Techie Ajayan Venugopalan of Akkarakazhchakal-fame writes the script for Shyamaprasad’s latest film English
New Jersey-based Malayali techie Ajayan Venugopalan first made a name for himself as script-writer and co-director of YouTube comedy series Akkarakazhchakal, which talked about life of the Malayali Diaspora in the United States (U.S.). Now, Ajayan, whose short film, Penumbra, was screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, moves into the big league and turns scriptwriter with director Shyamaprasad’s new film English. Excerpts from an e-mail interview with Ajayan…
How did you hook up with Shyamaprasad?
I had met him a few years ago during the screening of Elektra in the U.S. We kept in touch thereafter and soon our discussions turned to movies. He was interested in making a movie about the Diaspora and I suggested a few ideas that eventually lead to English. I’m very excited to be working with such an accomplished director such as Shyamaprasad. One of his greatest qualities is his humility. As much as I am thrilled about the project, I am concentrating on delivering the content to his expectations.
Can you tell us a little about English?
The movie is based on the lives of four Malayalis based in London. All these people have varied impressions about the city of London: if for one it represents opportunity, for another it is fear and for yet another it represents a play-ground. So they, along with an array of associated characters, bring out the different faces and facets of the Malayali Diaspora's experiences in a Western metro. It’s not a comedy, but a drama with lots of black humour.
Is it inspired by your life in the U.S.?
Well, the characters are in a way inspired by the stories I have seen in the U.S.
The characters are fictional but their experiences are very close to what we as expatriates experience living in any city in Europe or America.
What are the particular quirks of the Malayali diaspora that you have observed?
One of most touching things is the longing that Malayalis (or Indians, for that matter) have to go back to India to settle. It’s rare to hear, let’s say, a Russian or Chinese immigrant talking about their plans to go back to their home country once they are settled here. So I think we as people are more bonded to our roots and our culture.
Akkarakazchakal, short films, now a screenplay.... So, where next in tinsel town?
It’s wherever the waves take me! But I would eventually love to direct a feature film. At this point, though, I am eager to learn the craft while working with Shyamaprasad.