Priyadarsan’s Geethanjali, with Mohanlal reprising his role of Dr. Sunny, the psychiatrist of Manichitrathazhu, is a psychological thriller laced with humour and horror.

The excitement of a multi-starrer is palpable on the sets of Geethanjali at Chitranjali Studio in Thiruvananthapuram, as Priyadarsan gets down to work his magic on this film. Dr. Sunny, the wacky psychiatrist of Manichitrathazhu, makes a comeback in the movie to solve another mystery laced with fun, thrills and chills in equal measure.

Priyadarsan, one of the directors who had worked in Manichitrathazhu, can’t hold back his smile while talking about Geethanjali, during a break in the shooting. “The story is mine but since it has a Christian backdrop, I roped in Dennis Joseph to help me with the dialogues and screenplay as I am not familiar with the ambience of the characters. It is a psychological thriller set in a bungalow that is said to be haunted,” he says.

He points out that Geethanjali is not a sequel to Manichitrathazhu. “I have revived Sunny from the film but that is all. The background, characters are all different. Shobana makes a guest appearance to introduce Dr. Sunny as the psychiatrist who cured her. And there was no plan at all to cast Mamta Mohandas,” he avers.

Keerthy, daughter of actress Menaka and producer Suresh Kumar, makes her debut as the heroine Anjali in the film. Madhu, Seema, Innocent, Ganesh, Siddique, Nassar and Nishan play key roles.

Mohanlal is expected to be on the sets of Geethanjali by noon. By 11 a.m. the place is buzzing with people and Priyadarsan has a tough time making himself heard above the din of excited fans and curious onlookers. Grey skies and a persistent drizzle do not dampen their enthusiasm.

Cinematographer Thirru patiently watches the goings on while Priyadarsan makes his actors quickly go through a rehearsal. Having cranked the camera for many of Priyadarsan’s movies, including his award-winning Tamil film Kancheevaram, the comfort level between the two is evident as they go about their work.

The scene being canned shows the reception of a hospital. Ganesh is waiting patiently there while a worried-looking Keerthy enters the frame. Nishan, who plays her fiancée, is seen talking to her and the shot is canned without much ado.

Nishan and Keerthy make a handsome pair with both of them dressed in black and white. Keerthy is a picture of confidence as she says her lines and then rushes to watch the scene on the monitor. ‘Priyan Uncle’ explains the scene to her and she moves back while the camera is moved around for the next scene featuring Ganesh and Keerthy.

Nishan makes no effort to hide his enthusiasm about working in a Priydarsan film and that too with ‘Lalettan.’ “A dream come true for me. I play Anoop, a Mumbai-based professional who is Anjali’s fiancée. Just before their marriage, things go awry, necessitating the arrival of Dr. Sunny. After my work is over, I make it a point to watch actors like Lalettan and Innocent chettan at work. I count myself lucky to be part of this. Lalettan is so down to earth. I feel is it the absence of any airs that makes him a superstar,” gushes Nishan.

By then the superstar arrives on the sets and disappears into his caravan. Even the junior artistes go into a tizzy at the prospects of hoping to catch a glimpse of Mohanlal. After his make-up is done, Mohanlal makes the time to talk to visitors waiting to have a word with him. Dressed in a trousers and an olive green shirt this version of Dr. Sunny seems to be quite different. “Years have gone by and there are bound be changes. But he is still the crazy chap he was,” smiles Mohanlal. So, no more Bermudas and loud T-shirts a la ‘Sunny One’? “Not much,” he says.

In the meantime, the crew have set the scene for the next shot that shows Ganesh accosting Keerthy while she rushes down a flight of stairs. As the camera starts rolling, Keerthy and Ganesh go through their moves. However the director wants Ganesh to says his lines rapidly and so he goes for a retake. Fastidious as he is, the film director is not happy with the way one of the ‘patients’ is carried down the steps and he goes for another retake. A few minutes later, he okays the shot and Ganesh joins the director behind the camera. With a rolled umbrella, leather folder and slightly rumpled clothes, Ganesh looks like a wheeler-dealer, which is his role in the film. “I play planter Vasu,” he says, and adds: “Vasu is trying to buy the bungalow from Anjali.” He had played the petrified Dasappan in Manichitrathazhu to perfection. He says with a smile that acting in Priyandarsan’s films has been a great experience and this is no different.

Yesteryear actor Seema plays Anjali’s mother. “She is in a coma. So, today, all I had to do was lie still,” says Seema, removing a bit of plaster from her hand.

Vidyasagar scores the music for ONV Kurup’s lines. The film is produced by G.P. Vijayakumar under the banner of Seven Arts International. The movie should be in theatres by October.