On techies who have found the byte of success in mainstream Malayalam cinema

Actors Indrajith, Nivin Pauly, and Rejith Menon, actor-producer Prakash Bare, producer-director-scenarist Ranjith Sankar, singer Sachin Warrier, lyricist Anu Elizabeth Jose, scenarist Ajayan Venugopalan… The common factor that drives them all is, of course, the movies. But, there’s also something else that connects them – IT. All of them either have been or are IT professionals who have found success in mainstream Malayalam cinema. There are, it seems, an increasing number of such techies who have been making their presence felt in front of and behind the camera in Mollywood.

“Thanks to globalisation, the number of engineering graduates has increased 25-fold, which means that engineering has, more or less, become a degree for common sense! Also campuses of today are not like those vibrant cultural spaces of the 80s where one had opportunities to explore one’s talents. Most young people these days want something more than just a career and money. So it’s not surprising that they want to find avenues for their creativity and what better a medium than cinema?” opines Prakash, who holds a post-graduate degree in micro-electronics from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He entered filmdom with the critically-acclaimed Sufi Paranja Katha (2010), after 15 productive years as an IT entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

Giving in to their passion for the movies seems to be a common plot in all of these techies’ life stories. “The draw of films was too powerful to resist. Besides I have always been attracted to films. I used to take part in plays when I was in school (Sainik School),” says Indrajith, who was one of the first techies to jump onto the Mollywood bandwagon. He was working at Nexage Technologies, Chennai, prior to taking up acting. “My father [late actor Sukumaran], who was also an English lecturer and a lawyer, insisted that I complete my education, though both of us knew that I would end up in cinema. In retrospect, I am glad I qualified as a software engineer,” says the actor. Young actor Rejith, a mechanical engineer and a management graduate, who debuted in Mollywood with Goal , adds: “Movies and studies happened together for me. I was determined to take on both in tandem.”

While some such as Indrajith and Nivin (who used to work at Infosys) have completely quit the IT field to focus solely on cinema, others seem to be quite at ease juggling the two hectic worlds. For example, Ranjith, who was the first to set off the new wave in Malayalam cinema with his debut film Passenger , continues to work as a project manager with Nest in Kochi. “I love my job. It gives me the financial freedom to explore my dreams in cinema. So far I’ve only worked on one film at a time, so it hasn’t been too much of a task to juggle both. Then again, if we are passionate about something we’ll always find the time for it,” adds the director.

Sachin, who works with TCS in Infopark, agrees. “I am able to be both a playback singer and an IT guy because I have understanding colleagues who stand by me 100 per cent. In fact, they are the ones who are more excited when I have a recording!” says the singer who shot to fame with the song ‘Muthuchippi’ from Thattathin Marayathu . “Interestingly, in Thattathin Marayathu , there were five of us IT guys – Nivin, Anu, supporting actor Thushara, Ganesh Raj, the assistant director, and myself. And all of us studied at FISAT, Angalamy,” he adds. Prakash, meanwhile, keeps his interest in IT alive as a founding member of Kochi-based start-up Jadoo Technologies, which specialises in anti-piracy software. “It is important to involve yourself in things that cater to your multiple interests,” he says.

Most of the techies-turned-film pros agree that there are certain similarities between the celluloid world and the IT world. Ranjith, for instance, has actually thought about the comparisons between the two and even presented a paper on the subject at CUSAT! “Actually, both the processes are very similar. The idea of software starts with the client coming up with his requirements. Similarly, a movie starts with an idea. Subsequently, we develop/write the software/screenplay. The process of shooting a film is akin to the coding software. Post-production on a film is very similar to testing software. We then deliver the software to the client and likewise we deliver the film to the people. In both instances, sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t!” says Ranjith, with a laugh.

Most of them also agree that their stints in IT have given them a distinct advantage in filmdom. Says Bijoy P.I., director of Padmavyuham , who works at Suntec Business Solutions in the city: “Fundamentally, whether it is IT or films, it all comes down to managing people, managing time and interacting with people. IT trains you to be perfect in all three aspects.” Ranjith agrees: “Being in the IT field has brought a lot of discipline in my life and has taught me the value of being cost effective and time-bound, which is very necessary when making films.”

Nita Sathyendran