Debutant director Sajeevan Anthikkad has something to say. And he says it, loud and clear and unambiguous, in the most visible and audible medium available today, the cinema. Sajeevan does not hail from a film background nor has a lineage to boast of. His previous involvement with films has been restricted to a couple of documentaries, one of which was about a rationalist, an iconoclast, who in his wanderings disproved many superstitions and dislodged many popular idols.

Sajeevan has just completed his first feature film, Prabhuvinte Makkal. This too has been inspired by the same theme of belief and superstition. It makes a bold statement on atheism, perhaps one which has never been handled so honestly in Indian cinema. “My film disparages institutionalised religion and its effect on society,” says the director.

The film tells the story of a septuagenarian industrialist and his two sons. One of them, Mani, is a confirmed atheist while the other, Sidhartha, leaves his home and his beloved in search of spiritualism. During Sidhartha’s stay at Hrishikesh, he encounters many ‘divine’ men and women. Certain incidents spur him on to leave Hrishikesh. After many wanderings and discoveries, he returns home. Meanwhile, at his village, a god man has established his presence and influence. Events that occur change every one’s lives permanently.

The film traverses the realms of darkness and evil. The film is a strong appeal for rationality and freedom. Besides directing, Sajeevan has written the script and dialogues as well. He found most writers unwilling to take it up as there was a deep schism within themselves. “I was insistent that my credo be followed on the sets too. I was unwilling to consent to the usual practices of pooja and muhurat, during shooting.”

The role of the patriarch is played by veteran actor Madhu. “It was the script that attracted Madhu Sir,” says Sajeevan. “Accepting this role was the biggest compliment he could pay a newcomer like me.”

His two sons, Mani and Sidhartha, are played by Jijoy and Vinay Fort respectively. Newcomer Swaasika plays the love interest of Sidhartha. Kalabhavan Mani, Salim Kumar, Anoop Chandran, Kulappully Leela and Ambika Mohan are some of the other actors.

In a conscious effort to promote fresh talent, he has fielded 40 new faces on the screen. As the story covers a period of about 30 years, the time lapse is portrayed by veteran make-up artiste Pattanam Shah. Cameramen are Manoj Narayanan and Manjulal, both fairly new to the field.

The director clarifies that he has tried to present an honest and balanced view. “The character Sidhartha is educated and articulate. He makes a strong point for a deep and pure spirituality. I have steered clear of didacticism,” he says.

Sajeevan has explored the nuances of family relationships, between father and brother, between man and woman, between the two brothers and so on. He believes that the human interest adds appeal to the film. “Whatever our intellectual beliefs may be, our emotions connect us as human beings.”

The songs composed by Arakkal Nandakumar and Joy Cheruvathoor have been sung by P. Jayachandran, G. Venugopal, Madhu Balakrishnan, Pradeep Palluruthy and Mahitha.

Shot in Hrishikesh and in and around Thrissur, Prabhuvinte Makkal is produced by Sindhu M. and Santhosh Balan under the banner, Free Thought.