Rajesh Touchriver's debut Malayalam movie ‘Ente' is based on a true incident.

“It's a misconception, I don't hail from Thodupuzha. I come from a village called Arakkulam in Idukki District,” clarifies Rajesh Touchriver, wearing his trademark chain with a huge half-moon shaped pendant. He did change his name, for a valid reason, though, from M.S. Rajesh to Rajesh Touchriver. Seven years ago, he patented it too! His father, the late Sivasankaran Nair, a Kathakali artiste, surely would not have minded, he says.

He explains his stance: “Who would look at you in foreign climes with a name like this? It is difficult for them to pronounce it, but the minute they see a name which means something to them, they will consider you for anything, I had this experience once, in the West. They came looking for a ‘certain Touchriver' during a film festival and were distressed not to find him. I said I was this Touchriver and they seemed surprised. They were looking for a Westerner, obviously.”

On home ground

Armed with the rich experience of making a couple of movies in different genres and with a clutch of awards, Rajesh is now on home ground, with his first Malayalam movie, ‘Ente,' which is described daringly in the trailer (it's on YouTube) as ‘a true story you don't want to see.' This true story came from a genuine source, Prajwala, the organisation that his wife, Sunita Krishnan, runs in Hyderabad, to help victims of sexual assault.

‘Ente' is not a sordid tale, neither is it a skin show, Rajesh says, while in Kochi for the dubbing work of his film.

“It is a ‘U' Certificate family movie that is a suspense thriller. The story is that of a father and daughter and it is a woman-centric movie that is simultaneously shot in Telugu too.” The Telugu version is called ‘Prathyayam.' Siddique plays the role of the father and Anjali Patil, a Marathi actor with a strong theatre background, plays the central character.

Says Siddique: “It was a totally new experience for me as it was the first time that I was acting in a movie that has a true story. Most of it was shot on real locations, so I related to the story much more and could emote much better, I think. It was shot with a 5D camera, so there was not much paraphernalia and it came naturally. The subject is also very good, parents must be aware that kids are not safe anywhere and bring them up accordingly.” Siddique's dialogues include some in Telugu.

Rajesh is not too keen to go into the story, for the story is the actual hero of the movie. “It has music by Sharreth. He also sings a song. For four years, I have been working on this movie and its script. People believe that bad things, especially sexual assault, is something that can happen to others, not to themselves. It can happen to any one and the repercussions are far reaching. ‘Ente' is a movie with such an underlying theme, made in a purely commercial angle, with cinematic techniques that are the latest,” says Rajesh of his pet project that's almost ready to reach theatres.

So far, most Keralites have only read of his movies and short films, but have not seen them. ‘In the Name of Budha,' his maiden film, (2002) won international laurels. It was about the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It premiered at the Oslo International Film Festival and was nominated for the Best Debut Director category at the Cannes Film Festival and featured in several festivals.

Rajesh is an alumni of the School of Drama in Trissur, who went on to work with the National School of Drama as a designer. He did his Masters in Visual Language/Scenography and Direction at the Wimbledon College of Art, London.

Stints in tinseldom

He has had several stints in tinseldom as art designer, art director and also studio designer, before he plunged headlong into direction and scripting. His diverse assignments include direction of the music video of ‘Sunshowers' for Maya Arulpragasam (of ‘O Saya' fame in Slumdog Millionaire). Films for social causes find a prominent place in his resume, like short films and documentaries on human trafficking, HIV/AIDS and communal riots. His recent film for the United Nations, ‘One Life, No Price' to sensitise society against human trafficking had Amitabh Bachchan, Preity Zinta and John Abraham appearing as spokespersons for the cause.

‘Anamika' is another documentary shot in the red light areas in Mumbai, Kolkata, Poona and Delhi. It won several awards and finds a place in the curriculum of National Police Academy and National Judicial Academy.

Rajesh knows well that making movies is a gamble, but he is game for it. ‘Ente' is his own production, because he did not want to compromise on anything, the script included, because it is a true story.