On Location Sathyan Anthikad's new film deals with the struggle of a woman to win against all odds.P.K. Ajithkumar
Dressed in a simple maroon-and-blue salwar kameez and sporting subtle make-up, Mamta Mohandas listens attentively to director Sathyan Anthikad and cinematographer Venugopal on a bright Sunday afternoon at Poolakadavu on the outskirts of Kozhikode.
As Sathyan goes for a take, Mamta resumes washing clothes and hanging them to dry on a clothesline in the courtyard of a modest house. She then turns to face the camera and flashes a smile. “Cut,” says Sathyan as he turns to give directions to KPAC Lalitha, who will feature in the next scene. Sathyan's assistant director Sreebala K. Menon prompts Lalitha and ensures that even the tone of the dialogue is correct.
A large number of women in the neighourhood watch the proceedings and their excitement is palpable as they catch a glimpse of actor Jayaram. The shoot of Sathyan's new yet-to-be-titled film (as is his wont) is in full swing.
“This particular scene takes place on Mamta's first day in a housing colony inhabited by the lesser privileged sections of society. Mamta plays Vidya Lakshmi, a damsel in distress who is brought to the colony by Preman (Jayaram),” explains Sathyan.
From a woman's point view
“I am trying to tell this tale from a woman's point of view. Vidya is certainly one of my most powerful female characters. She is a woman who has to go through a lot of hardship after leading a comfortable life with her well-to do parents. She marries outside her religion and suddenly, one day, finds that she is alone in the world save for her four-year-old daughter. She gets little support from her family or in-laws but she finds acceptance and love in this colony,” says the director.
Vidya, a college drop-out, had lost all hope when she comes across Preman, an autorickshaw driver who is a great believer in astrology. He helps her fight the odds and make a successful life for herself.
“The film may be about the struggle of a woman but it is not a tearjerker. The film also contrasts the life of the rich and the poor. I have also tried to highlight the issues of marrying outside one's religion,” says Sathyan.
Mamta, he adds, was his first choice for the role of Vidya. “I did toy with the idea of casting a newcomer but soon realised that I needed an experienced artiste and it was Mamta's face that came to my mind,” he explains.
Mamta quips: “Satyan's name has been there on the top of the list of directors that I wanted to work with when I decided to be an actor. And it is not every day that a Malayalam film heroine gets as strong a role as this. If ‘Passenger' was the comeback movie for me, this could be the coming-of-age film for me.”
Jayaram too is delighted to be back in another Sathyan film. “He has given me some of my most memorable roles and our association is now 22-years old, beginning with ‘Ponmuttayidunna Tharavu,'” reminisces the actor shortly after a scene with KPAC Lalitha, Manjusha and Shamsu. The scene had him arguing with Lalitha, whose autorickshaw he drives. After finishing the scene he regales everyone with his jokes and mimicry. Among the audience is Akhil, Sathyan's son who has taken a break from his job to be an assistant director.
“Jayaram is a flexible actor. He, like Mohanlal, is a hero I have always found a pleasure to work with,” says Sathyan, who has had several box office hits with Jayaram, including last year's ‘Bhagyadevatha.' Innocent, Mamukoya, Asif Alif, Lakshmi Priya, Prakashan, Chembil Ashokan and Anika, who debuts in the role of Mamta's daughter, are some of the other actors in the film.
The film is produced by Thankachan Immanuel, under the banner of True Line Cinema. Lyrics by Vayalar Sarath Chandra Varma have been set to tune by Ilayaraja. Stills are by M.K. Mohanan. The film will reach cinemas in April.