Director Aji John, whose family entertainer Namukku Parkkan releases this Friday, homes in on why stories of the everyday man still find takers at the box office

“Ordinary always sells,” says director Aji John, referring to the simple, yet thought-provoking tales of everyday life, its highs and lows that Malayali audiences seem to enjoy. The zenith of such films was in the late 1980s and the early 1990s with movies such as Sathyan Anthikkad’s T.P. Balagopalan M.A. and Sanmanasullavarkku Samadhanam and Priyadarsan’s Mukundetta Sumitra Vilikkunnu and Midhunam, to name but a few, narrating the story of the common man.

Over the years, in between the thrillers, the chillers, the comedies, and the new-age narratives that have since defined Malayalam cinema, the ordinary has more often than not been celebrated at the box office. “Perhaps it’s because these down-to-earth family entertainers easily relate to the audience. They are, after all, seeing an extension of themselves on screen,” adds Aji, as his new family entertainer Namukku Parkkan, gets ready to hit the marquee this Friday.

It’s a fact that Aji says he realised the hard way, after his debut film, the action psycho-thriller Nallavan that featured Jayasurya in four roles, failed to make the cut at the box office. “It opened my eyes to the way things actually work in the industry and more importantly, the expectations of the audience. The value of a film, I’ve realised, lies in pre-production more than post-production. Specifically, before you begin shooting, you need a solid script in place, proper locations, the right cast, the right crew…I’m yet to see a successful film that does not have all this in place. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no regrets about making a film like Nallavan. It’s still the best decision I have ever made, in any case it did get me a foothold in filmdom, something which I had always yearned for,” says Aji, an engineering graduate from Anchal, Kollam, who was an editor with Amrita TV and Kerala State Film Development Corporation before turning to direction. “I’ve always been interested in films and even when I was studying for engineering I used to dream of cinema. I was one of those kinds who used to catch all the Friday releases on the day itself, come rain or shine!” recalls Aji.

Namukku Parkkan, he says, is a “simple, feel-good film”, about the hopes and aspirations of an everyday man named Rajeevan, a hard-working veterinarian and father of two, with a soft-heart and deep-pockets for his relatives. He dreams of building his own house; a mansion set in extensive acreage, with a vegetable garden, orchards, kennels, and even a cow shed! “Owning a house of their own, is up there on the top of the dream list for most Malayalis. The movie is not about the trials and tribulations or the red-tapism that one would have to face while building a house. Namukku Parkkan is about the realisation of a dream. Rajeevan shows you how you can dream, how to realise your limits – you can’t build a Rs. 10 crore house with just Rs. 10 lakh in the kitty, how to plan and make the dream come true… Namukku Parkkan also talks about rootlessness that is sometimes faced by people who live in rented houses, that sense of belonging you lack if you keep moving from house to house,” says Aji.

Anoop Menon stars as Rajeevan and Meghana Raj, plays the role of his wife, Renuka, in the film. This is the first time that the duo will be seen together after their doomed love story in V.K. Prakash’s Beautiful. “Admittedly, we choose them because of their sizzling chemistry on screen. However, it turned out to be a great decision and both of them have done really well and gave it their all, especially Anoop. Rajeevan is one of Anoop’s best performances yet,” says Aji.