Lal Jose says his film ‘Spanish Masala' is a delectable combination of entertainment and music.

Ace filmmaker Lal Jose seems to have hit upon the right blend of ingredients to make movies that cater to the tastes of viewers in Kerala. After the success of ‘Neelathamara' and ‘Elsamma Enna Aankutty,' Lal is on a hat trick as he dishes out his latest movie, ‘Spanish Masala,' which reaches theatres today.

“‘Spanish Masala' tells the story of an illegal immigrant in Europe. The attempt to better their financial circumstances by hook or by crook is a common story of some immigrants in Europe and there are many Indians, including Malayalis, who eke out a living as illegal immigrants in these countries,” narrates Lal. Instead of a grim, realistic exploration of the issue and its reasons, Lal adds a generous helping of humour to his movie ‘Spanish Masala,' a major portion of which has been shot in Spain. The result is a sweet and spicy tale that blends the travails of an illegal immigrant with the lives of the Malayali diaspora in Spain. Perhaps this is the first time that mainstream Malayalam cinema industry attempts to focus on the Malayali presence in Europe after delightful ventures such as ‘Veruthe Oru Pinakkam' (shot in France) and ‘Madannamaar Londonyil,' and more recently ‘Akashgopuram' (in the United Kingdom).

“Initially, we planned to set the film in the United Kingdom. But then we realised that it is quite difficult to find Malayalis who do not know at least a smattering of English. So we relocated the story to Spain where the hero as well the Indian crew were completely at sea as none of us knew any Spanish,” laughs Lal.

Two cultures

Although Spanish was alien to the Indian cast and crew, Lal points out that once the shooting began, “there is a universal language of cinema and then we were all speaking in the same voice.”

The film is about Charlie, a mimic from Kerala who only knows Malayalam and a few words of English. He goes to Spain with a music troupe for a programme. But once they reach Spain, Charlie vanishes into the crowd to become another name and number in the long list of visitors who disappear from the eyes of officialdom. Charlie lands in a soup and his desperate need to earn his daily bread forces him to become the cook in a rich Spanish household.

As Dileep and Lal come together after an interval, expectations are high as they are a win-win combination despite a film like ‘Mulla,' that did not really blossom at the marquee. “The expectations unnerve me a little bit. But the reason why Dileep and I click as a team is because our tastes are completely different, whether be it in cinema, music or sense of humour,” feels Lal.

Another reason for the hype is the fact that Lal is working with scenarist Benny P. Nayarambalam who had scripted Lal's superhit ‘Chandupottu.' Vidyasagar, Lal's favourite music director, scores lyrics composed by Venugopal. Kunchacko Boban, Biju Menon, Kalaranjani and Vinaya Prasad play important roles in the film. “Chackochen and Biju enact Malayalis working in Spain.

“We conducted auditions in Spain and Vienna to select actors who play the Spanish characters. The heroine, Austrian model and actor Daniela Zacherl, is a Viennese hip-hop dancer who studied acting in the United Kingdom,” says Lal. Spanish, English and Malayalam are spoken in this film. “How the languages gel and why Malayalam is spoken in a Spanish household will all be explained on the screen,” says a tight-lipped Lal who is determined to preserve the flavour of the film till it reaches theatres.

Come February 10, Lal is testing new waters with his production house LJ Films, which is producing its first movie, ‘Diamond Necklace,' which will be directed by him.

Iqbal Kuttipuram (who wrote ‘Arabikatha') and Lal are working together after eight years. Iqbal tells the story of a man and three women. Fahad Fazil, Samvaratha Sunil, Amala Paul and newcomer Anusree play the main roles in the movie that will be shot in Dubai. Lal had participated in a reality show called ‘Big Break' on Surya TV and Anusree was the winner of the show.

“It is the beginning of a dream to locate new directions for Malayalam cinema. Many a time, I am unable to take up a new film because of previous commitments. I hope to give young directors the opportunity to launch their careers and also refresh Malayalam cinema with their vision and visual narratives,” says Lal.