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Updated: March 21, 2013 19:43 IST

Savouring the success

Saraswathy Nagarajan
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Film director and scriptwriter Anjali Menon Photo:Vipin Chandran
Film director and scriptwriter Anjali Menon Photo:Vipin Chandran

Winning the national award for the best dialogues is a great honur, says Anjali Menon.

The expectations from this film nearly scare me. …It’s the first time that something I have written is being termed “commercial”. … As far as I am concerned, a story is a story is a story… but even about that the questions come pouring in…Is it a love story? Is it a music band story? Is it a food story? Is it a family story? The only correct answer is “all of the above”!

But at its core, Ustad Hotel is a simple tale of relationships … the kind that you and I know about. I shall end with a quote of Karimka in Ustad Hotel : “Every Sulaimani needs a bit of Mohabbat in it.” So here it is for you – with love from us. Really hope you like it!

Thus went Anjali’s blog on June 29, 2012, the day Ustad Hotel opened its doors to viewers. Right from day one this was one film that the audience relished from the first shot. It was eagerly lapped up by viewers. Anwar Rasheed and scenarist Anjali Menon had the audience asking for more. And now the national awards have given the cast and crew something to savour till next year – Ustad Hotel won the award for the best popular film, it also bagged the award for the best dialogues for Anjali and won a special mention for Thilakan.

“It is a great honour,” says Anjali. “I feel I am privileged to do a job that I truly enjoy and on top of that a national award is very special indeed,” says the film director and scenarist who had two films in the reckoning for the awards – Manjadikuru, written and directed by her, and Ustad Hotel, written by her.

She maintains that it was Anwar’s visualisation of her work that made Ustad Hotel a winner. She says happily that she wrote without any expectations of how it would be received at the box office. Total freedom to do her work freed her from any pressure. “But Anwar is so good that once or twice while discussing the script, he would gently nudge me in a certain direction and that helped me a great deal to write certain scenes,” she says.

But her favourite moment in the film is when Karimka (enacted by Thilakan) explains the secret of his Sulaimani to his grandson Faizi (played by Dulquer Salman). “I wrote it at one go without any rewriting or edits. When I look back, I feel that was an inspired piece of work,” she says.

Incidentally, she happens to be the first woman from Malayalam cinema to win an award in this category. But she says such a gender equation never entered her mind while doing the movie. “I am an instinctive writer and my stories are personal. I don’t think about the box office or blending in so-called ingredients for a ‘masala’ film or any other factor when I write.”

She adds how she planned the movie without anything concrete about turning it into a film. That is when Anwar heard her story and asked her if he might direct it. Well, the success of Ustad Hotel, certainly gave food for thought for the industry watchers and those in Mollywood.

Next on the anvil is a “fun-filled youthful” film that will be announced soon. With three successful ventures, including ‘Happy Journey’ in Ranjith’s portmanteau film, Kerala Café, this is one film that is bound to give rise to great expectations about the film and script.

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