On location Mammootty plays a family man who goes through a financial crunch when he loses his job in Lal Jose’s Immanuel. Anasuya Menon
At a small house on Golden Street in Pachalam, Kochi, shooting for Lal Jose’s Immanuel is in progress. Although a few people have gathered outside, it is unusually quiet for a film set. Lights, tripods and a speaker lie about in the courtyard. A thick black cloth has been stretched out against the entrance of the house. “A night scene is being shot,” a technician explains.
The film, which began shooting in Kochi earlier this month, has Lal Jose and Mammootty teaming up after Pattalam (2003) and Puramkazhchakal for the portmanteau Kerala Café (2009). The film revolves around the life of Immanuel, an employee of a publishing house, who finds himself on the abyss of a financial breakdown and the troubles that come with it.
“When debutant scriptwriter A.C. Vijeesh spoke to me about Immanuel, he was so involved with the character that I felt there was potential for a film. The story just seemed to follow Immanuel,” says Lal Jose. “Right from the time the character took shape in my head, I knew it had to be played by Mammootty.”
Immanuel has passed his BA Malayalam in first class and is quite the aesthete, having dabbled in theatre after his graduation. He has few relatives and leads an ordinary, yet happy life with his wife, Anne, (his sweetheart from his theatre days) and son Robin. Things go awry when Kerala Publishing House, where he works, shuts down. The film, which begins at this point, courses through the various struggles Immanuel and his family face.
The “soft film sans hullabaloo”, as Lal Jose puts it, essentially tells the story of Immanuel’s intrinsic goodness even in the face of adversity. “Immanuel is a simple, middle-aged man who is suddenly pushed out of his comfort zone and has to deal with a new set of harsh realities,” says Lal Jose.
The set is minimalist, reflecting the life of a lower-middle class family. The only semblance of extravagance in Immanuel’s life is a scooter, which he would buy as the story progresses, Lal Jose says. A clay model of a house has been placed in the courtyard, which will be used in the film as Robin’s creation. Childish scrawls and scribbles on the walls of the house have been done carefully to establish the child’s artistic inclinations. “Gowri Shankar here is a little dynamite, providing us entertainment throughout,” says Reenu Mathew, who makes her debut as Anne, Immanuel’s wife. Gowri appears at the very instant, chasing a big, blue balloon. “You should see the way he talks to Mammootty sir,” Reenu says, laughing. She considers it a strange coincidence, getting another chance to debut with the same team (Lal Jose-Mammootty) 10 years after she had missed an offer. Lal Jose chose her for Pattalam , opposite Mammootty, but that was the time Reenu got selected as cabin crew for Emirates. “I opted for the job. But I never dreamt I’d be able to mark my debut in acting with the same director,” she says.
The film, produced by S. George and distributed by Playhouse, is slated for release in April. The film has an interesting acting line-up. Fahadh Faasil will appear in a negative role and Salim Kumar will do a character role. Mukesh, too, will make a guest appearance. Sukumari, Suja of Classmates fame, Aparna Nair and Sunil Sugathan will don major roles in the film.
Music is by Afsal Yousuf. The visually-impaired music director, who made his debut with Biju Varkey’s Chandranilekkulla Vazhi , will also compose the background score. The lyrics have been penned by Rafeeq Ahmed.