James and Alice is not just a film for director Sujith Vaassudev. It has been a story that has been with him for quite some time. All this while, he let the characters talk to him. Now, after they have been carefully etched in celluloid, Sujith says it is exciting to finally have them on screen. “I have had this story in mind for so long; I’ve been so involved with the plot,” he says. The cinematographer, whose most recent work was Anarkali, is marking his directorial debut with James and Alice .
Scripted by S. Janardhanan, the story is a take on relationships. “It is not just the story of two people. It could be anybody’s story…. of the people we see around us. It is about what happens to a man-woman relationship in today’s milieu. This is one such story where a beautiful relationship gets lost in the cacophony of life,” Sujith adds. Prithviraj essays the role of James, an ad filmmaker and Vedhika plays Alice, a banker. “I had Prithviraj in mind for James and when I narrated the story to him, he was interested in the character.” Prithviraj dons a new look as an artist, slick haired and pony-tailed. He also sports a salt and pepper style. “As an artist, he is passionate about painting and his art, but after marriage, he becomes an ad filmmaker for better economic prospects, hence the different styles,” Sujith explains.
For someone who has developed his own cinematographic language, Sujith did not find direction to be a whole new game. “I have always treated every film I do as my own. So, my approach to filmmaking has been the same. The only thing that felt different was the additional set of responsibilities.” Being a director, he learnt that patience was a virtue he indeed possessed. “I always felt I was short-tempered, especially when it came to things not going the way I want at work. But with a five-year-old on the sets, one has to be extremely patient as he or she needs to be told everything from the start,” he laughs, crediting Miyan, who plays Pinky, James’ and Alice’s daughter, for her brilliant acting.
Direction will take up more of Sujith’s time. He has a couple of stories in mind, some of which he has already started work on. One of them could have Mammootty in the lead. “Scripting has to be done and then we’ll see,” he says. Meanwhile, cinematography is not going to take a break either. Sujith will be doing Nadirshah’s Kattapanayile Hrithik Roshan, a comedy thriller.
Sujith who entered Malayalam cinema with a film in Kerala Cafe (2009) has been picking his projects carefully. “A script should relate to the people. That is the kind of work I like to do and I have always picked films that way.” He believes in the strength of the script. “I still think it is the script that makes a film. That said, films without conventional strong scripts too have hit it off with the viewers. That as a formula need not always work. Cinema is not an independent work of art. It involves a lot of factors and team work.” He does not find himself scripting his own movies though. “My language is visual. I speak through the camera,” he says.
After the noted Molly Aunty Rocks in 2012, Sujith did a couple of celebrated projects that brought in praise – Memories , Punyalan Agarbathis, Drishyam and 7th Day . With Papanasam, Amar Akbar Antony and Anarkali, Sujith has been busy. “I am enjoying this busy phase,” he laughs.
James and Alice was shot in 64 days mostly in Ernakulam and partly in Kattapana, Alappuzha and Thiruvalla. Produced by Krishnan Sethukumar and Dr. Saji Kumar, the film has Saikumar, Vijayaraghavan, Sudheer Karamana and Manju Pillai. Music is by Gopi Sunder. The film is set to release on May 5.