No regrets, says Abrid Shine

Filmmaker Abrid Shine, undeterred by criticism about Poomaram, says that the film is the culmination of a long-standing dream

Updated - December 01, 2021 12:29 pm IST

Published - March 30, 2018 05:00 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

 Abrid Shine on the sets of Poomaram

Abrid Shine on the sets of Poomaram

With two successful and critically acclaimed films under his belt— 1983 and Action Hero Biju , expectations were high when Abrid Shine announced Poomaram . Especially after Njaanum njaanumentaalum… , a song from the movie, went viral. But that was in November 2016; it took roughly 17 months for the movie to reach theatres, that too sans any pre-publicity, read teasers or trailers or interviews. And the movie opened to bouquets and brickbats.


Abrid admits he wasn’t prepared for the backlash. “People have either loved the movie or hated it! Those who know the pulse of a youth festival could relate to the movie and what I was trying to say. You can’t say I am disappointed or sad, it’s just that I didn’t expect such severe criticism,” he says.

The setting for the film is a youth Festival – Mahatma University Youth Festival. Five days of the festival make the movie, with the age-old rivalry between Maharaja’s College and St Teresa’s College being the premises of the film.

Kalidas Jayaram and several new actors impressed the audience with their performances. The movie did take many on a nostalgic ride, the songs and poems (after a point you stop counting them) grow on you, there is no melodrama and the characters are closer to life….But the movie also got panned. Some called it a music album, a documentation on youth festivals, without a solid story line; some found the setting dull and the pace slow; many observed the dialogues preachy and the climax Utopian….

Festival fare

Abrid says his idea was to capture the essence of a youth festival, the competitive spirit, hard work, triumphs, tears, tussles et al. “Having seen the five-day extravaganza from close quarters as a student of DB College, Thalayolaparambu, the theme was always in my mind. I wanted to drive home a point that winning is not everything, art serves a purpose.”


The preparations started when he attended the MG University youth festival at Thodupuzha in 2016. “I interacted with the office-bearers of the colleges and was inspired by the way they led their colleges. Further inputs were given by contestants such as Architha Anish Kumar, a ‘Kalathilakam’ for four years, who plays Malavika, the classical dancer, in the movie,” he says.

Maharaja’s, the rival side, had a totally different outlook towards the fete. Nasil P., a Kalaprathibha from the college, took Abrid through how the students overcame several hurdles to take part in the fete every year. “There is always a shortage of funds. He narrated stories about their struggles, an instance where they refused to receive the prize in protest, unfair results and much more. I also heard about how these festivals saw art being used as a means to protest at these venues, especially through grafitti, installations, sculptures and the like. All of these experiences resulted in Poomaram ,” he says.

Hurdles in the way

The going was really tough, because the movie called for frames with huge crowds. “It had to look like a youth festival venue, teeming with students, that too in several hundreds. We had to show the competitions and several other activities happening in the background. The colours, rhythm, music, emotions... had to be captured raw,” he says.

So does that explain why the film got delayed? “Yes. Once I started shooting, I realised that it was not going to be a smooth ride. The story evolved during the making and I didn’t want to compromise at any point. I didn’t keep a deadline and planned everything with a lot of patience. Naturally that delayed the project,” he says.

He makes special note of cinematographer Gnanam Subramanian. “It is his first project in Malayalam. The whole scenario was a new experience for him. The film called for a lot of night shots and I needed somebody who could capture it well,” says Abrid. Gnanam was the second unit cameraman of Aamir Khan’s Dangal .

But how would he justify the use of so many songs and poems in the film? “Each song is in the movie for a reason. Students of Maharaja’s told me how they would sit together and sing. I believe that emotions and situations can be better conveyed through verses and that’s what I did in Poomaram . We haven’t used any song just for the sake of it,” insists the director. Nearly 10 composers are there in the movie who have scored over a dozen songs.

As for the cast, Kalidas was Abrid’s first choice. Neeta was selected through an audition. Many students featured in the movie are either union members or youth festival winners drawn from various universities and colleges in Kerala.

Looking back, would he have approached the subject in a different way? “I am happy with what we made. And I would have definitely made this movie at some point of time. So, no regrets. The climax, which didn’t go down well with a large section of the audience, was the toughest part. However I wish more people could understand what we tried to convey,” he signs off.

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