FRIDAY REVIEW

`Good cinema will survive'

SREEDHAR PILLAI

LEADING THE WAY: Hariharan is aiming at bringing back the golden era of Malayalam movies

LEADING THE WAY: Hariharan is aiming at bringing back the golden era of Malayalam movies  

After a five-year sabbatical, veteran director Hariharan is back with his latest film, `Mayookham,' releasing today. Hariharan has directed some off-beat award-wining classics in Malayalam.

What made his films stand apart was his ability to blend commercial elements into a good story in films like `Panchagni' (1985), `Nakhashathangal' (1986), `Amrithamgamaya' (1987), `Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha' (1989), `Sargam' (1992), `Parinayam' (1994) and `Ennu Swantham Janakikutty' (1998), which were all commercial hits too.

At a time when young directors with new ideas are ruling the roost in Malayalam cinema, can a director and story-teller like Hariharan, who is from the old school, click with the generation-next audience of Kerala?

In this freewheeling interview, Hariharan talks about the past and present state of Malayalam cinema. Excerpts

`Good cinema will survive'

Your last release `Prem Pujari' got a lukewarm reception at the box office?

Today after seeing the film on TV, people call me up and tell me that it was a clean film with good music. However, the film failed as it was not marketed properly.

Why was there a long break of five years between `Prem Pujari' and `Mayookham'?

I spent quality time looking after the education of my two daughters and son. Now that they are all settled, I am back to my passion of making meaningful cinema.

What is your new film `Mayookham' all about?

Like all my earlier films, this is also a beautiful love story with a message that is subtly told. It tells the story of a girl who makes a difference in the life of a Brahmin boy who has turned a rebel owing to the evils of the reservation system prevailing in Kerala's education and Government jobs sectors. `Mayookham' is an eye opener to our education system and most of the incidents shown are based on real-life incidents.

`Good cinema will survive'

But today's youth hate messages and preaching. They seem to prefer slick packaging and pure entertainment. Please comment.

I understand that packaging and marketing are of prime importance.

`Mayookham' is packaged in an entertaining format with a strong underlying story that will be lapped up by the so-called youth. I have tried to bring back our culture and traditions that have been forgotten by the new generation. And considering my track record, I am sure that the audience will love this film.

Malayalam cinema seems to be superstar-driven with more importance given to the image of these stars than good stories?

I agree with you on that. All recent films depend largely on the image of the star.

A producer first gets the dates of the star and then writes a story that will suit his image. Where are the directors of calibre today?

I strongly believe that the golden era of Malayalam cinema was in the 70's and 80's when we had good directors like K.S. Setumadhavan, Vincent, Bharathan, I.V. Sasi, Padmarajan and others.

`Good cinema will survive'

I am one of the few directors who feels that story is the king. Today, a Malayalam film is not known by its director's name but by the name of the hero!

Do you feel that superstar films have destroyed the edifice of Malayalam cinema?

I will not blame the superstars, as Mammootty and Mohanlal are great actors.

I blame the new breed of directors who are creating a totally alien culture, as stories from popular Tamil and Hindi films are lifted and rehashed along with music.

We have some of the most picturesque locales then why should they go and shoot films in places like Pollachi, totally alien to a Malayali?

But today songs and their picturisation have become the all-important factor for selling a film?

Today, songs are forced upon the audience and the new trend of `item number' has crept into Malayalam which is sad.

Earlier songs were a part of the story narrative and I don't believe that just songs can make a film run.

How do you see the future of Malayalam cinema?

I think that good cinema will always survive. A good story and presentation are what people are looking for and it will be appreciated.

Even today people wait to see an Adoor Gopalakrishnan film which itself is a good sign for Malayalam cinema.

What about your future projects?

M.T. Vasudevan Nair is just completing a script based on ONV Kurup's `Ujjaini,' which I will be directing.

Mammooty has expressed a desire to work in the project and this will be my next film. It will start rolling after the script is ready.

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