of the people.

Sneha plays the lead female role but “there is no romance between her and Mammootty. She is his secretary, an upright woman who is shocked to see how corrupt and venal her boss is,” explains the director. Music director M. Jayachandran, who had scored the award-wining music for Unnikrishnan's ‘Madambi' has composed the songs for ‘Pramani.'

“The songs are already doing well. And two of the songs were written by Gireesh Puthencherry, his last work for a Malayalam film,” says Jayachandran. One song has been composed by M.D. Rajendran.

“‘Pramani' is a political caricature of world events. Instead of adapting a heavy style of narration, I have gone in for a breezy, humour-filled film,” says Unnikrishnan. One of the strengths of this passionate filmgoer-turned-filmmaker is his ability to sit back and analyse films in general and his films in particular without losing the objectivity of the film critic that he once was.

Seductive medium

Says Unnikrishnan: “I don't believe in the divisions of high art and low art. Cinema, as has been pointed out again and again, is the medium of this century and nothing connects with people more intimately and powerfully than cinema. It is a binding force that brings in viewers from all walks of life and all classes into the recreated world of the movie for a period of time. That is the seduction of cinema.”

Unnikrishnan made his debut in Mollywood with the script and screenplay of the award-winning short film ‘Jalamarmaram.' He followed it up with the winner ‘Annu Mayaaayirunnu' on television before making his first feature film, ‘Smart City.'

The director has a busy year ahead as he begins his next film, a cop story starring Prithviraj, on May 12 and then towards the end of the year will call the shots for a script written by Anjali Menon. “That will be the first time, I will be directing a script written by another person. It will be a crossover road movie, most of which will be shot in Wayanad,” says Unnikrishnan. He hopes to set things rolling for his production house, Illumination, by next year and then “make the kind of films I want to do,” he avers.

One of this is dream project to adapt N.S. Madhavan's ‘Thiruthu' into a film. Hopefully that should happen soon once this filmmaker evolves into a producer next year.