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Test of dedication

VIJAY GEORGE

‘Manikyakkallu,' directed by M. Mohanan and starring Prithviraj, is about a young teacher who hopes to turn around a failing school.



Lessons in life: There's a lot to learn from Vinayachandran in ‘Manikyakkallu.'

No swanky cars, no designer suits and no gunshots. Instead, it's as laidback as can be – ordinary people going about their business in a sleepy village called Nallepally near Chittur in Palakkad. It's the location for writer-director M. Mohanan's ‘Manikyakkallu,' the shooting of which is going on inside a school in the village. Prithviraj, who has been seen mostly in action roles of late, plays a school teacher.

“The story happens in a government school that had a glorious past but is now on the verge of being shut down as there are less than 50 students enrolled there. The teachers have lost all hope about making a difference to the situation and are busy with their personal activities. The results for the final examinations are pathetic, to say the least. Considering all this, when a young teacher named Vinayachandran (Prithviraj) requests for a transfer to the school, it comes as a surprise to every one, especially to those working there,” says Mohanan, who debuted as a director with the hit film ‘Katha Parayumbol.'

Self-assured individual

The scene that is being canned is inside the headmaster's room. Kurup sir (played by Nedumudi Venu), the headmaster of the school, is in conversation with Vinayachandran and the physical education teacher, Chandni (played by Samvritha Sunil). Cinematographer P. Sukumar is busy giving instructions to his assistants regarding lighting arrangements. In this particular shot, Samvritha has to walk out of the room after a lengthy dialogue. The unit goes through a few rehearsals before going for the take under the curious eyes of a crowd of onlookers.

“My character is a self-assured man. He is calm and confident and his intentions are clear. He has a specific aim when he opts for a transfer to the school, which is in trouble and not many are bothered about the situation,” says Prithviraj, who is dressed in a shirt and dhoti and sports a beard and glasses.

“The title ‘Manikyakkallu' can be explained in two ways. On one hand, it can mean the nature of the hero – Vinayachandran, a gem of a character. And on the other, it can also mean that each child is a gem; a gem that has to be given a bit of polish to shine,” adds the actor.

Offbeat role

So did he take on the role to experiment with an image that is in contrast to the glamourous, action-filled roles we've seen him don of late? “Not really. I had committed myself to this project sometime ago and it is just that it got delayed a bit.”

Samvritha's character Chandni, meanwhile, has no real commitment to “educating children.” She comes to school mainly to make money by selling eggs and other farm produce to her colleagues. “I have never really been interested in sports while I was a student myself. Naturally, I was relieved when I was told that my character is too lazy to actually train students,” laughs the actor.

On the headmaster's character, Nedumudi Venu says: “Kurup sir would like the school to do well but feels that there is no hope for the institution. Then again he is also involved in various businesses and even uses some area of the school as a godown to store fertilizer.” Jagadeesh, Anil Murali, Kottayam Nazeer, Anoop Chandran, K.P.A.C. Lalitha and Muthumani are also part of the cast.

‘Manikyakkallu' is being produced under the banner of Gouri Meenakshi Movies. Lyrics by Anil Panachooran have been composed by M. Jayachandran. Still photographer is Mohan Surabhi.

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