Blessy’s ‘Bhramaram’ travels through uncharted territory to set a new milestone for Malayalam films.
I had decided before how I wanted each frame to be.
Blessy is back on track with his tautly crafted ‘Bhramaram,’ which has Mohanlal setting the screen aflame with his searing role of Sivankutty. A genre-breaking film in Malayalam, ‘Bhramaram’ takes viewers on a breathtaking journey with many a gut-wrenching, surprising twist at every turn. Each frame and character in the film undergoes changes, revealing new facets that keep the viewers on the edge. ‘Bhramaram’ has proved with a vengeance that Blessy has found his path after losing his way in the wilderness for a while.
“This is a psychological thriller, a first of its kind in Malayalam. Unlike the ‘investigative suspense stories’ that many of us have made, Blessy has come up with a superbly woven film that hinges on the guilt of some of its characters and how the truth comes back to haunt them after several years. Moreover, I would rate it as one of the best works of Mohanlal, if not the best. Blessy has travelled a long way with this film,” says filmmaker B. Unnikrishnan, a master of thrillers.
Blessy, schooled in the Padmarajan and Bharatan style of filmmaking, agrees that it was a conscious decision to search for a new idiom and theme that would live up to the expectations of his fans.
“I wanted to prove that I could make such a film. It was a deliberate choice to give something fresh to viewers of Malayalam cinema; to bring in a new pattern of filmmaking,” says Blessy who has scripted and directed the film that tells the story of three former classmates. Determined to go in for a new narrative style, Blessy commissioned an artist to do the storyboard to decide the composition of each shot and frame.
“The second half of the film was shot almost completely in various vehicles and so I knew it would be boring to have too many frames of the same kind. Long before we thought of how we could film the scenes, I had decided how I wanted each frame to be,” explains Blessy.
Homework that is apparent to those in the business of filmmaking, says Sathyan Anthikkad who adds that he saw the film twice – once as a viewer and then as a filmmaker to understand how certain frames were shot and to savour Mohanlal’s masterly act.
“I give Blessy top marks for drawing the best out of Mohanlal in this role, for the sincerity towards his craft and for daring to experiment. At a time when even scripts are written on the sets, Blessy has devoted time and thought to develop a complete storyboard and enhanced it with some excellent casting. Moreover, as a filmmaker I know how difficult it is to get some of the frames he has filmed, that too in the dark in the middle of traffic. Ajayan Vincent’s cinematography is outstanding,” avers Sathyan.
Blessy says that some cinematographers were reluctant to take up the assignment considering the logistics, expense and time that would be needed to shoot the film. Finally it was filmed by Ajayan Vincent (whose previous works in Malayalam was ‘Adharvam’ and ‘Thoovaanathumbikkal’) whose scintillating work has enhanced the storytelling.
“The task was physically and mentally challenging but I enjoyed the experience. It could be because I did not approach the film with a conventional frame of mind. I tried to do justice to the story and the director,” says Ajayan. According to him, they had to design new equipment to shoot certain scenes. “For instance, scenes of Mohanlal and Suresh Menon travelling in a cab in Coimbatore were risky to shoot. It was in the middle of traffic and we had to design a new apparatus to swing from one side of the cab to the other…” explains Ajayan. His wife, Priya, was in charge of the special effects for the film.
To get the right look for his characters Blessy chose to cast comedian and mimic Suresh Menon and V.G. Murali Krishnan in the two other main roles in the film. And both of them have delivered.
Unni, Suresh’s character in the film, has opened the doors to Mollywood to the talented Bollywood-based actor.
“I realised I was wasting my time in Bollywood. Thanks to my director, I was able to realise my dream of acting with Mohanlal. I was like putty in Blessy’s hand; I was told be myself… this city slicker,” says Suresh laughing.
Murali too says he sensed the potential of his character, Alex, as soon as he read the screenplay. “I had blind faith in my director’s skill and he had the same confidence in me,” says Murali who is flooded with offers after his sterling performance.
For Blessy it is a vindication of his belief in his skills as a filmmaker and writer. Sathyan minces no words when he says that unless such experiments are encouraged and supported by viewers, Malayalam cinema might find itself in a cul de sac. “We need such novel thinking and efforts. Not all of us may choose to adapt such a style. But it is essential to have such ventures to keep Malayalam cinema afresh and on the move.”