I approach every film as my maiden one, says filmmaker Salim Ahamed

The director’s ‘And The Oskar Goes To…’ hits the marquee on June 21. He opens up on his life after the acclaimed Adaminte Makan Abu

Published - June 20, 2019 05:00 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Salim Ahamed

Salim Ahamed

In 2011, filmmaker Salim Ahamed made his début with Adaminte Makan Abu, which went on to win the National award for the best feature film. It also won the best actor award for Salim Kumar who played the lead and was India’s official entry for the Oscars in the best foreign language category that year. Salim followed it up with Kunjananthante Kada (2013) and Pathemari (2015), both featuring Mammootty in the lead.

As his latest, And The Oskar Goes To… with Tovino Thomas as the hero, releases today, the filmmaker speaks to FridayReview on how difficult it has been to achieve and sustain success in the film industry. Edited excerpts from the interview:

What is And The Oskar Goes To… about?

Issak Ebrahem, a youngster hailing from a village, played by Tovino Thomas, strives hard to realise his dream of becoming a filmmaker. Like any aspiring filmmaker, he goes through his share of hurdles till he tastes success when his film is chosen as India’s official entry to the Oscars.

Is the story a reflection of your own journey?

(Laughs) That is a question I have been asked the most by those who have seen the movie. Although it is not completely autobiographical, there are certain elements from my experience. For instance, if Pathemari spoke about those who struggle in West Asia to make a living, And The Oskar Goes To… talks about those who toil to make movies.

Are the struggles of those who fail often forgotten?

In the history of cinema, there are so many whose efforts have vanished. My film goes beyond the glitz and glamour of showbiz; it is about life behind the camera. Even when filmmakers become successful in the eyes of the world, their struggle never actually ends.

From your experience, how is it like to take an Indian movie to the Oscars?

Our films compete in the best foreign language film category. The Academy (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) mainly focusses on the culture of the country from where the movie comes and technical perfection. It requires a big financial set-up to market a film there. It is never easy to catch the attention of the Academy members whose votes decide the winners. It is not a simple process. During the IFFK (International Film Festival of Kerala) last year, Tamil director Vetri Maaran told me that he was ready with a script based on his own experience of taking his film Visaranai to the Oscars.

A still from ‘And The Oscar Goes To…’

A still from ‘And The Oscar Goes To…’

Do you feel there might be a change so that Indian films could compete in other categories too?

It is in the technical aspects that we fall behind in the main categories. But we can compete in terms of drama. Of late, there has been some fabulous films in Malayalam and that makes me feel that we will conquer such platforms.

On shooting abroad?

In Pathemari , only a small portion was shot outside the country. But almost the entire second half of And The Oskar Goes To… has been shot abroad. It requires meticulous planning. The script has to get prior approval. If things are planned well, the process is easy. I had done auditions there and also hired some technicians for the schedule abroad.

Life after Adaminte Makan Abu ...

I did go around with the script of Adaminte Makan Abu for quite a while, trying to convince producers. It was not easy. Eventually, I had to take on the mantle of a co-producer. Now, I don’t face much difficulties in bringing on board producers or artistes. Also, at present, Malayali viewers are accepting realistic stories.

Success comes with expectations. Does that bother you while attempting a new project?

I approach every new film as my maiden one. I take my time in scripting and start the shooting only when I am really convinced about the story.

How do you look back at Kunjananthante Kada and Pathemari ?

Over the years, I have come across so many stories about how my films, especially Adaminte Makan Abu and Pathemari, have been an influence in the lives of so many people. Then there are many who feel that Kunjananthante Kada is my best film so far and that it was ahead of its times.

You have worked with Salim Kumar, Mammootty and now Tovino?

Their involvement and their commitment to their roles have been incredible. I feel Mollywood is privileged to have stars such as Mammookka (Mammootty) who are brilliant actors as well. And The Oskar Goes To… will show the potential of Tovino, an amazing talent.

What next?

I am working on a script that looks at how age has an influence on the various phases of human life.

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