Director K.K. Rajeev is keeping his fingers crossed as his first feature film reaches theatres this Friday.

K.K.Rajeev has several credits to his name. He has worked with some of the biggest names in the Malayalam film industry and has an enviable string of hits on the small screen. That is why his entry into tinsel town is eagerly awaited by viewers and industry watchers.

Rajeev admits that the pressure is immense as his debut film ‘Njaanum Ente Familyum' reaches theatres this Friday. “People could identify with the situations and characters in my serials. My cinema too is a slice of real life,” adds Rajeev.

“I was supposed to make my debut with a Mammootty-film. But that didn't work. I couldn't finish the story on time and Mammookka had given his dates for other films,” Rajeev explains.

He was hooked to the world of drama and films even as a young boy (he was chosen Best Actor at the Kerala University Youth Festival). His friendship with scenarist-director Renji Panicker proved a turning point. “He used to work with ‘Suruma,' India's second (first was ‘Leher') and Malayalam's first video magazine, run by Mammootty. Mammookka had introduced the concept here. It had the preview of a film, with on-location reports and bytes from the cast and crew. The contents were edited in Chennai and cassettes were sold to video libraries, especially those abroad. This experience brought me close to the film industry and different aspects of filmmaking,” Rajeev recalls.

He has had a long and fruitful association with Doordarshan, through documentaries (a special one being ‘Swapnagalude Rajakumaran,' a documentary on Padmarajan that was the auteur's last interview), programmes such as ‘Chitrageetham' and ‘Smrithilayam' (he wrote the scripts) and, of course, serials.

‘Alapanam' was his first work. “I remember Dileep as a serial actor. Another memorable experience was my stint as an actor in ‘Mohangal' directed by Rajasenan. It had Parvathy in the lead,” Rajeev recollects.

Serial success

His serials have worked because, “I ensure that the plot is convincing, with no exaggerations or gimmicks. Dialogues, costumes and make-up aren't loud at all.”

His latest work, ‘Kathayile Rajakumari,' is aired on Mazhavil Manorama.

He is credited with many casting coups on television – Jayabharathi and Thilakan played the lead in ‘Peythoziyathe' (on Surya TV).

“It also had Mallika Sukumaran, who was facing the camera for the first time after Sukumaran's death,” he points out. Rajeev cast Priya Raman and Devan in ‘Porutham' and Sreevidya and Ratheesh (“upon Mammootty's suggestion”) in ‘Venalmazha.'

It was Mammootty who gave him the “crazy idea” of directing a daily soap! “I was shocked! ‘Won't I go mad shooting a daily serial?' I thought. But he was sure that daily serials would rule the roost and he wasn't wrong.”

However, he does love short serials such as ‘Avicharitham' (Asianet).

“Channels often pressurise the directors to increase the number of episodes for TRP ratings. Some serials never seem to end! Nowadays, a director is judged according to the number of episodes he can dish out! Thus quality suffers. There was a time when it took two days to shoot an episode. Nowadays, as many as four episodes are shot in a day,” he says.

On a fresh note

An indisciplined lifestyle has cost him dear, but that is all in the past, he says. “Working without a break affected my health. In fact, that had delayed my film debut. A healthy lifestyle – eating and sleeping on time – can do wonders to your creativity,” says Rajeev, a die-hard fan of Mani Ratnam's movies and K.G. George's craft.

Another factor that boosts his creativity, as always, is his passion for travelling and driving.

“My discussions and writing happen during my road trips. It is difficult to make me write anything while sitting in a room,” he says.

Surprisingly, he finds more freedom in cinema.

“Now a director has less involvement in serials, you don't even see the final product before it goes on air. But in cinema, a director has total involvement,” he says.

He is there to stay for long, Rajeev says, and signs off with his comments on the so-called crisis in the film industry: “Malayalam filmmakers need to have faith in themselves; a convincing story is enough to bring audience to theatres. Also, technology should never go overboard…”

‘Njaanum Ente Familyum'

The movie stars Jayaram, Mamta, Manoj K.Jayan, Mythili and Jagathy Sreekumar. “It is a family drama written by Cheriyan Kalpakavadi. The story is set in a medical background, with most of the main characters essaying the role of doctors. The clash between medical ethics and family ethics forms the crux of the movie,” says Rajeev.

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