A Dream Come True for Director Anoop Sathyan !

Anoop Sathyan shares his experience about his mega project ‘Varane Aavashyamundu’!

Varane Aavashyamundu is a warm, nostalgic, feel good entertainer that revolves around the life of a mother and daughter. It beautifully portrays the value of relationships in a contemporary setting! The movie has a stellar star cast, beginning with the gorgeous Shobana and Macho Suresh Gopi to Malayalam Cinema’s favourite stars like Lalu Alex, Urvashi and KPAC Lalitha. Kalyani Priyadarshan makes her Mollywood debut opposite Dulquer Salmaan, who also turns producer for this film! And that’s not all! This family entertainer also happens to be the directorial debut of the young and very talented Anoop Sathyan, son of renowned director, Sathyan Anthikad! Ritz catches up with all the excitement as he shares his experience about the mega project!

Interview: Riya Sonny Datson

Your movie, Varane Avashyamundu is gaining a lot of attention for all the right reasons. What was the inspiration behind its making?

Well my maiden directorial venture was supposed to be a film by Bobby –Sanjay with Dulquer but unfortunately, it got stalled by a year and a half. That’s when I thought of this film but I made plans for a small project without any stars. The idea had originated when I was doing a workshop at NID, (Ahmedabad) where I studied. The plot was about an elderly couple who come across each other through social media. During their younger days, they had their fair share of romantic failures with one of them being caught red handed for writing a love letter and the other never having had the courage to express her feelings.  The story also focused on a mother daughter relationship and that’s how the plot took shape. I approached Shobana, Suresh Gopi and Nazriya initially and they agreed to do the film. But when I presented it to Dulquer, he offered to produce it as he was setting up his production company. He also liked the character of ‘Bibish’ and wanted to do it. Once he came on board, we reworked the story line and the focus then shifted from a purely ‘mother daughter’ film to a plot which revolved around four characters; which I felt was far more appealing. That’s when Kalyani came into the picture. I am happy that I could portray Dulquer as a realistic character and not as a ‘star’ with a fight or dance scene tailored for him.

How difficult was it to convince the senior stars?

I had to chase Shobana maam for 1.5 years. But once she was convinced, it was very easy. With Suresh Gopi Sir, it was just a matter of getting the dates. Though they are senior actors and belong to the old school of acting, I felt extremely comfortable working with them. Their speed of performance is simply amazing. I have decided that from now on I will definitely have senior actors in all my future films.

What was your biggest challenge?

At each stage of film making, there are challenges. I can easily narrate a story and enact it out with humour but when it comes to writing, it is very difficult. That was a challenge for me. Then of course, convincing the stars to come on board. Shobana maam had taken a break and convincing her to face the camera again took some time. Suresh Gopi Sir being an actor and politician, had a lot of prior commitments. But thankfully, he gave me bulk dates and we could plan it well. Once the shoot started, while it was easy to handle the team, coordinating the availability and dates was not easy. We used a single camera for the entire shoot with few takes in such a way that every angle was covered. I wanted to ensure that everyone was comfortable especially Shobana maam. I remember they used to call it the ‘Shobana friendly shoot’. Towards the end of the shoot, the scenes were only between Shobana maam and Kalyani and we were staying at the Chennai apartment where it was being shot. All of was were very relaxed and comfortable and I am sure Shobana maam also enjoyed the experience.

How difficult was it to shoot in Chennai?

It was not very easy as the expenses are much higher and I was conscious and involved with the production at each step of the way.

There is a realistic feel to this movie which also happens to be your father, Sathyan Anthikad’s signature style. Was he your inspiration?

That realistic element is something that all of us in our family value a lot. I think it runs in the family and my father is definitely our inspiration. Like for example, there is a scene by Dulquer in this movie where he talks of his parents’ death. It could have been shot in a very melodramatic way but in real life, I have seen people talk very casually about their loss. The audience must feel the pain but it doesn’t have to be conveyed dramatically. That’s how we have shot that scene.

What are your first memories of your father as a director?

We studied in a Malayalam medium school at Anthikad and to us, our father was just doing his job like everyone else. There was no special excitement about him being a film maker and we hardly visited the sets back then. Yes, there was a sense of ownership when it came to certain films like ‘Naadodikattu’ but we never really had any connect with cinema. We have been to very few shooting sets. I remember ‘Vengalam’ and ‘My dear Kuttichatan’ and visiting Chennai during vacation for ‘Pingami’.

When did you realise that you wanted to follow your father’s footsteps?

After we completed our degree, my brother and I approached dad to sign the application for MSc in Visual Communication. At that point, he said ‘if you plan to follow Cinema, then you can quit your studies right now’. He was apprehensive about us as he was aware of the risk involved and the unpredictability in Cinema. So we struck off our choice of visual communication and opted to study MSc Computer science. But later, when I was working, I got through to NID, which my father knew wasn’t easy as they had only 15 seats. That was the turning point as my father couldn’t say ‘No’ to me. My brother, Akhil started assisting dad after his course. I went on to complete my course at NID, after which I assisted Lal Jose Sir for five years.

Was Cinema always your dream?

As children, Akhil and I used to have our own virtual characters. He had a set of characters and I had my own set. We would make up stories, use our toys, create sound effects of bomb blasts and explosions. There was a narrative style right from the time we were children. Not that we were very active in extra curricular but we had our own way of expressing our thoughts and stories.

Did you ever feel the pressure of having the tag of ‘Sathyan Anthikad’s Son’?

I had the pressure only for my first movie where I was assisting in direction. That was also the time I was seeing a proper film set for the first time. I did hear negative comments as well but I took it in my stride. From my second film, I let go of all such pressures and inhibitions. There was absolutely no pressure while making Varane Aavashyamundu.

What is the one thing you like most about the film?

The shoot process! I am not an early riser but while shooting for this film, I would be up early in the morning looking forward to the day ahead. I never ever dreamt that I would, one day direct stars like Shobana Maam and Suresh Gopi Sir. Each time I watch Shobana Maam performing in front of me, I would ask myself if it was all a dream! Each moment seemed magical and special.

What was your father’s reaction to the movie?

He said he was glad that I didn’t share the full script with him. When I showed him the first half, I sensed that he wasn’t too happy. So I assured him that I will share the rest of it later and left for Chennai. Later, when he saw the film, he said it was a smart way of execution. Without focussing too much on the details, capturing each moment was an interesting style.

How has life changed?

It hasn’t changed at all. I am back at home at Anthikad, enjoying normal life and taking a break.

You have raised the bar with your very first movie. Is there pressure to maintain the success rate?

Even after doing 57 films, my father still sees his next movie as a challenge. I think it is the same with every director. Each new project is a fresh challenge.

What is in the pipeline?

There are a lot of books and films that I missed out during the time I was shooting. I need to catch up. There is a documentary that is being planned along with a lot of travel. I am hoping to get a new story idea somewhere during my journey. There are certain ideas I am toying with. Let’s see where it takes me.