Chennai and Tamil Nadu
M.G. Sasi says his film ‘Adayalangal,’ based on the life and works of writer Nandanar, attempts to depict the background that moulded the writer.
The feature film marks the debut of producer Aravind Venugopal, director M.G. Sasi and actor Padmasoorya.
M.G. Sasi’s directorial debut ‘Adayalangal’ certainly made a mark by bagging five Kerala State Film awards, including the awards for best director, best film and best cinematographer. Right from the day the awards were announced, the film has been the centre of discussions and debates. But its director Sasi, an ardent theatre activist, is unperturbed by the hullabaloo over the awards. Recuperating after an accident, Sasi, in an interview over the telephone, says he is happy about the award as it has opened many opportunities for him. Excerpts from the interview:
The State awards
I had faith in my film and the awards have only reinforced that faith. The question of a competition never crossed my mind. I have worked with T.V. Chandran, P.T. Kunjumohammed, Jayaraj and Shyamaprasad. Their dedication to cinema and their craft did inspire me though I made no attempt to model my film on their style of filmmaking.
Nandanar’s stories have had a deep impact on me since my childhood. His ‘Unnikuttante Lokam,’ comprising the stories ‘Unnikuttante Oru Divasom,’ ‘Unnikuttan Valarunnu’ and ‘Unnikuttan Schoolil,’ moulded the reader and person in me. Nandanar’s suicide in 1974 puzzled me. I was puzzled why such a sensitive writer and man should commit suicide. That was always there at the back of my mind.
Then I began working in theatre and then in cinema. I used to wonder why no one had made a film on such a gifted writer or his works. It was a dream I had cherished for 15 years. In fact, I was worried someone would make a film on the same topic. ‘Adayalangal,’ based on the life and works of writer Nandanar, was an attempt to tell a story without resorting to gimmicks or crass commercialisation.
The film begins like a documentary…
It was meant to be like that. We have had several films that were adaptations of famous novels and short stories. I think ‘Adayalangal’ is the first film to blend the life of a writer and his works. I wanted the focus to be on Nandanar and that is why the film begins and ends with the writer. I believe that the story is only one part of the audio-visual experience called cinema. The introduction was meant to be a prologue to the film, which is a kind of journey into his life and the background that honed the writer.
Set in and around my home in Pattambi, the film has tried to be faithful to the ambience and background of Nandanar’s life. Moreover, certain scenes were shot at the same spot where the final scenes of Padmarajan’s last film ‘Njan Gandharavan’ was shot. I remember watching those scenes being canned. Perhaps, if ‘Adayalangal’ were to be made 10 years later, this ambience would have been lost. Kerala is changing so rapidly. I have also tried to be true to the Valluvanadan dialect.
Why did you decide to go in for a rank newcomer to play the lead? Was that a calculated risk?
Remarkable debut: Padmasoorya and Jyothirmayi in ‘Adayalangal.’
Yes and no. Once a youngster becomes a star, he acquires an image and I would have to work with him to reshape that body language and mannerisms. Casting a newcomer seemed to be an easier option. I had seen an album of Padmasoorya and we had interacted with each other over a period of time. I was convinced that he could essay Gopinathan. As he hailed from Pattambi, getting the dialogues right was not a difficult task. He has certainly lived up to my expectations.
Your wife, Geetha Joseph, plays a significant role in the film. And T.V. Chandran returns as an actor after his debut in ‘Kabini Nadhi Chuvannapol.’
Geetha is a theatre person and I doubt if she plans to switch to films. Maybe if she feels that there is a role that she can do justice to… I could only think of T.V. Chandran to enact Bhaskara Kurup. Nandanar only mentions the teacher in passing. But I fleshed out the character and gave the film a political and historical framework through his character. It is also a tribute to many promising lives that were cut short by harsh realities and disappointments. T.G. Ravi, Premji’s daughter, Sathy, who plays the mother… each of the actors has played a significant role in the film.
I am working on a script for my next film. An adaptation of Padmarajan’s short story ‘Rithubhedangalude Parithoshikam.’
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu