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A storyteller at heart

VIJAY GEORGE

Sathyan Anthikad is one of the few Malayalam film directors who has maintained his ability to churn out one hit after the other.


I feel that when there are lots of untold stories about real people, why should I move away from such themes? I am more comfortable narrating such stories.



VERSATILITY HIS FORTE: Films made by Sathyan Anthikad, left, continue to make the cash registers ring.

His films are down to earth and are appreciated by the critics and the audience. His heroes are not supermen but ordinary people with the dreams and aspirations of the middle class. Like his heroes, director Sathyan Anthikad is also a simple man who has not lost touch with real life.

He has never been a man in a hurry. His stint in films had begun at the age of 19 as an assistant director in Balakrishnan's `College Girl.'

Before directing his first film `Kurukkante Kalyanam,' Sathyan had made his debut as a lyricist in the film `Love Letter.' `Oru nimisham tharoo ninnilaliyan... ' in Jesey's `Sindooram,' and singer K.S. Chitra's first song in films, `Rajani parayoo... ' were written by him. Music director Ravindran's maiden film `Choola' also had songs written by Sathyan.

Leaving a mark

Whether it be movies or songs, Sathyan leaves his mark on each of his works. The mark of a director who reaches out to people through images, words and stories.

Sathyan's films are deep rooted in real life and his movies like `T.P. Balagopalan M.A.,' `Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam,' `Gandhinagar Second Street,' `Nadodikkaattu,' `Thalayanamanthram,' `Sasneham,' `Sandesham,' `Mazhavilkkavadi,' `Veendum Chila Veettukaryangal,' `Manassinakkare' and `Achuvinte Amma,' among several others, are still cherished by fans.

While many of his peers were experimenting with new themes, Sathyan decided to stick to the lives of the people he knew well. His stories revolve around their lives, dreams, ecstasies and angst.

The success of his latest film, `Rasathanthram,' with Mohanlal and Meera Jasmine in the lead, reaffirms his conviction that good stories can bring in the viewers.

"I really feel that when there are lots of untold stories of real people, why should I move away just for the heck of it? I am more comfortable narrating such stories," he says relaxing at his home in Anthikkad, near Thrissur.

The long queues in front of the ticket counters in the theatres where `Rasathanthram' was released a month back proves that though the pace of life has changed over the years, attitudes have not, feels the director.

"Our concepts about life, tastes and beliefs are reflected in the films we make. And I do feel that there is a certain rhythm in real life even as we brag about how fast the world has become now. My efforts are to present life without any gimmicks, without following any popular trends. The changes that we are talking about are happening in the lifestyles of the people and not in their minds."

Change in characters

Yet, Sathyan feels that his characters have changed with the changing times.

"But I just cannot digest the theory that we have to dish out what the viewers need. Instead, by treating a subject in a novel way, the interest of the audience can be channelised in the film's direction. The brilliance in the films of Padmarajan and Bharathan was that they never followed set patterns."

Sathyan believes that such deviations from the beaten track will take some time to win appreciation. He points out the case of `Sandesham,' which is now regarded as a classic.

"Or take the case of `Varavelpu,' which was mentioned by the then Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee during a speech. If `Sandesham' is more relevant today, I attribute it to the change in perception and to the inroads made by the media over the years by unveiling certain hitherto unknown facets of our political system."

`Rasathanthram' has also been instrumental in bringing out the reluctant writer in him.

"I prefer to stick to direction and leave the writing part to the experts though I am actively involved during the story discussions. While beginning the script, this time too I had expected that some of my old buddies would turn up at the last moment and take over the job from me. But all of them were busy with their own work.

"Sreenivasan, Lohitadas, Renjan Pramod and Reghunath Paleri are all immersed in their projects. Although I do not have reservations in working with new writers, I think it would be better if I work with their own stories. Or, perhaps they may find it difficult to argue with me, as I am more experienced. Eventually, I decided to write the script myself and for the first time I started shooting a film with a complete script. The point is that I can now go ahead with a project even in the absence of a specialist script writer."

He had done extensive research, especially on aspects like Vasthu, while creating the character of Premachandran, a skilled carpenter.

The film also marked the return of the Sathyan Anthikkad-Mohanlal team. The duo has made some memorable movies. "Both of us had wanted to work together all along, but it never happened. However, we could achieve the same understanding even after so long and it was refreshing."

The songs in the film are topping the charts and Sathyan feels that the camaraderie he shares with music director Ilayaraja has been working wonders for him, for the fourth film in succession.

It was director Fazil who introduced the music director to him during the making of `Kochu Kochu Santoshangal.'

"Music director Johnson with whom I have been working for quite some time then too felt that it would be a different experience. Though I had a formal relationship with Ilayaraja during the making of the first film, we got along famously and now we share a great rapport."

His next project will be with Dileep.

"I have an idea in my mind and I have to work on it," he says.

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