A film adaptation of GR Indugopan’s short story Amminipillai Vett Case to Oru Thekkan Thallu Case came with a set of creative challenges, admits director Sreejith N. The short story had appeared in a vernacular weekly and Sreejith, a fan of the author, was so taken by it that he wanted to make a film.
Set in 1980s Anchuthengu, near Kollam, the film is about a “group of people, their families and conflicts. Like all of Indugopan’s stories, this story is also rooted and had the potential for a film,” he says . After acquiring the rights, he developed the script with Rajesh Pinnadan. While the original story takes place over a few years, they adapted the action as playing out over six months.
“I hope we have been able to do justice to the original. We have had to make changes for the medium [cinema]. And while doing so, we were careful not to lose the soul of the story.” Sreejith says he has carried the idea with him for four years including pre-production which alone took two-and-a-half years.
A graphic designer, Sreejith is a graduate of Fine Arts College, Thiruvananthapuram. He is also the creative head of Old Monks Designs which makes poster designs for films. Sreejith says he always wanted to make films and Old Monks was the springboard to get there. For more than a decade, Old Monks has designed posters for Malayalam cinema — from Ustad Hotel, Kumbalangi Nights, Virus, Thuramukham, Pada, Bheeshma Parvam to Malik, Jallikkattu and Ee. Ma. Yau to name a few. This work paved the way for Oru Thekkan Thallu Case.
The film stars Biju Menon, Roshan Mathew, Nimisha Sajayan and Padmapriya in lead roles. “As the script was shaping up we knew wanted to Bijuettan, Nimisha and Padmapriya. Once it was ready, we decided on Roshan. Like Indugopan’s stories, this film has strong women characters.”
Padmapriya returns to Malayalam cinema after a gap. Since the milieu is set in the 1980s, they wanted actors who could reflect that period, “For instance, Padmapriya asked if she should reduce weight, but we did not want her to as it did not warrant it.”
Although the story is set in Anchuthengu, there was no escaping ‘modernity’ there. Art director Dilip Nath meticulously ‘recreated’ the village near Kodungallur, Thrissur, capturing every small detail. As much as it is a faithful recreation of the period, it is not rigorous. There is a dash of the surreal, Sreejith says. The lighthouse at Anchuthengu is important to the narrative; “it is a character and it gives a fairytale-like quality to the story.” The lighthouse in the film is the one at Udupi.
From the promotional material, the film boasts a rich visual quality. “I am basically a designer, and everything is design for me. I have designed this film too,” he explains.
There have been comparisons to this film with Ayyappanum Koshiyum, given that both films are about the conflict between two main characters. Sreejith clarifies that Oru Thekkan Thallu Case is not about two characters, “This is on a much larger canvas, the narrative is grand. There are multiple characters with multiple conflicts here.”
Oru Thekkan Thallu Casereleases in theatres on September 8