Vineeth Sreenivasan on ‘Varshangalkku Shesham’, what inspired the movie and his passion for filmmaking

Varshangalkku Shesham, directed by Vineeth Sreenivasan, focuses on 50 years of cinema through the lives of two friends who dream of making it big in tinsel town

Updated - April 03, 2024 10:34 am IST

Published - April 02, 2024 03:58 pm IST

Vineeth Sreenivasan and Pranav Mohanlal on the set of Varshangalkku Shesham

Vineeth Sreenivasan and Pranav Mohanlal on the set of Varshangalkku Shesham | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Two friends with stardust in their eyes travel from Kerala to Chennai, the Mecca of filmmaking in the Seventies. Varshangalkku Shesham, written and directed by Vineeth Sreenivasan, trails the two as they travel from Kozhikode to Chennai, hoping to make a mark in cinema. Reaching theatres on April 11, the film is about their struggle and success as they follow their heart.

Varshangalkku Shesham zooms into Kodambakkam through the lives of Venu and Murali, essayed by Dhyan Sreenivasan and Pranav Mohanlal respectively. “One dreams of making it big in cinema while the other has his own plans. Murali motivates Venu to go to Chennai. What happens to those friends is the story of Varshangalkku Shesham. Covering five decades, the film throws light on cinema by charting the lives of the two,” says Vineeth.

Since Vineeth’s father, actor-writer-director Sreenivasan, had made the same journey from Kerala in the Seventies, the question follows whether it is based on his tryst with cinema.

Vineeth Sreenivasan and Dhyan Sreenivasan on the location of Varshangalkku Shesham

Vineeth Sreenivasan and Dhyan Sreenivasan on the location of Varshangalkku Shesham | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

“Not completely. I have listened to his stories about his early life in Chennai and also the experiences of many of his contemporaries in cinema. During my school days, I used to be an ardent reader of popular Malayalam film magazines such as Nana, Vellinakshatram and Chithrabhumi which carried articles and interviews of those working in cinema. It was a different world and most of the news on cinema was shared only through these magazines and not through television or social media. There is a Chennai that one imagines; those stories were the inspirations,” says Vineeth.

He recollects how during stage shows, actors like Mukesh and the late Innocent used to regale the team with stories of life in Chennai and cinema. Vineeth was able to get a ringside view of filmmaking and the action while Sreenivasan was shooting for Priyadarsan’s Chandralekha, starring Sreenivasan and Mohanlal.

“Before I became a resident of Chennai, it was a place that had always fascinated me. I had stayed for short periods in Kodambakkam, Ashok Nagar and so on… I believe that Varshangalkku Sesham has captured that mood of tinsel town in the seventies and eighties.”

Vineeth Sreenivasan and Pranav Mohanlal on the sets of Varshangalkku Shesham

Vineeth Sreenivasan and Pranav Mohanlal on the sets of Varshangalkku Shesham | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Although there have been Malayalam movies that have focused on the working of the Southern film industry, Vineeth maintains Varshangalkku Shesham will be a new experience. “Many of the movies were based on a certain period or incident. Mine covers 50 years, starting from the early seventies onwards. So much has changed since then — actors, filmmaking, film industry, viewers… Varshangalkku Shesham attempts to showcase that arc of time, the mood and the style of working.”

“I have fond memories of Vishu releases. ‘Jacobinte Swargarajyam’ was a Vishu release. ‘Oru Vadakkan Selfie’ was released on March 28 and last year it was the mega ‘2018’. Each of these movies has a special place in my heart. ”Vineeth Sreenivasan

Starring many of the actors he worked with in his previous film, Hridayam, Varshangalkku Shesham has a huge star cast. He says with a laugh that there are many surprises in store for viewers as the entire cast has not been revealed.

Nivin Pauly, Aju Varghese, Basil Joseph, Pranav Mohanlal, Neeraj Madhav, Dhyan Sreenivasan, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Neeta Pillai, Arjun Lal and Vineeth are some of the actors in the cast. Music director Shaan Rahman makes his debut as an actor in the film. “There are others who do some role shifting in the movie.”

Vineeth says that it was serendipity that made Varshangalkku Shesham a reality. “When we made Hridayam, many of its actors — except Kalyani and Darshana Rajendran — were just starting their film careers. But the cast of Varshangalkku Shesham is filled with busy actors juggling shooting dates with multiple filmmakers. It was a wonderful coincidence that we were able to bring them all together for this film.”

Vineeth Sreenivasan calls the shots on the set of Varshangalkku Shesham

Vineeth Sreenivasan calls the shots on the set of Varshangalkku Shesham | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Vineeth points out that he is reuniting with Nivin Pauly eight years after Jacobinte Swargarajyam; Basil was an associate director in his film but in Varshangalkku Shesham, Vineeth is working for the first time with actor Basil; Dhyan is working in a film directed by elder brother Vineeth after 11 years; Neeraj and Vineeth worked together in Vadakkan Selfie but he is directing Neeraj for the first time.

“Appu (as Pranav is called by his friends) played a character in Hridayam that is totally different from his role in Varshangalkku Shesham. I have placed him in a totally different space in this. Ammu (Kalyani) is there. I am working with actor Neeta Pillai for the first time,” says Vineeth who is also reuniting with Hridayam producer Vishakh Subramaniam of Merryland Cinemas.

Shot in 40 days on sets in Kerala, Coimbatore and Pollachi, the movie recreates the Kodambakkam and studios of Chennai at Aroor, Kochi. Some of the old-time studio scenes were shot in Coimbatore and Pollachi. “A lot of hard work and planning has gone into this shooting. Art director Nimesh Thanur reimagined Chennai for us at Aroor.”

Does Vineeth, with his impeccable track record at the marquee, get butterflies in his stomach as his movie reaches cinemas? “One gets that feeling about four to five days before the release. Till then I am engrossed in its making,” he says with a laugh.

“There is a sense of relief when a project reaches its destination, from an idea to a visual story. That feeling is undeniable. There is the satisfaction of realising that one has been able to complete it in a way one had visualised it.”

Vineeth wears many hats — writer, actor, director, lyricist, singer and composer — all with elan. He has also brought in several newbies who are now making waves in movies. This time, he introduces musician Amrit Ramnath, who makes his debut as a music director.  

Amrit had met Vineeth with some of his unreleased works. “There is a certain feel of a bygone era in his songs. Initially, his wish was to sing in the film. I asked if he would do the background score. He told me that since he was already into composing, he had a team of friends working with him. I thought it would be interesting to work with him.  He is in his twenties and I felt his perspective would be interesting and enhance the film.”

Vineeth admits that his decisions to choose a teammate are largely based on intuition. “Usually, I narrate stories that are in my comfort space. Varshangalkku Shesham is a completely different film. It is a movie about cinema. I like working with newcomers as they bring in fresh perspectives and ideas.”

Vineeth has a reputation for remaining calm on the sets even when things around him go haywire. Is there a secret about his Zen? “Generally, there is stress when the lights go off or when there is a delay in schedule. There is no point in getting worked up and making everybody stressed. However, the fact is that I really enjoy the process of working with all of them. I enjoy making films!”

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