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Calling the shots

Saraswathy Nagarajan
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Interview Director Priyadarshan explains how he ensures that his films connect with audiences. He also talks about his plans as Chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy. Saraswathy Nagarajan

P riyadarshan is perhaps the first, and, as of now, the only film director from Mollywood with a pan-Indian appeal. And his success is not measured on festival circuits but in the hustle and bustle of the Indian marquee. Comedy is his forte, but just when the laughs became a little forced, the director made a ‘Kanchivaram' and proved that he could weave a different tale if he wanted to. In Thiruvananthapuram for the shooting of his latest Malayalam film, ‘Arabiyum Ottkavum P. Madhavan Nairum in Oru Marubhumi Katha,' the director met Friday Review for an exclusive interview, where he talked about his movies and his plans as chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy. Excerpts...

There is a great deal of excitement about ‘Arabiyum…' since you and Mohanal are working together after an interval of eight years

It is the weight of great expectations that unnerve me. I decided to make a comedy for the very last time on account of pressure from fans and friends. No more comedies! ‘Arabiyum…' is a laugh riot and it is a string of incidents that happen over four days in the life of P. Madhavan Nair, Mohanlal's character. It is an entertainer like ‘Chithram' and ‘Killukam.' And working with Mohanlal is like coming home. He is unique and his acting calibre has never taken a beating. Physical changes due to time are inevitable but his acting, sense of timing, dialogue delivery and dedication continue to inspire and awe me!

‘Tezz,' your latest Hindi film, is also in the offing

Post-production work is on and I hope to release it sometime in January. It is a thriller, a genre I have never done before. Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Sameera Reddy, and Kangana Ranaut, play important roles in the movie. Mohanlal plays a British police officer. But for the actors and a few technical personnel, most of the crew are drawn from different countries. The action takes place on a train and shooting it was a completely new experience as I wanted the movie to unfold in different seasons too. See, that's why I want to stop doing comedies. There is so much to do and only one life. I don't want to get slotted (laughs). I would like to focus on social issues.

You are the first director from Malayalam cinema to have hit the big time in Bollywood and you smashed the glass ceiling for several aspiring Malayali directors...

Yes, I have made 25 films in Hindi, something no South Indian director has been able to do. My aim is to make films that a family can sit together and watch. There is a child in each of us and I cater to that child. Moreover, I believe, the secret of my success is that I am every clear about who my viewer is when I make a film. The most important reason is that my passion is cinema and I can't imagine doing anything else in life. But my success is also why I am burdened with expectations when each film of mine releases. When ‘Chithram' and ‘Killukam' ran for more than a year, I knew that from then onwards, each film of mine would be compared with those films. Success, in some strange way, prevents you from enjoying the process. On the day the film releases, you want to see if it has been accepted by viewers. Then you want to know how big a hit it is. After that you want to see how many days it manages to run.... there is no end to it (laughs).

What about your work as Chairman of the Chalachitra Academy?

Again, I am clear about what I hope to do during my tenure. And having a Minster [K.B. Ganesh Kumar] who understands films and the industry only too well is a huge support. Firstly, I want to broadbase the reach of the Kerala State Film Awards function. Until now, it has always been held in the capital city. So, the rest of the State used to feel alienated from the proceedings. So, from this year onwards, we plan to hold the event in different places in the State. This year, for the first time, we are holding it in Kozhikode. Secondly, our cinema has grown leaps and bounds but most of our theatres are technologically still way behind. That is why we have decided to classify and grade theatres based on the viewing experience they offer the audience. Thirdly, our ticketing system has to be computerised. Fraudulent practices in sale of tickets are hobbling the commercial life of films in certain places in Kerala. I find it hard to believe that our films fail to click at the office. My belief is that once the ticketing is improved, we should see a marked improvement in sale of tickets. Fourthly, we need a permanent complex for the International Film Festival of Kerala. I hope to set the ball rolling for that. All this may not be achieved during my tenure itself but I hope to get things going and future Chairmen can build on that.


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