Malayalam film directors Joshy Mathew and Sashi Paravoor bring extraordinary tales from ordinary settings.

For connoisseurs of good cinema it was a bonanza weekend, as the Habitat Film festival at the India Habitat Centre spread out an eclectic mix of films from different parts of the country.

The Malayalam film industry was represented, amongst others, by two film directors, who, albeit selective in their work, have a common penchant to tackle subjects relevant to the contemporary society.

As Joshy Mathew, whose film “Patham Nilayile Theevandi” (Train in the 10th floor) deals with a patient suffering from schizophrenia says, “I took a hiatus of 10 years from wielding the baton till I came across the serialised story in a Malayalam periodical about the sensitive subject of a former employee of the Railways who struggles to regain his self in a mental asylum, and is traumatised by the sound of trains whizzing past in his ears all the time.”

While, Sashi Paravoor, whose “Kadaksham” has just been released in around 30 theatres across Kerala says, “I have been very concerned about the issue of child abuse pervading our society, something that is surreptitiously brushed under the carpet. Nobody visits parents of the victim to understand their plight.”

“Kadaksham is running well in theatres though not like conventional masala films,” says Paravoor. Although undeterred, Mathew rues that “Patham Nilayile Theevandi” was a flop at the box office despite the fact that it was released with only three prints.” He added, “Films that have no commercial value, and deal with serious subjects in a realistic fashion like emotions/depression usually do not fare well”.

Underlining his conviction of making films in a specific way, Mathew says “I shot most of the film – in fact 14 out of 16 days of actual shooting – in a government mental asylum which had around 500 inmates. Some of those recuperating expressed a desire to work with me and were taken as actors although without any dialogues.” With a sense of pride he added, “In some cases it was difficult to fathom who is a professional actor and who isn't.”

Both had their own take on Bollywood. Paravoor, who is more familiar with the fare dished out by virtue of being on the jury of National Film Awards says, “I like the work of Rahul Bose and Aamir Khan; amongst actresses my favourite is Vidya Balan” while Mathew, though generally shying away from making any comment on Hindi films expressed his liking for Nandita Das directed “Firaaq” and the work of Naseeruddin Shah.

Mathew has given an image makeover to Innocent, a veteran actor of more than 400 films, who had been typecast as a comedian by offering him the role of the aging patient caught in the severe surroundings of a mental asylum. “I deliberately kept one song in the film to capture the mental agony of the protagonist. It has won the critics award for the best song and lyrics at the State film awards, whereas my experiment of using only natural sounds fetched me the best sound mixing award in the face of stiff competition.”

Divulging his plans, Paravoor, who was a successful producer before being drawn towards direction, says, “I am working on a subject weaved around the plight of widows in Mathura. The film will be shot in Delhi and Mathura”. He said, “I will be scouring for new faces from different parts of the country for the five female characters in the film, which I plan to release by the end of this year.”