Two group of men face off intensely in a dimly-lit underground parking lot. A brawl is imminent. However, a group of percussionists playing a Moplah wedding song abruptly appears in between them through a jump cut and the scene then transitions into a wedding event, leaving the audience in stitches. Khalid Rahman’s experimental action-comedy Thallumaala is full of such transitions, expertly crafted by editor Nishadh Yusuf.
Social media junkie
The first fight sequence of Thallumaala featuring the title song gives a glimpse of Nishadh’s talent
“All the transitions you see in the movie were conceptualised and planned well before the shoot. It was all about getting it right while shooting.”Editor Nishadh Yusuf
The action-comedy starring Tovino Thomas and Kalyani Priyadarshan, praised as a technical milestone in Malayalam cinema, owes a lot to Nishadh’s sharp cuts and peppy transitions that have been inspired by social media reels.
However, Nishadh insists that the edit itself was not particularly challenging. “All the transitions you see in the movie were conceptualised and planned well before the shoot. It was all about getting it right while shooting. I was spending a lot of time on social medial reels. In fact, I spend far more time watching videos online than movies. Fortunately, I got to work on a project in which I could employ all the clever transitions and edits that I have come across in various reels and videos,” he explains. Not surprisingly, the quick and quirky transitions that Instagram reels are famous for can be seen throughout Thallumaala.
The much-praised ‘theater fight’ from Thallumaala
Nishadh began his career editing TV soaps before entering the movie industry as Vivek Harshan’s assistant and then debuting as an editor with Vinayan’s Raghuvinte Swantham Rasiya (2011), followed by the same director’s Dracula 2012 (2012). “That was a time when Vinayan sir was finding it difficult to get technicians to work on his films. Therefore, there was no one to help me and the edit of the film took more than an year to complete,” says Nishadh, who could not find any work in the industry for a few years after that.
However, after a brief stint with various Malayalam TV channels, he returned to the industry as a spot editor.
Friendship and coordination
It was while spot editing Anil Radhakrishnan Menon’s North 24 Kaatham(2016), that Nishadh met Khalid. Three years later, they worked together on Khalid’s Mammootty-starrer Unda(2019), which told the story of a group of policemen from Kerala who are send for election duty to a tribal village in Chhattisgarh. “Although Thallumaala has opened a lot of doors for me, Unda is the work I enjoyed the most as it is primarily a travel story in which these characters are moving from one place to another. There is a classic touch to it and it is always fun to edit conversations between a bunch of characters,” he says.
A scene from Unda
While Unda might be the polar opposite of Thallumaala in style, the close friendship Nishadh now has with Khalid contributed a lot to the making of the quirky sequence of brawls. “Considering how important coordination was for such a project, it really helped that we were on the same page and shared similar tastes regarding how the final cut needs to look,” he adds.
It is the same rapport he has with filmmaker Tharun Moorthy. Tharun’s experimental thriller Operation Java (2021) earned praise for its slick making. Nishad says, “Tharun gives a lot of freedom and appreciation to his technicians. So I got to do some sharp editing to trim and make the episodic structure of that movie work for the audience. I am really excited about his new work, Saudi Vellakka, which I had a lot of fun working on.”
Currently, he is busy working on his biggest project yet — the much anticipated Suriya-starrer, tentatively titled, Suriya 42 —, and Tinu Pappachan’s next with Kunchacko Boban in the lead.