Debutant director Rajesh K. Abraham’s Aaru Sundarikalude Katha (ASK) hits theatres today. He says that Malayalam cinema is ready for new experiments

As a young boy, Rajesh K. Abraham used to marvel at a tall girl in his neighbouring school in Bharananganam, Kottayam, who played fantastic basketball. She was so good that she even got a chance to play for the national team. But she had to give up her love for basketball, as her father forbade her from playing the game. He felt it was an improper sport for a girl, one that necessitated her wearing short skirts. This incident remained with Rajesh for a long time. “That girl lost a bright future in basketball because of the way society treats a woman,” he says.

The female identity

His mainstream directorial venture, Aaru Sundarikalude Katha (ASK), which hits theatres today, was born from his memory of this incident, Rajesh says. Through six women who tell their individual stories, Rajesh touches upon the various shades of “female identity”.

Nadia Moidu plays the central character, a former basketball player, who lives her unfulfilled sports dream through her daughter, an aspiring tennis player, portrayed by Umang Jain. Zarina Wahab, who plays Nadia’s mother, appears as a feisty 73-year-old, who learns how to use the computer and enters the inescapable world of social media. She introduces the other characters, too. The other leads are played by Lena, Shamna Kasim and Lakshmi Rai. “All my characters are well-rounded, who don’t disappear after a few shots,” Rajesh says. While Narain plays the lead male character, Prathap Pothen appears in an important role.

Music is by Deepak Dev. Two songs have been penned by Anu Elizabeth Jose and the third, a lullaby, has been written by Kaithapram Damodaran Namboodiri.

When Rajesh decided to make a film on this theme, he was not hassled by the possible tags his movie might invite—“for women”, “no heroes” and the like. “This is the age of change in perceptions. Patriarchal heroism is not as accepted as it was before.” he says. At the same time, Rajesh insists his is not a “feminist film”. From relationships to career, emotions and ambition, it touches upon all the aspects of a woman’s life.

Writer-director

Rajesh calls himself a writer-director. Having done several screenplays, one of them being the tele-film Tree of Life, which won the Kerala Film Critics Award for the best screenplay in 2006, Rajesh says writing is an integral part of his creative persona. An alumnus of the Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi, the 40-year-old says cinema was a passion he could not ignore. Though he went to Delhi all the way from Bharananganam to prepare for the civil services examination, he ended up learning cinema. Rajesh has assisted directors Bhadran, Rajeev Menon and Jijo Punnoose. He has also worked for Navodaya studio for eight years, an experience he cherishes.

With his first film, Rajesh believes his dream has finally come true. “I spent the first ten years waiting for Malayalam cinema to change. At that point, a theme such as that of ASK, did not appeal to many producers,” he says. “But when A.V. Anoop saw the script, he agreed right away.”

Rajesh has about five films in the pipeline, but for now, he just wants to see how ASK does.