M. Mohanan’s 916 explores the relationship between a single parent and his daughter.

Meera Vasudevan smiles a bit too much. Or so feels director M. Mohanan. “Smile less while mouthing your dialogue,” he tells her. Meera nods, smiling. And she is ready for the shot once again. So are Mukesh and Anoop Menon.

This time around Meera’s smile is perfect and a happy Mohanan begins planning the next scene of 916, his third film. The location is a large house at West Hill, Kozhikode.

“This is Dr. Ramesh’s house. In this scene, Anoop, who essays the role of Dr. Harikrishnan, is discussing the birthday plans of his daughter (Malavika Menon) with his close friend Dr. Ramesh (Mukesh) and his wife, Chandra (Meera),” says Mohanan.

916 is mostly on the father-daughter bond. “It is also about the sanctity of relations within families. The title 916 actually refers to the purity of relations, as in gold. Dr. Harikrishnan is a single parent and his life revolves around his daughter. After watching him in Beautiful, I was convinced that Anoop was perfect for the role of Dr. Harikrishnan,” says the director who had made a smashing debut with Katha Parayumbol in 2007.

His second film Manikyakallu may not have done as well at the box office, but it fetched him the Kerala State Film Award for the Best Story. The announcement came during the shooting of 916.

“The award for Manikyakallu justifies my faith in that film’s story. It had a strong message for society and it was about goodness and honesty,” he says.

Coming back to 916, he says he had conceptualised the film quite some time ago but was in no hurry to finish the script, which he has written himself. “I took my own sweet time before I began shooting, and my producer, K.V. Vijayakumar Palakkunnu, was willing to wait,” says Mohanan.

This is the first film that Vijayakumar is producing. “I loved ‘Katha Parayumbol’, which I felt was a film one could enjoy with one’s family. So when I decided to produce a film, I wanted something like that,” he says.

Mohanan says he had to search quite a lot for a girl to play Anoop’s daughter. “I went through the profiles of over a thousand girls on the Internet, before zeroing in on Malavika,” he says, before going up to Mukesh to discuss the next scene.

Mukesh says he is happy to play Dr. Ramesh though it is not a particularly demanding role. “I decided to do 916, because it is a pleasant film. My character sees the medical profession as a means to make money, a sharp contrast to Anoop’s character. He is an idealist who does not believe in private practice or working in hospitals that pay huge salaries,” he elaborates.

Anoop adds: “This is a kind of film that I would like to act, though my ideas of filmmaking might be different. It is a challenging role too, as I play a character in two stages – at 45 and 28.”

It is soon time for lunch. But before that the director speaks to his two youngest actors – Aishwarya and Sneha, who are making their debut as Mukesh’s daughters.“These two girls provide some light moments in the film with their witty dialogues,” quips Mohanan.

The cast includes Asif Ali, KPAC Lalitha, Parvana, Jayaraj Warrier, Thalaivasal Vijay, Mamukoya and Kottayam Nazeer. Faisal Ali is the cinematographer. Lyrics by Anil Panachooran, Rafeeq Ahmed and Rajeev Nair have been tuned by by M. Jayachandran. Stills are by R. Roshan. 916, produced under the banner of Aishwarya Sneha Movies, will reach cinemas in November.