T.K. Rajeevkumar’s Up & Down Mukalil Oraalundu is a thriller set inside a lift.
It’s been a thrilling ride, albeit up and down on a lift, for director T.K. Rajeevkumar. The veteran of 23 films is back on the screen with the psychological thriller Up & Down: Mukalil Oraalundu. And perhaps, for the first time in Malayalam cinema, the milieu of a film is almost entirely, the insides of a lift! “There are two aspects particularly interesting about the script (written by Sunny Joseph and Manuel George; dialogues by Indugopan). The first is that almost 98 per cent of the narrative takes place inside the limited space that is the lift. Secondly, the entire storyline is set over a period of a few hours on a particular day,” says Rajeevkumar. He adds: “And because of that it was a real challenge to break the monotony and yet, at the same time, remain consistent too. And it was challenging on all fronts – not only for me as a director, but for Jomon Thomas, the cinematographer, who had to make do with a single source of light, the actors, who had to be consistent about their reactions and keep wearing the same costumes, the make-up man, who had to make sure that even the sweat on the actors’ faces was consistent from one shot to the next…”
Up & Down… unfolds after nine people and a child get stuck in the lift high up in a high-rise, while on their way up to the top floor to take part in the building society’s anniversary celebrations. “Suddenly, the space becomes a sort of an altered reality. It becomes a place where the real becomes unreal; where emotions are raw and extra sensitive. It even prompts the very nature of the characters to change and secrets to be revealed,” says Rajeevkumar.
While Indrajith plays the role of a lift operator and ex-serviceman, named Thampuran, who walks with the aid of an artificial limb, Ganesh plays a savvy Commissioner of Police. Baiju is the apartment’s builder and Remya Nambhessan stars as his wife, a Bharatanatyam dancer, as demure as he is brash. The others stuck in the lift are a writer who is addicted to alcohol (Pratap Pothen), an IT professional and his svelte live-in girlfriend (Rejith Menon and Sruti Menon, respectively), a busybody American-returnee (Nandu), who is all dressed up to play Mahatma Gandhi in the play to be staged for the function, and a young boy (Master Devaraman, Ganesh’s younger son), who intermittently keeps enquiring about his mother (Meghana Raj). “This is a script that would test any actor’s skill, considering, in this confined space, it’s their emotive strength rather than their physical appearance that is being laid bare. I asked much of my actors and each and every one of them gave me their best,” says Rajeevkumar.
While the eight are going through their emotional ups and downs, the character of a boozy lift mechanic (played by Kochu Preman) keeps their fears in check and sort of becomes their only connection with the outside world, save for the amplified groaning and croaking of the lift shaft and the sounds of electric sparks flying.
That’s why the sound effects (by newcomer Prasanth Murali) are very important in the movie, says Rajeevkumar.
“Usually for a thriller the background sound tends to be on the violent side. Here we’ve only used quadrate sounds – double bass, cello, viola and violin, all strings, which lend the track an eerie feel,” explains Rajeev.
Up & Down… is being produced by A Blue Mermaid Picture Company.