Writer Shahi Kabir on turning director with ‘Elaveezhapoonchira’

The crime thriller has Soubin Shahir in the lead

Updated - July 15, 2022 11:21 am IST

Published - July 15, 2022 10:23 am IST

Soubin Shahir in Elaveezhapoonchira

Soubin Shahir in Elaveezhapoonchira | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Shahi Kabir, a police officer with the Kerala Police, made his debut in Malayalam cinema as a writer with the critically-acclaimed Joseph (2018). His second work as writer, Nayattu (2021), was an even bigger success. Shahi turned director with Elaveezhapoonchira, which is reaching theatres today.

Shahi’s experience behind the camera has been as an assistant to Dileesh Pothan in his National Award-winning film, Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum. In 2015, he wrote and directed a short film In? Glorious Life with fellow police officers working in front of and behind the camera. “This is a dream-come-true moment. I had plans to direct Joseph, but I was not confident about doing it then,” says Shahi, who has taken a five-year break from his job.

Elaveezhapoonchira unfolds in the picturesque Ilaveezhapoonchira in Kottayam district, a tourist hotspot and one of the highest points in the district. The story revolves around the police wireless station on the hillock and the personnel posted there.

Shahi Kabir

Shahi Kabir | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Shahi had worked at the station in 2014, so too the film’s scenarists Nidheesh G and Shaji Maraad, who are now posted at the Armed Reserve Camp in Kottayam. “This is a spot where thunder and lightning strikes are frequent. Sometimes it would last for two to three hours. Although, the policemen take precautions, tourists are not aware of this. People have lost lives after being struck by lightning,” Shahi says.

There are several myths about how the place got the name Ilaveezhapoonchira, the literal translation of which is flowery pond where leaves do not fall!

Although Nidheesh had published a story by the name ‘Elaveezhapoonchira’ earlier, the film is not based on that work. “It is a crime thriller and we have used the geography and the landscape of Elaveezhapoonchira for the narrative.”

Soubin Shahir in Elaveezhapoonchira

Soubin Shahir in Elaveezhapoonchira | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Shahi adds that there have been days when they had to wind up the shoot by afternoon because of the lightning. “There were around 60 of us on the location and we used to take refuge inside the building that houses the station or jeeps..”

Initially, Shahi had approached a few directors to direct the film. “It was just before finalising a director that we three arrived at a different dimension in the story and I decided to direct it.” The first day as director was tough, he recalls. “We were planning to shoot a scene with a few characters. We had to change the plan and the first scene was shot at the crowded bus stand at Thodupuzha. I felt as if I would get a heart attack!” laughs Shahi.

Soubin Shahir in Elaveezhapoonchira

Soubin Shahir in Elaveezhapoonchira | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

He mentions that they did not want an actor with the “stereotypical hero image” to play Madhu, the protagonist, and that is why Soubin Shahir was cast. “He is a brilliant artiste and he blew us away in some of the scenes. This would be a landmark role in his career.” Sudhhy Koppa and Jude Anthany Joseph play his colleagues, while the cast also has over a dozen real-life police officers.

Police stories

He stresses that even though all his films revolve around police personnel, the similarity stops there. If Joseph was about the emotional upheavals of a retired policeman, Nayattu is about three police personnel who become victims of the corruption within the system. “It so happened that the projects I wrote were about police characters. The stories are not the same,” says Shahi, adding that his next work, Writer, starring Jayasurya in the lead, also has a police character. Aaravam, a project with Tovino Thomas set against the backdrop of the snake boat race, has been put on hold.

Shahi says he is pleased with his journey in Malayalam cinema. “I tried to bring in something new and I am happy that it worked out to some extent. It is that confidence that keeps me going.” Nayattu was a game-changer for me. I got calls even from within the police force, especially from top-ranking officers. There were offers to write in other languages as well,” he adds. Nayattu is being remade in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil.

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