Ivan Meghroopan, inspired by the life of poet P. Kunhiraman Nair, releases today. The film, which won four Kerala State Film Awards, is writer-scenarist P. Balachandran’s directorial debut. Prakash Bare plays the lead role of K.P. Madhavan Nair. Buoyed by the awards bagged by the movie, Prakash talks about the film, and the role played by the stellar cast and crew of the film. Excerpts …
What was it that attracted you to this project?
Many things… mainly ‘P’ [as poet P. Kunhiraman Nair was popularly known as] has always been a fascination for me and my generation. His works, especially his biography, had greatly influenced me. Then it was Bal ettan's script [writer P. Balachandran].
Now that it has won four Kerala State Film Awards, does it justify your faith in the film and its cast and crew?
Recognitions are always delightful, especially when we were not expecting awards in today’s general ‘award climate’. Also, our treatment of the script has not followed typical ‘arty/award’ ways of filmmaking, but it aimed at connecting with a wider segment of the audience. The biggest award we have received so far are the comments and endorsements made by the likes of Sathyan Anthikkad, Siddique, Sethumadhavan, Mohan, O.N.V., Kavalam…. after watching the film. The ultimate recognition will be viewers’ response. Lets see how they accept the film which reaches theatres today.
Why did you decide to play the title role?
Initially, we had plans to approach a star for this role, but considering the difficulties in signing up and managing him and the delays and compromises that might have to be brought into the project, we dropped that idea. Bal ettan had seen my performances in my earlier film/play and he was confident of my ability to do justice to the role. So we decided to move forward with that idea.
What was the kind of homework you did to play this difficult role of a Bohemian and a simpleton at the same time?
Well, it was more implicit than explicit. Of course, I had read his books and a few other books on him. But it was the core team, our discussions, our travels together and the interactions with many people we came across who shared with us their experiences with P that prepared me for the role. C.V. Balakrishnan, Alankode Leela Krishan, the poet's son Raveendran, his daughter Leela, a shop keeper in Thiruvilvamala, many elderly folks in Ottappalam area… the list of people I spoke to is very long. It was more a subconscious effort than a conscious one. I just tried to understand his complex personality but I don’t claim to have succeeded fully. I almost collapsed when O.N.V. sir, after watching the film, said that we could bring back his favourite poet in front him through the film. He also wondered aloud if I had ever interacted with the poet to bring in that effect. (I wasn’t that lucky. ‘Mahakavi’ P passed away when I was in high school.) Those words of O.N.V. sir are bigger than any awards we could ever win.
How difficult was it to play the roles of both producer and lead actor?
Multi-tasking is always difficult, especially when the acting demands your full attention. A large percentage of producers in Malayalam cinema are merely investors. It is more difficult if you are actively involved in production. Another challenge is the perception about the producer and actor being the same. I was extremely glad when Sathyan Anthikkad commented that I have turned from “a producer acting in films” to “an actor producing films,” after watching Ivan Megharoopan.
You had a dream team behind the camera with Rajeev Ravi as cinematographer and Prakash Moorthy as art director? Would you explain their contributions to the film?
It was indeed a great team! Rajeev and Moorthy were part of all the pre-production travels and discussions. Moorthy made several sketches of all the major characters which influenced all the casting and portrayals. His production design realistically brings back the beauty of yesteryear Kerala. His sketches have greatly influenced my postures and body language in the film, I think.
Rajeev is always very subtle but a very powerful influence on the project. He clearly had in his mind, how the film should look. Dev D We will fall in love with the lush green Kerala he has captured in this film. Though physically not with us all the time, music director Sharreth is another key part of the team who had a special place in his heart for this project.
Six beautiful leading ladies in the film.. any starry tantrums or ego hassles vis-à-vis roles and length of roles?
We are lucky to sign up some of the most talented and professional artistes. Each one of them approached the project with a lot of passion. Their roles were relatively short but were very diverse and there were lots of room for performance.
Music composer Sharreth won the State award for the music he scored for the film – very different from his usual style...
Sharreth and Bal ettan had worked together earlier. He read the script, fell in love with it and wanted to do music for the same much before the project took off. His confidence about the film was so great that he was our source of energy in many crisis situations. Remya was his pick and he kept it as a secret until he got her to sing it beautifully and sent it over to us.
It is not everyday that movies are made on poets of Kerala, living or dead.. so are you nervous about the film's chances at the box office?
Maximum awards for the film, super hit songs from the Sharreth-O.N.V.-Kavalam team which got downloaded 20-plus lakh on the net, Bal ettan’s track record with Ulladakkam, Pavithram etc., Rajeev’s presence in Malayalam after a long gap, amazing performances … with all these, I am cautiously optimistic.
Your next project?
Papilio Buddha, a feature film in the backdrop of the Dalits in Wayanad, directed by Jayan Cheriyan is doing the festival circuit. Next to be decided after the release of Ivan Megharoopan.