Kattum Mazhayum, directed by Harikumar, captures the contemporary scene in Kerala through the lives of two men.
Unni Mukundan, dressed in a white check shirt and black trousers, sits gingerly on the edge of a huge wooden chair. His nerves show on his face. Maybe a tad more than what is required for the moment. So Harikumar, who is watching him through a monitor just a few yards away, asks Unni to go through his dialogue once again. This time, he gets it right – the dialogue, the emotions and the unsure, troubled look. “Cut,” says Harikumar loudly, ending the short scene of Kattum Mazhayum at a guest house attached to a tiles factory at Cheruvannoor, on the outskirts of Kozhikode.
Cinematographer M.J. Radhakrishnan and the rest of the crew get busy to shoot the next scene, which features Lal, Mamukoya and Sudheesh along with Unni. “Lal plays Abdul Rahman Haji, a 70-year-old, respected, rich businessman of Kozhikode. Mamukoya is a friend of his, while Sudheesh is his Man Friday. This is the house of Haji and Jayanarayanan Namboodiri, a priest who doubles up as a plumber. Jayanarayanan has come to meet him, from Ottappalam,” explains Harikumar, whose films include Sukrutham, Udyanapalakan, Swayamvarapanthal and Jalakam.
Lal is in a white dhoti and full-sleeve shirt and a beard that is almost as white as his clothes. Mamukoya and Sudheesh do not look their usual on-screen selves either. Mamukoya is in trousers and tee-shirt and a trendy cap, while Sudheesh is clean-shaven. They enter the frame from outside the house and join Lal and Unni, who are chatting. The scene is wrapped up pretty quickly.
“This is the only instance when Haji and Jayanarayanan meet in the entire film. They cross paths at the most significant moment of their lives. The film is about these two men, who are separated by religion, region, society and generations,” says the director. He adds Kattum Mazhayum employs a refreshingly different narrative.
“I have worked hard with cinematographer Radhakrishnan to give an unusual lighting pattern to the entire film, which would be a visually pleasing experience for the viewer. Kattum Mazhayum is not just a tale about two men and people related to them; it also discusses politics, religion and society. The film is very much about contemporary Kerala,” he elaborates.
Lal was the first choice for Haji. “When I conceived the film, he happened to be in Thiruvananthapuram and I told him the story of Kattum Mazhayum; he said he liked it and that Mammootty would be ideal for the role of Haji. But I said that I wanted him to play the role and that is how the film took off,” he says.
Lal is confident that the film and his role would be noticed. “It is a strong role and I am glad that I am doing one after films like Ozhimuri and Shutter. The character of Haji is a challenge, but I enjoy it. I have to speak the dialect of Malabar Muslims, but fortunately there is Mamukoya to help me out,” he says.
Unni too is excited about playing Jayanarayanan. “This is different from anything I have done so far in my career. I am happy that I could do a film that doesn’t require me to be an action hero. There is plenty of scope to emote for me in Kattum Mazhayum and I think it has come at the right time for me,” says the young actor.
Meeran Nandan plays his romantic interest. Parvathi, who is watching all the action from the sidelines, is required to be in front of the camera only a little later in the day. “I am playing Hajira, the eldest daughter of Haji; it is a full-length role, contrary to what I have been doing in cinema till now,” says the television-personality-turned character artiste. The cast includes Irshad and Praveena.
Kattum Mazhayum is produced by Sudeep Karat and M.C. Arun under the banner of Salrosa and Line of Colours. Script is by Santhosh Echikkanam. M. Jayachandran has tuned lyrics penned by Rafeeq Ahmed. Stills are by Anil Perambra. Kattum Mazhayum will arrive in July.