Ranjith says his latest film, ‘Indian Rupee,' which released this week, takes a hard look at how the lust for money has permeated into the very fabric of our lives.
That film director Ranjith has got the golden touch enjoys wide currency amongst film viewers in Kerala. Many of the scenarist-director's films have minted money at the box office with unfailing regularity. Since ‘Thirakatha' (2008), which won him the National award for the best Malayalam film, Ranjith's films, scripted and directed by him (‘Kaiyoppu,' ‘Paleri Manickyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha,' and ‘Pranchiyettan & the Saint') have helped him acquire blue chip status in tinsel town; even the occasional duds have not dented his credit ratings as a director or scenarist. And, now, as his latest film ‘Indian Rupee,' reached theatres, the market is definitely bullish.
Touted as a prequel to last year's mega hit ‘Pranchiyettan & the Saint' (PS), Ranjith's new film, he says, “is all about the craze to become rich overnight.” If Prachiyettan craves for social recognition and social status, Jayaprakash, the hero of ‘Indian Rupee,' yearns and dreams of becoming a rich man. His aim is to become a Pranchi and splurge without a second thought on whatever catches his fancy. In his eyes, Pranchi has made it and his desire is to reach that destination. That is how it is a prequel to ‘PS,'' explains Ranjith.
Instead of falling back on the trend of the super heroes, which he created in Malayalam cinema, Ranjith says he has realised that for a movie to have a lasting impact, it has to connect with the common man and his dreams.
“There were powerful business interests at work when I wrote my hits such as ‘Devasuram,' ‘Narasimham,' ‘Ravanaprabhu' and so on… But, over the years, I realised that Mohanlal and Mammootty reached where there are today by portraying the average Malayali, his dreams, fears, angst, and hopes. That is when I decided to move away from run-of-the-mill thinking and strive for another kind of cinema. And the success of my movies proves that I was right,” avers Ranjith.
‘Indian Rupee,' with Prithviraj and Rima Kallingal in the lead, for instance, is about the youth of today. ‘India Rupee' is all about money and how money talks a language that may not always be the voice of ethics or truth. It is about the loss of innocence in an urban jungle. The director says it reflects a realistic slice of life, not always rosy or romantic.
“Youth-oriented stories do not mean romance alone. Many a time, a youthful tale becomes a euphemism for a love story or a rom-com,” adds Ranjith. His film takes a dig at several issues that hog the headlines today.
“Jayaprakash, Prithviraj's character, epitomises the average street-savvy youngster in Kerala with little education but big ambitions. We have become a highly commercialised economy and all our talk usually centres on money and the making of it. Intricately intertwined with this is the real estate lobby in Kerala.
“All of us, directly or indirectly, have varying levels of interest in the real estate. My movie deals with all these issues thorough the story of a youngster, a heavy for the real estate mafia. It is about how this overpowering desire for money invariably induces us to take the wrong turn and, often, illegal road in life,” narrates Ranjith. Jayaprakash, says Ranjith, is one of Prithviraj's best roles and his pride in his protégé is evident when he evaluates Prithviraj's role in ‘Indian Rupee.'
“He has grown as an actor and there is a new depth to his interpretation of the role,” believes Ranjith. Veteran Thilakan makes a comeback in mainstream Malayalam cinema with an author-backed role. Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, Mammukoya, and Tiny Tom, among others, play important roles in the film that has been produced by August Cinema.
Saying that it is wrong to blame the audience for the failure of Malayalam films, he emphasises that it is the films that could not connect with the viewers and their world or their hopes and aspirations. But Ranjith feels that the industry is headed in the right direction under the able leadership of young directors like Rajesh Pillai and Aashiq Abu. “As soon I saw ‘Salt n' Pepper,' I made it a point to congratulate its director Aashiq. It is important to encourage young directors with a new vision to keep the industry on track.”
In fact, he says that this is where his production house, Capitol Theatre, will play a major role. Ten years from now, Ranjith sees himself in the role of a mentor and guide to young filmmakers. He cites ‘Kerala Café,' a portmanteau film made by Capitol as an example. “Not only did it introduce some fine film directors like Shankar Ramakrishnan, but it also motivated veteran filmmakers to think out of the box. Unless we provide a platform for the many young filmmakers in the industry, our cinema will stagnate and to prevent that, seniors in the industry must ensure that they encourage this new crop of talent.”