Shyamaprasad on awards, actors, characters, cinema and his kind of films.

Film director Shyamaprasad’s award-studded oeuvre is a dream come true for any filmmaker. From Agnisakshi, Shyamaprasad’s first feature film, to Artist, his tenth and latest work, his movies have been his canvas to express the many hues of human bondage in vivid colours– tempestuous, organic, inexplicable dilemmas of the heart.

What is significant about his work is that they have proved to be winners for the cast and crew as well. The list of people who have achieved personal milestones in his films is a long one that includes both national and state award winners. Artist is no different. It won the Kerala State Film Awards for the best director, best actor (Fahadh Faasil) and the best actress (Ann Augustine).

The filmmaker feels it is because he takes time to cast and enjoys working with the talented actors who convey his perspectives to the audience. Excerpts from an interview with the director:

How does it feel to win yet another (fourth by our count) award of the State government for the best director?

Awards are a sign of recognition, especially from your peers. So it does make one happy. For directors like me who work on small budgets, these awards can make a difference. Moreover, nowadays such awards are not so easy to come by. A few decades ago, there was a clear difference between ‘art’ and commercial films. The composition of the jury has also changed. Now there are many genre-defying films and the jury is comprised of filmmakers of different kinds.

Your films have always proved to be winners for the cast and crew as well...

A great deal of thought goes into my casting. Acting workshops prior to the shooting of the film help my actors understand the characters and the journey they go through during the space and duration of the story. Once the shooting begins, it is difficult to get that kind of contemplative space with them. Another reason is that many of my films are adaptations of literary works. So the actors have rich, dense character-rich roles to portray. It is a chance to prove their skills and versatility. It is not written for one particular actor or to induce some drama or action for the film. As such, the characters are rounded beings with a spectrum of expressions and experiences to back them up, like in real life. The actors themselves enrich their roles with their experiences and emotions. Ann, for instance, found Gayatri within her and imbued her with his own experiences. That is when characters come alive on the screen. It is an osmosis that takes place with the character and the actor becoming the person on screen. I feel that my theatre background helps me in working with my actors.

How do you choose your actors?

Solely by the characters in my script. Whether it be Rose (Geethu Mohandas) in Akale, Deepthi and Nathan in Ore Kadal (Meera Jasmine and Mammootty) or Gayatri in Artist, I choose actors who I feel can best essay that particular character. And when I see my films, I feel validated in my choice. For instance, for Artist, Fahadh was my first and only choice to enact Michael Agnelo. I did try a few other artistes for Gayatri before I cast Ann. And what a marvellous job she did. I wanted a mix of vulnerability, innocence and passion and did not want a typical star to do the role.

Your films have always been placed in intimate and inner spaces where the focus is on the calm and the storms within the mind and the heart.

Relationships and the concurrent ups and downs have intrigued the filmmaker in me. That is why my films are about people. Moreover, my budgets don’t allow me the freedom to do those large extravaganzas and, frankly, those are not my kind of cinema either. I might watch a few and enjoy one or two but that is not me.

So, is there a film that you would like to do but have been is forced to put it on hold ...

Yes, certainly. There is never a dearth of stories. For instance, Sara Joseph’s Aalohari Anandan is a novel I would love to adapt for a film. But it is a very strong anti-establishment work that says how it is the community, religion, family and so on that stand in the way of an individual’s pursuit of happiness. I feel such a film might not be find takers and might face unnecessary attention.

So does market forces influence your choice of themes and films?

Yes, of course. It does. That is at the back of your mind when you choose a film or even the casting. Now, with the crisis in satellite rights, one has to be careful about budgets.

Favourite directors amongst the young lot that you enjoy watching…

I have not watched all the films made last year. So this list is not complete. But of the lot I watched, I thought the works of the directors Thomas and Shanil Muhammed (directors of Philips And The Monkey Pen), Anwar Rasheed, Lijo Jose Pellissery, and Aneesh Anwar (the director of Zachariyude Garbhinikal) were very good.

So what is your take on the New Generation filmmakers?

Like everything else, there is the good, the bad and the ugly among them too. Some of them are very promising and some still have to evolve. But what has disappointed me is that many of them are still stuck with the formulaic way of making films. Their approach to characters, story telling and themes have not changed much.

Lights, camera...

Shyamaprasad has achieved a casting coup of sorts and the pleasure is evident on his face as he tells you the details of the film. “Titled Ivide, it has been scripted by Ajayan Venugopalan, the talented writer I had worked with in English. Ivide will be shot completely in the United States with an international crew. The shooting begins in October. An investigative story, it is again a tale of people but there is a crime and so it includes an investigation as well,” he says.

And the casting coup? “Ah, Prithviraj and Fahadh play the heroes in the film. The female lead will be essayed by Nyla Usha.”

Now, watch this space!