Far-sighted humour

Cinema Look forward to YouTube sitcom ‘Akkara Kazchakal' on the silver screen. Nita Sathyendran

H is lampooning of the Malayali diaspora had Malayali audiences on the web, numbering in their thousands, in splits as he and his family adjusted to life as expatriates in the United States (U.S.). Now YouTube star George Thekkinmootil and his motley crew are back with a bang! And no, it's not the much-awaited season two of their ‘Akkara Kazchakal' – the first ever Malayalam sitcom on YouTube, instead, it's something “bigger and better.” Come November end, we'll get to see our favourite ‘Americanised' comedians of the internet become stars of the silver screen with ‘Akkara Kazchakal – The Movie!'

In an email interview, Friday Review caught up with New Jersey-based Ajayan Venugopalan and Abi Verghese, who not only conceptualised ‘Akkara Kazhchakal,' but who are also the directors and scriptwriters of the series and the movie.

New direction

“When ‘Akkara Kazhchakal' reached 50 episodes, we knew that it was time to take a breather and analyse the direction we needed to take before the quality of the show started deteriorating. As part of it we decided to do a stage show based on the series. The show was well-received and we ended up travelling to most of the major cities in the U.S. and Europe. The stage show gave us an opportunity to interact with our fans and realise how much they missed the series. So we decided that it was time to get back together and do a movie based on the show,” say the duo, both of whom are professionals who “moonlight” as filmmakers on weekends.

Like them, their cast and crew such as JoseKutty Veliyakalumkal who plays insurance agent George, Sajini Sachariah who plays George's wife, Rincy (a nurse), Jacob Gregory, his irrepressible, stuttering assistant, Girigiri, Paulose Palatty, George's appachan… are all theatre and film enthusiasts who signed up for the project for the lark of it. “To revive ‘Akkara Kazchakal' as a sitcom is rather challenging as most of our cast and crew are part-timers. Another season would mean more than a year of mostly unpaid commitment to the project. On top of that we were also not quite sure on how to work it out so that we can actually pay the cast and crew for their hard work. That's when we thought of making a movie. It all fell into place when BOM TV, an Internet-based Malayalam cable provider in the U.S., agreed to produce the movie,” add the duo. The crew started filming in mid-September, with a schedule mostly centred on the weekends so as to “keep their day jobs.”

As in the series, the story centres on the shenanigans of George and his family, and a few of his acquaintances such as Mahi and Babykuttan (male nurses and recent immigrants to the U.S.) and Krish and Baiju (recession-hit, out-of-work techies). George and Rincy's busy work schedules take a toll on the family and his family finally force George to take them on a much needed vacation to Niagara Falls. And as expected nothing goes according to plans…

“Though the story is laced with humour there is a serious undertone to it. The movie addresses many of social issues and challenges a Malayali family faces in keeping up with this hectic and connected world around us,” says Ajayan, adding that there won't be any new characters, but there will be detailed introductions to characters so that it is not imperative for the viewer to be familiar with the series or the characters.

“It's definitely more challenging to do a movie compared to a 15-minute format for the web. The management of people and equipment is the biggest challenge of all. Since the movie is shot in a limited budget, it helps that the cast and crew chip in with multiple roles to make it work,” says Abi.

And for those fans residing in India, be not disheartened, for it will be released here. “Thanks to The Hindu we have a good fan following in India as well. We are confident of the release in Kerala and major metros nationwide. We are also planning to release to movie via the internet so that it reaches all our fans around the world,” promise Ajayan and Abi as they sign off. Something to look forward to, indeed.

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