If there is one word to describe Chanthu of Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha, Dr. Haridas of Amritham Gamaya, Unnimaya Antharjanam of Parinayam, the lovers of Nagakshathangal or the eponymous teenager of Ennu Swantham Janakikutty, it would be ‘unforgettable’. Ordinary men and women we identified with, sometimes flawed, often battling myriad inner conflicts, but in our hearts, they found places in those special nooks and crannies, and became over the years, near archetypes in Malayalis’ collective consciousness.
Moulded and chiselled to perfection by iconic writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair and brought alive on screen by veteran director Hariharan, their stories continue to play out in our minds, several years after we first ‘experienced’ them.
Nearly four years after the release of multi-starrer Pazhassi Raja, the scriptwriter and the director have teamed up for Ezhaamathe Varavu, which is set to hit the screens on September 15. The film’s teaser released recently has raised expectations, for M.T.-Hariharan movies are the ones that cannot be missed. The film also sees Hariharan donning the hat of music composer for the first time. Cinematographer S. Kumar wields the camera.
While the director prides himself in having never had to compromise in his nearly five decade-long career, the litterateur, who recently turned 80, continues to be innovative. “A key feature of his scripts is that they are never repetitive,” says Hariharan of Kerala’s favourite story-teller. One couldn’t agree more with him, considering the wide spectrum of characters that people M.T.’s universe. Last week, the Kerala Sahitya Akademi, in a fitting tribute, honoured him with its Fellowship.
“We do not make movies that we think suit audience tastes. Instead, we choose to set the standards for them. If people continue to eagerly await our movies, then it means that we have been successful,” says Hariharan.
Set against the backdrop of a forest, Ezhamathe Varavu revolves around three principal characters — a planter, his wife and his friend. The teaser claims it to be “a walk in the wild”. While the forest finds prominence in two other films scripted by M.T. and helmed by Hariharan - Aaranyakam and Pazhassi Raja – in their latest venture, it is said to have a character of its own. It is the director’s way of reminding his viewers that the forest is a breathing entity, existing quietly beside humans, a symbol of living nature. The man-animal relationship runs as a central theme in the film.
However, like a quintessential M.T. story, the director says this film too is above all, a “tale of human relationships”.
Indrajith essays the role of the planter, while Bhavana plays his wife and Vineeth his friend.
Whereas Vineeth made his debut with the masters in Nagakshathangal and went on to work with them in several other projects, for Indrajith working with the duo was a new experience. All excited about one of his “most powerful” roles, he says the character belongs entirely to M.T and Hariharan. “I went there as a fresher and asked Hariharan sir to tell me what exactly to do,” he says.
Despite having essayed memorable roles, the M.T-Hariharan school of filmmaking posed many a challenge for the actor. “M.T. sir’s style of writing is different... I faced difficulties while delivering the dialogues and during dubbing. It is this pure form of Malayalam which, I am sure, will be loved by lovers of the language,” Indrajith says.
During one of his visits to the writer’s residence, he was told that right from the time the project was planned, it was only him that they had in mind as the protagonist — as the menacing, gun-slinging, authoritative planter. That, he says, has been for him the most precious award in his more than 10-year-long acting career.
Asked about the intriguing title, both the actor and the director say they cannot reveal much, without giving the film’s story away. Translated as ‘The Seventh Coming’, it could mean the coming of a person or even an animal, the director hints. “There is a myth woven into the plot and it has the elements of a thriller,” Indrajith says.
Incidentally, it is M.T. Vasudevan Nair himself who has scripted some of the best thrillers in Malayalam cinema. Director Bharathan’s Thaazhvaaram with its barren landscapes and a cold-blooded killer on the prowl, Pavithran’s Utharam which traverses the alleyways of a dead woman’s life and I.V. Sasi’s Uyarangalil which traces an ambitious tea estate manager’s climb to success, continue to haunt film-lovers even today.
But Ezhamathe Varavu is not such a full-length thriller, Hariharan says. There is anticipation for a person to arrive, and the many thrills that the wait brings. Or like it is said in the movie, there is a certain thrill in waiting for someone or something, the director adds. And so will it be for film lovers, for whom this promising venture is a two-weeks’ wait away.