After the success of his debut film ‘Passenger' director Ranjit Shankar is ready with his next one, Arjunan Sakshi

Ranjit Shankar revels in the anonymity he enjoys. Recently, he took 42 days leave from his IT job at Nest, Kochi, and made the movie ‘Arjunan Sakshi', starring Prithviraj in the lead. Do people recognise you when you go out? “No”, he shakes his head and gives you that boyish smile. He has (or is it ‘hasn't yet?') no filmy manners either. Example: I ask him if he can pick me up on the way to Sarovaram Hotel where we plan to shoot his pictures and he responds with a ‘sure'!

Big responsibility

This 33-year-old, son of Shankaran Kutty, who was in the State Government services and Shanthakumari, a teacher, is just one film old but ‘Passenger' (2009) the dark horse that rode home triumphantly with a clutch of awards has thrust a heavy burden on Ranjit's shoulder. But he swears that the huge expectation building up among movie buffs, for his second venture, ‘Arjunan Sakshi', does not scare him. Getting the first Lohithadas Puraskaram for best screenplay for 2009 was the best thing to have happened, he feels. A nomination for the Filmfare award and for the V. Shantaram award also cheered him much. (Full list of awards in box).

While ‘Passenger' was not a ‘pucca' commercial movie, ‘Arjunan Sakshi' is, states Ranjit. It was planned for an August shoot but since Prithviraj could not make it then, it had to be postponed to late 2010. “I was annoyed at first but I am happy today, for I would not have got Anne to play this part and cinematographer Ajayan Vincent to shoot it then. On the technical front, we have used the super scorpio crane for the first time in Malayalam films.”

‘Arjunan Sakshi' was born in sometime in 1998, when I was doing my final year engineering in Kothamangalam. There was a newspaper report about a tram project connecting Aluva and Kochi. That it is topical today is just coincidental,” says Ranjit, referring to the metro rail. “I had written the first scene order then, 12 years ago. But nothing happened. In 2002, when I enquired about it, no one even remembered it,” says Ranjit. About five per cent of that remains in the movie today, he added.

Autobiographical elements do creep into the character of Roy Mathew, the protagonist, a young engineer played by Prithviraj. The first half, especially, he points out. The second half is what he would like to be, Ranjit adds. But the socio-political theme is totally of the urban milieu. Don't go looking for Arjunan in the movie, though, for there is no one named so. But do look for media folks like T. N. Gopakumar, Sreekandan Nair and Sara Joseph, who appear as themselves.

When you ask him why the poster of the movie has Manhattan as its backdrop, he says it's because Kochi, as a city, is growing vertically. The hero's office is on the 15th floor and he lives on the 28th floor, so much is about heights and that background seemed perfect for the poster, to show the extent of urban elements in the movie, especially heights. It was shot in Kochi.

Cinema my medium

So is he an IT guy or a film maker? “I enjoy my job and after this movie, I have begun to feel that cinema is my medium. I also know that only good teamwork can produce a good movie. The extent of involvement counts. It is imperative that everyone must feel comfortable to do his/her own job, only then their best comes out.”

He has repeated Jagathy Sreekumar in this movie too. The stellar role of the villain in ‘Passenger' remains green in all those who saw the movie. Jagathy plays a doctor in ‘Arjunan Sakshi'.

Ranjit is sore that different genres of movies do not find acceptance in our State. “Look at ‘Driving Miss Daisy', the wonderful movie. It's one of the best movies I have seen and the concept of a hero or heroine is absent there. There are only main characters. It's my ambition to make a movie with Jagathy in a totally different genre, akin to ‘Driving Miss Daisy', as I believe a well made film will find acceptance here,” says Ranjit.

His scripts are all final before he starts shooting. No hanky panky here. He writes the scenes on the computer and after it is all ready, writes the actual scenes in Malayalam. Is the story-script-dialogue-direction by Ranjit Shankar tag come to stay? It seems so, for he says cinema is a means of expression and luckily in both movies, there were no interferences of any kind, either in casting or story.

Ranjit realises he has graduated to a bankable director. The satellite rights of ‘Arjunan Sakshi' was sold for double the price of ‘Passenger', he says, beaming.

And after the photo shoot, he is off to be with wife, Smitha and kids Tara (5) and Tarun (3), for just that morning, he had returned after the post-shooting work of the film from Chennai. “Moreover, there's office tomorrow,” he reminds you.

Passage to fame

Getting a list of awards for the very first film is plain lucky, but Ranjit Shankar earned it all the hard way, by working hard and getting his ideas on to screen. He wrote scripts earlier, which paved the way for direction. Here is the list of encomiums he won:

Kerala State Award

Best screenplay (Television) for the 2003 serial American Dreams

Dubai AMMA Awards

Best Socially Committed movie Director - Passenger

Best Debut director - Passenger

Asianet Ujala Awards

Best screenplay - Passenger

Kerala Film Critics Award

Special Jury Award for direction - Passenger

World Malayali Council - Kairali Awards

Best Screenplay - Passenger

Surya TV Awards

Best Debut director

V Santharam Awards

Best Debut director(Nomination)

Filmfare Awards

Best Director (Nomination)

SouthScope Awards

Best Director (Nomination)