Expectations are high as filmmaker Senna Hegde’s 1744 White Alto reaches cinemas on November 18. Senna’s previous Malayalam film Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam, released on OTT, was a winner all the way, bagging the Kerala State and National film awards for the Malayalam filmmaker in addition to commercial success.
Senna says 1744 White Alto is completely different from Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam, which was about an engagement that goes awry.
Senna calls his new film “a nadan (ethnic) film, but one that looks and feels a little like a Western film with dry grasslands, vast landscapes and emptiness, much like the scenery we have seen in Western films. Kasaragod has that kind of terrain in summer. But, at the end of the day, it is a comedy, a crime comedy.”
He narrates that the story begins when a car gets lost and a case of mistaken identity creates a situation where groups of people are chasing each other. The car becomes the key in the whole equation. “1744 is the partial number of the car that goes missing and it is a white Alto. Everyone is searching for the car. That is why we made it the title of the film.”
He points out that most of his films do not have a big story. “Instead of plot-driven films, most of my films are character-driven.”
Explaining that his previous film also did not have an intricate plot, he points that there was no story per se. “It is a very thin thread that the film rests on. We have seen films in which a young woman elopes on the eve of her marriage or engagement. It’s the way we wrote and treated the film that made people notice it. We have followed the same process here. Something bad happens and the police gets involved. It revolves around a cat-and-mouse chase that unfolds over 48 hours. ’
In the lead is Sharafudheen, playing a cop who is trying to find the car. “He is chasing the bad guys, but who they are should remain a suspense,” maintains the director.
The ensemble cast of about 40 people includes Anand Manmadhan, Rajesh Madhavan and some of the actors who had acted in Thinkalazcha Nishchayam. “There aren’t many female characters film but the eight women in the film have their own space,” says Senna.
Unlike many films shot in Kasaragod, which plays up the distinctive dialect of the region, 1744 White Alto does not highlight any particular dialect. Senna says that variations of regional Malayalam can be heard in the film as the actors speak in their own dialects. “The story does not unfold in a known place. It could have happened anywhere, so the place does not have an identity in the film. Consistency in language does not make a difference as such,” says the director.
The same team that worked behind the scene of Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam has worked on 1744 White Alto as well. Cinematographer Sreeraj Raveendran has co-written the script with Senna.
Admitting that he enjoys the immersive experience of watching certain films in theatres, he says there are also movies that he would prefer to see in the comfort of his house. The director believes that his work is finished once he completes a film and hands it over to a producer. “Whatever their decision is fine. If my movies releases in theatres and people watch the film, that is great. If it comes on OTT and it gets watched, that is also fine. As long as viewers enjoy the film, I am satisfied,” insists Senna.
By November-end, Senna hopes to begin shooting his new film, Padmini, starring Aparna Balamurali and Kunchacko Boban, which is now in the pre-production stage.
“We are scouting for locations. Since there are a lot of films being shot in Kasaragod, we are planning to make our film elsewhere. Moreover, we need a different terrain,” explains Senna.