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From war zone to silver screen

Never did Staff Sergeant Alencheril while undergoing basic training at Fort Knox in Kentucky, or during airborne training at Fort Benning or as a parachute rigger in Fort Lee or as Military Intelligence Collector deployed in Iraq, imagine that after combat missions he would wield cameras and turn to Hollywood - acting, anchoring and directing as Alen Matters. From Athirampuzha, he joined the seminary working with the Salesians in Kolkata, spreading the gospel in villages in Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, joined American military and then moved on to Hollywood. As they say, many a time life is stranger than fiction; the stuff of movies, this is certainly the case of Cyriac Alencheril, aka Alen Matters.

Alen is back home acting, producing a Malayalam-English film, Nawal Enna Jewel (Nawal the Jewel) with an international star cast comprising Iraqi actor Reem Kadem, Shweta Menon, Anjali Upasana, Sudheer Karamana, Paris Laxmi, and Life of Pi fame star Adil Hussain, slated for an Onam release.

“’Be all you can be’ is my mission in life,” says Alen about his multi-faceted life and crossover professional careers. He began life as a missionary trying to save souls, changing course to become a soldier meant to take lives. “From missionary to mercenary,” he says with a smile on his transformation from “a disciple of Christ to a super duper paratrooper, U.S. soldier.”

Alen speaks about his three distinct life phases. Of the latest, as a cameo Hollywood actor, he is accepting. “Los Angeles (LA) is a place where every daydreamer comes. Tanushree Datta was my classmate in New York Film Academy. Well, I am still learning,” he says.

After taking a sabbatical from priesthood, Alen moved into Bollywood for sometime drawn by the arts, theatre and acting. In school, he remembers being the best actor, “though it was only in Pala,” he says. He came to do mimicry at Fr. Abel’s Kalabhavan too, smitten early by the form, only to be guided back to the seminary. But the arc lights continued to lure through the different roles he played till then. Finally, given a chance, even a small one, he took it happily. “As an Indian in LA my roles are the typecast ones, playing a terrorist, doctor, Uber driver or an IT guy. In Hollywood they typecast you and I don’t mind that. Brad Pitt can’t be cast a hero in Hindi films, so they can’t expect an Indian guy to play major roles. This is the trend there. Priyanka Chopra got lucky; her breakthrough was with her singing,” he says.

Alen has appeared on television in Jimmy Kimmel’s shows, in Funny or Die, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. His upcoming role is in the film Kamasutra Garden in Tampa and an untitled Egyptian film.

And as this native returns to his land as filmmaker, Alen is often asked about his prestigious filial relationship with Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church. “I belong to the religious family of Changanacherry Archdiocese, two of my sisters are Catholic nuns; people have the notion that the film world is a world of drug and alcohol abuse. Sadly the Malayalam film industry was hit by a few incidents,” he says.

Nawal Enna Jewel tells the story of women empowerment and atrocities against women. “I am playing a new generation Gulf Malayali falling for a local girl in Tehran,” he says about the film that has a West Asian twist.

Most of the film’s casting had been done through social media. This will be the first time that a film will have simultaneous bilingual translation in sync sound.

“The time has come for independent films,” says Alen on the novelty of storyline, cinematography, marketing and sound techniques of the film.

Written, directed and co-produced by Renjilal Damodaran and with script and dialogues by Renjilal and V. K. Ajith Kumar, the film is on the floors with several NRI Malayalis debuting like Chinnu Korah, Shiney Simon and a few new talents from Oman.

Alen says, “This is peculiar about Keralites, like migratory birds we come back to homeland hopefully...”


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Printable version | Sep 9, 2021 5:56:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/alen-matters-from-hollywood-is-prodcuing-a-malayalam-english-film-nawal-the-jewel-on-the-atrocities-on-women/article8556104.ece

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