Ranjith Sankar and Jayasurya team up for ‘Sunny’

Jayasurya’s 100th film, tells the story of a musician seeking answers after suffering a series of setbacks in his career and life

September 20, 2021 05:22 pm | Updated September 21, 2021 12:47 pm IST

Jayasurya in a still from ‘Sunny’, directed by Ranjith Sankar. This is Jayasurya’s 100th film

Jayasurya in a still from ‘Sunny’, directed by Ranjith Sankar. This is Jayasurya’s 100th film

Film director Ranjith Sankar has consistently pushed the envelope with his themes. His directorial debut, Passenger, is often credited with opening a new chapter in Malayalam cinema. Up next to release, on September 23, is Sunny , the filmmaker’s eighth film with actor Jayasurya.

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Sunny, a failed musician, seeks solitude with his memories keeping him company. As he struggles to recover his confidence, composure and his music, his family, friends and colleagues flit in and out of his thoughts. Sunny flees from Dubai to Kerala during the pandemic, seeking answers after suffering a series of setbacks to his career and life. Sunny maps his inner journey to get his act together.

Inspired by films such as the Tom Hanks-starrer Castaway (2009) and Locke (2013) starring Tom Hardy, Ranjith knew that the movie needed a strong script and an actor who could pull it off. “I had always wanted to make a film with one character,” says Ranjith. “I was aware it would be difficult to write and direct and it would be even more difficult for the lead actor. Many of the films in the genre are thrillers, usually about the character trying to escape from a precarious situation.”

Instead of a thriller, Ranjith wanted to explore the humanistic aspects. For more than 10 years, Ranjith discussed the theme with interested actors.

A lockdown script

Ranjith had almost dropped the idea as unfeasible, when the lockdown was announced. “I thought it was the best time to make such a film, on isolation, loneliness, introspection and solitude.” Written during the first national lockdown that began in March 2020, the script developed with one character occupying centrestage throughout the film. At the height of the lockdown, Ranjith found his theme, his character and the screenplay for his new film. He took six months to write and polish the script.

Says Ranjith: “After the first draft, I reworked it. It was an interesting piece of literature but I was not sure how successful it would be as a movie. I had to convince myself that the theme would work as a feature film and not be a gimmick.”

Once Ranjith had completed the second draft, he knew he had got it right. Then he approached Jayasurya. Although Jayasurya liked the script and the theme, he wondered if he would be able meet the demands of the character. “I agreed with his assessment. I wanted an actor who was confident about the character and approached another actor who was willing to go along with the script,” recalls the director.

They were almost set to announce the film with another actor when Jayasurya contacted Ranjith. The actor told Ranjith that the character refused to leave his mind and that he would like to essay Sunny. “I know that Jayan is not the kind of person who would say things like that if it were not true. To have him play Sunny was certainly an advantage as I felt that the character would be best enacted by someone who was on the same page as I was.”

Working with Jayasurya

Agreeing that he and Jayasurya share a comfort zone, Ranjith points out that their friendship does not enter the frame when it comes to cinema as both of them have clear ideas about their work.

Shot in Grand Hyatt in Kochi during November 2020, the film’s cast and crew took over a floor of the hotel till the shooting was over. “I saw the adherence to COVID-19 protocols as a challenge to our creativity. I felt this was a film that was ideal for the situation we were in.”

While Sunny is the only character in the film, viewers get to see and hear about his parents, his sister, his wife, his mistress and close friends. “Sunny is not a loner and he shares a special relationship with his father. It is when he is unable to live up to his expectations that he tries to run away from life.”

Although Sunny feels his music has been muted, during his period of introspection, he finds the reason why he was out of tune with reality. Ranjith says he has used the background score and songs to express Sunny’s moods as he connects the past and present.

Innocent, Siddique, Vijayaraghavan, Mamta Mohandas and Aju Varghese appear in the film as characters in Sunny’s story. As the director emphasises, it is not easy for the actor to carry the weight of an entire film on his character. “We have the best of technicians to support the main actor. Madhu Neelakandan is the director of cinematography and Shankar Sharma, the composer. Music plays an important role in enhancing the story and the arc of the character. Sound designer Sinoy Joseph has done the sync sound,” says Ranjith.

Sunny happens to be Jayasurya’s 100th film. The director says both Jayasurya and he were not aware that the actor was reaching a century with the film. “That was nothing more than a coincidence. As I said, this was a movie that almost got made with someone else!”

Produced by Ranjith and Jayasurya under their banner Dreams N Beyond, the film drops on Amazon Prime. “It is my first film on OTT. It will be available in 250 countries and I am waiting to see what the response is like,” says Ranjith.

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