Shankar Ramakrishnan hits the big time as a scenarist as his Urumi continues its golden run. The writer-director talks about his new role as an actor and his forthcoming projects
Shankar Ramakrishnan is in high spirits. After working for long behind the scenes of several blockbusters, he proved his golden touch with Urumi, the magnus opus he scripted. As we step into his house at the busy junction near East Fort, Shankar greets us with the news that Urumi won the Best Film Award at the Imagineindia International Film Festival in Madrid and it bagged the best director award for Santosh Sivan.
Shankar says it is a sign of the times that movies like Urumi are finding acceptance among European audiences as it is a film that narrates the story from the point of view of the people in Asia. “I must thank Prithviraj and Santosh chettan for entrusting me with this work. After all, it was Prithviraj's first production. I was nearly imprisoned in Santosh chettan's flat in Mumbai for about two months when I was writing the story of Urumi. Finally I told him the one-line story of a boy who wanted to kill Vasco da Gama and the movie took off smoothly from then on. I did not see it as a period film as I felt that the issues it dealt with were contemporary,” believes Shankar.
As Urumi continues its success story, Shankar is busy writing and acting. The reluctant actor, as he calls himself, will make his debut as an actor in Ranjith's latest film Spirit, releasing next week. Shankar plays the role of Alexy Thadeus, the hero's close friend. He agreed to act in the film as the film needed an actor at short notice when Prakash Raj could not turn up for the shooting. “I said yes in the spirit of the moment,” Shankar quips with a broad smile.
Being an actor
He explains: “I wanted to experience the transformation that takes place in an actor between action and cut. I have worked in almost all the stages of filmmaking and I felt this would be another learning curve for me. Film director Anjali Menon who saw the movie said that Alexy is so not me and that means I must have acted. I am not nervous about my stint as an actor as I see it as an opportunity to understand yet another department of process of filmmaking.” According to Shankar, Spirit has an urbane sensibility and Alex and his wife, Meera, enacted by Kaniha, are a foil to the negativism of Reghunandan, Mohanlal's character. Reghu, a visual mediaperson battling alcoholism even as he struggles to make sense of his life, is Meera's former husband. But, later, Alex and Meera turn out to be his best friends.
While Spirit will see Shankar, the actor, at work, Shankar, the scenarist, is neck-deep in work. In addition, earlier last year, Ranjith had announced that Shankar would play the lead in his film Leela. As the film “has a landscape and a mindscape, the film was postponed as it requires us to travel from Kottayam to Wayanad,” says Shankar. But he admits that his heart is in direction and writing and not in acting and so he would be happy if Mohanlal dons the lead role as he feels the star would be the best to do justice to the role.
In the meantime, Shankar's Arivaal Chuttika Nakshatram, starring Mammottty and Prithviraj, will go on the floor in December, under the direction of Amal Neerad, who will also be the cinematographer. The scriptwriter says it is a multi-layered suspense thriller, a man hunt, set in the fifties in the tea estates of Munnar.
What will go on the anvil immediately is his film Ente Satyaanweshana Parikshakal (ESP), starring Suraj Venjarmmodu in the lead. “It is about a comedian and his skirmishes with bouts of depression as he is forced to laugh and make others laugh ignoring his own talent and ambition. Look at the careers of versatile actors like the late Adoor Bhasi, Shankaradi, Bahadur, and more recently, that of Jagathy Sreekumar and Suraj. Ignoring their versatility and talent, they are cast in movie after movie to raise a laugh through their banter and antics,” says Shankar.
Since the scenarist is so busy, naturally the director has to take a break. But he says that he is grateful to Ranjith for taking him on board and having the faith in him to include Island Express, the film he directed in Kerala Café, the portmanteau film produced by Capitol Theatre, Ranjith's production house. “Some directors treat their assistant directors like a glorified clerk. But Ranji ettan entrusted me with the responsibility of making the trailers of his films, acting as its representative…Those were all opportunities to learn.”
But what Shankar considers as his crowning glory is Ranjith's decision to direct a script of his. A Mammootty starrer, produced by Mammootty's Man Friday, George, the script will be written by Shankar.
To be shot in the city, the movie, says Shankar, is also a kind of tribute to the city of his childhood and youth.
A former student of NSS Pubic School, Peruthanni, and Christ Nagar, Shankar says that while many of his classmates' ambition was to work abroad, he always wanted to stay in Kerala and dreamt of becoming a representative of the State and Malayalam.
Shankar and Anoop Menon, classmates and friends all through school and college, always had tinsel town as their destination.
A voracious reader of poetry and prose and an avid film viewer, Shankar's favourite authors and poets include all the greats of Malayalam, and Lewis Caroll, Rudyard Kipling, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde …
Some of his favourite movies are those helmed by Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen.