Malayalam director Aniesh Upaasana: Making ‘Janaki Jaane’ has been a satisfying experience as a filmmaker

Aniesh Upaasana’s ‘Janaki Jaane’ stars Navya Nair and Saiju Kurup in the lead

Updated - May 10, 2023 11:30 am IST

Published - May 10, 2023 10:22 am IST

Navya Nair in Janaki Jaane

Navya Nair in Janaki Jaane | Photo Credit: Rishilal Unnikrishnan

Photographer-director Aniesh Upaasana is ready with his third film as director, Janaki Jaane. The film, starring Navya Nair and Saiju Kurup in the lead, reaches theatres on May 12.

Aniesh, who made his mark as a still photographer and continues to be one, says that Janaki Jaane is “a fun-filled conventional family drama with songs and situational comedy narrated in a simple and straightforward way.”

The story, set in a rural backdrop, is about Janaki (Navya), who works in an offset press. Fear is her biggest enemy. The trailer reveals that she is afraid of the dark; someone has to be on guard outside the door when she goes to the washroom, she is afraid to walk alone in narrow lanes etc. For this reason, she stays unmarried for sometime until she ties the knot with Unni Mukundan (Saiju), a sub-contractor.

Saiju Kurup in Janaki Jaane

Saiju Kurup in Janaki Jaane | Photo Credit: Rishilal Unnikrishnan

“Her fear of the unknown causes several problems in her life and that of others. However, I have treated this problem in a light-hearted way because I did not want it to end up as a thriller,” explains Aniesh, who has written the story as well, a first for him. Anil Narayanan and Rohan Raj are the co-writers.

Inspired by a dream

The inspiration for the movie was a dream that he had. “In that dream I saw a woman running through a rubber plantation with a bag in her hand, with dogs barking and foxes howling in the background. That image stayed with me and, eventually, I developed it into this story,” says Aniesh.

He adds that it will be another powerful role for Navya after Oruthee (2022), which she did after an eight-year break from Malayalam cinema. “She has portrayed Janaki’s predicament very well without going overboard.  Since she is someone who loves comedy, she has handled those scenes also with elan. Saiju, an actor with immense potential, has given his all to his character. The surprise element would be Kottayam Nazeer, who plays a politician,” Aniesh says. Also in the cast are Johny Antony, Sharafudeen, Anarkali Marikar, and George Kora among others.

Aniesh Upaasana

Aniesh Upaasana | Photo Credit: Rishilal Unnikrishnan

He started out by directing a music video, ‘Mayamadhavam’, which entered the Limca Book of Records as the first video album shot on a still digital camera. He has also directed another music video, ‘Kavyadalangal’, which had songs written by actor Kavya Madhavan. In the meantime he emerged as a prolific fashion photographer, doing photoshoots for leading brands.

This is Aniesh’s fourth film as a director after Matinee (2012), Seconds (2014) and Popcorn (2016). These films did not do well at the box office. “Failures are part of this field. That did not deter me and Janaki Jaane has been a satisfying experience as a filmmaker. A lot of credit should go to my producers [Scube Films] who gave me the freedom to conceptualise the work the way I wanted to. I was struggling to find a producer and that’s when they came in,” he says.

Aniesh Upaasana with Navya Nair on the location of Janaki Jaane

Aniesh Upaasana with Navya Nair on the location of Janaki Jaane | Photo Credit: Rishilal Unnikrishnan

SCube, headed by three women, Shenuga, Shegna and Sherga, is a subsidiary of the prestigious Grihalakshmi Productions and had entered the industry by producing the much acclaimed, Uyare (2019).

Mohanlal fan

Aniesh entered the industry 22 years ago as a still photographer. “I always wanted to be in cinema and it was my dream to meet Mohanlal, whom I adore. But it was not easy for someone growing up in Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu where we didn’t have movie theatres. I had to meet Lal sir. As the first step, I had to be on a shooting location for which I bought a second-hand camera. I learnt everything on my own and, eventually, met the actor on the sets of Kilichundan Mambazham. Subsequently I have been able to associate with him professionally and personally. I have also taken the stills of his directorial debut, Barroz,” he says.

A self-taught filmmaker, Aniesh is hopeful about people coming to theatres to watch his film. “If you give a good film, viewers will flock to theatres. Jude Anthany Joseph has shown that with 2018. Akhil Sathyan’s Pachuvum Athbhutha Vilakkum is also doing well. When they get to see only bad films back-to-back in theatres, viewers will naturally turn to OTT platforms,” he says.

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