Interview Shyamaprasad says English, his film reaching the marquee today, focusses on moral, emotional and ethical issues confronting the global Malayali. Saraswathy Nagarajan
Filmmaker Shyamaprasad continues his intense cinematic exploration of how time and space change and test dynamics of every relationship. Instead of the ‘intimate cinema’ that Shyamaprasad usually enjoys making, his new film, English , has a broad canvas that delves into a cross section of lives of Malayalis in the United Kingdom (U.K.). A huge star cast and multiple narratives that thread the film promise to make it a significant work in Shyamaprasad’s oeuvre. Scripted by techie-writer Ajayan Venugopalan, the movie is a dark satire that turns the arc lights on the shadowy sides of life in London.
Ajayan and Shyamaprasad met during the screening of Elektra, Shyamaprasad’s film, in New York. The two got talking and they decided to work on a movie together. Initially, the film was to be shot in the United States but due to logistical problems that cropped up, English was transported to the U.K.
“Ajayan’s forte is comedy and satire. It was interesting working with him to create a movie that went beyond the glossy or humdrum lives of non-resident Indians,” says the director, all keyed up on the eve of the release of his film.
The strength of Shyamaprasad’s films is the realistic, multi-dimensional characters who people his cinema. The characters’ multiple personas, their moods and decisions flesh out the characters. “That is how we are in real life. There are never good and bad people. Certain choices we make could turn out to be defining moments that shape our life and the lives of those who matter to us. Those moral, ethical and emotional choices pique my curiosity,” says Shyamaprasad.
Nadia Moidu, Jayasurya, Mukesh, Remya Nambeeshan, Nivin Pauly and Murali Menon portray some of the lead characters from diverse backgrounds whose passage to the U.K. and its aftermath are dealt with in English . “They come from different socio-economic stratas; the challenges they face are specific to their place in the social and economic ladder and yet emotions are universal,” explains the filmmaker.
Nadia Moidu is Saraswathy, a Tamil Brahmin. Married to a doctor, she has been in the U.K, for more than 20 years; Mukesh is Joy, a corner store owner, with an extended family in London and all its concomitant problems and advantages. Jayasurya enacts Sankaran, a Kathakali artiste-turned-waiter who is an illegal immigrant. Remya plays a young married woman from a rustic background who arrives in London. Sibin, Nivin’s character, is a techie with a roving eye.
The film director is now well-known for drawing the best from his actors and pushing them to break the mould. He agrees that he wants his actors to live their characters and make it their own by imbuing it with their experiences. “Many actors have a palette of expressions. So you have a template for happiness, anger, sorrow…. I want my actors to break that and give each character a fresh interpretation so that it becomes their own,” says Shyamaprasad.
Sync sound ensured that the actors were also saying the dialogues during the shoot, which again added to the realistic feel of the film.
Set in autumn, the season when summer gives way to winter in a blaze of colours and moods, the film sketches in terse portraits the transformation in human ties that is wrought by places and people. Shyamaprasad is no stranger to the U.K., having done his post-graduation from Hull University. Eloquent frames and music enhance the narratives of Shyamaprasad’s film and this one is no different. The reason, says Shyamaprasad, is that he chooses the locations of his films with great care. “In fact, I have made changes in the script after I decide on the location. Then I do a technical recce to decide on the equipment and infrastructure I would need during the shoot,” he says.
Unlike many Malayalam films, where background music and songs too have a stencil, Shyamaprasad has strived and succeeded in making the music an organic part of the film.
Lyricists Shibu Chakravorthy and Engandiyoor Chandrasekharan have written the songs scored by rocker Rex Vijayan of Avial.
Certain choices we make could turn out to be defining moments that shape our life and the lives of those who matter to us –Shyamaprasad