Friday Review

Playing on words

Bipin Chandran

Bipin Chandran   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


Scenarist Bipin Chandran talks about how cinema found him and how he, in turn, found his passion.

Bipin Chandran is a man of many words. The scenarist-of-the-moment seems to be as verbose as he is prolific a writer, gushing non-stop over the phone about the success of his new film, Pavada. Directed by G. Marthandan and starring Prithviraj in the lead, the film about two alcoholics has pirouetted its way into the hearts of the audience. Pavada is Bipin’s third screenplay, coming after Best Actor and 1983, two of Malayalam cinema’s biggest hits in the past few years.

It’s like he has the Midas touch when it comes to screenplays... “I definitely can’t take credit for the success of any of the films. The text of an attakatha in Kathakali maybe superlative but it makes for a spectacular play only if the performance, stage, technicalities and the like are on par. Likewise, good cinema is always a product of team work. No one can take sole credit for it. Pavada is doing well because the director stepped up to the plate and gave the screenplay a good treatment; because Prithviraj went to town with the character of Pambu Joy, adding new dimensions for the dialogues that I had written; because Prithviraj and Anoop Menon, who plays the other lead, made a fantastic team, and so on,” says Bipin.

“They say that there is a time and place for everything and increasingly it’s becoming that way for Malayalam cinema too. And there is simply no magic formula for it or we wouldn’t all be biting our nails, waiting for the audience's response on release day! Pavada simply lucked out when it came to the current taste of the audience,” he adds.

The 38-year-old’s day job is that of a Malayalam teacher at Government Higher Secondary School, Edakunnam, Kottayam, near his hometown of Ponkunnam, but its cinema – and words – that are his passions.

“I come from a family that has no connection whatsoever to cinema. Ponkunnam, though, is another story. It has a rich legacy in cinema through the likes of stalwarts such as lyricist Ponkunnam Damodaran and novelist and scenarist Ponkunnam Varkey. It’s also the home of actor Babu Antony, who is, incidentally, my neighbour. Ponkunnam’s Leela Mahal cinema theatre, owned by his sister, is where I became familiar with Malayalam cinema. I even remember the first film I watched there – Yavanika, and I was hooked,” he says.

Even while studying at S.B. College, Changanassery, he had no dreams of entering cinema. “All I was interested in was beating my senior in college [director] Martin Parkkat at his own game,” he says, with characteristic frankness. Martin, it seems, was the dashing star of college – arts club secretary, winner of the Prem Nazir trophy for theatre and all round heartthrob. “I wanted to do all that he was doing and be all that he was! Our interest in theatre drew us together and gradually we built up a formidable theatre team. We even represented M.G. University at the national level.”

When Martin went off to Maharaja’s College for post-graduation, so did Bipin and it is here that he became a card carrying member of the Maharaja’s group of new-age industry folk such as Amal Neerad, Anwar Rasheed, Aashiq Abu and the likes [or what Bipin calls as cinematographer/director Rajeev Ravi’s “legacy”], all of who have gone on to revolutionise Malayalam cinema. In fact, Bipin was Anwar’s roommate in the hostel. “All of us lived and breathed cinema at Maharaja’s. Until then cinema was but a pipe dream, something that we longed to be in but had believed was unattainable. Prior to this, I had even written articles under titles such as ‘Kittatha Munthiri Pulikkum’ in the college magazine explaining why I’d never make it in films! Rajeev set off the trend by going off to Bollywood; then Amal went to study at SRFTI, Aashiq started assisting in movies… and we started believing in the dream,” he recalls.

Bipin too made his foray soon enough, not as a scenarist, but as the writer of the “very serious” philosophical tome on actor Mammootty, Mammootty Kazhchayum Vazhiyum, which later came to be taught for film and cultural studies courses in the state.

The Maharaja’s boys are known to take care of their own and when Aashiq decided to make his debut with Mammootty-starrer Daddy Cool, it was Bipin he turned to, to write the dialogues. “Mammookka’s first reaction was ‘he writes movies too’? (Laughs) I had met him a few times while researching for my book and he must have taken a liking to me, for he started recommending me to people,” says Bipin, who debuted as a scenarist with Martin’s debut flick, Best Actor.

Next screenplay up is a Manju Warrier-Jayasurya-starrer to be directed by newbie Antony Sony. “The best thing about working with friends or like–minded people is that I have the freedom to tell them exactly what I want. Our friendship is a huge deal for all of us but that doesn’t mean they’ll hand you everything on a platter. You’ve got to work for it,” says Bipin.

Speaking up

In tandem with screenplays, he’s also making a name for himself as a dialogue writer in films such as Samsaaram Aarogyathinu Haanikaram, Buddy and the upcoming Dileep-starrer King Liar, the ‘comeback’ film of comedy kingpins, directors Siddhique and Lal, to name a few. In fact, it was on the sets of Samsaaram… that he became acquainted with actor Manianpillai Raju, producer of Pavada and got offered the job. “People always ask me why I still write dialogues. Dialogues are as equally important as the script, even more so, perhaps. I’m good at it and I simply want to be the best at whatever I do,” he says.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 5:00:18 PM |

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