Priyanandanan : Reveals his experience in film industry

Dec 20, 2006 NR

For Priyanandanan it has not been an easy journey. He began as a factory worker and from there rose to being a State Award winning director.

Hailing from Vallachira near Thrissur, Priyanandanan had to quit school when he was in the eighth standard, owing to his father's ill-health. He had to take upon his slender shoulders the responsibility of looking after his family.

At the age of 12, he had to walk miles daily to go to the factory in which he worked, at a meager wage of Rs.2.50 per day. But the factory was closed due to a strike and then he joined goldsmiths for eking out a living. In the meantime he became involved in theatre-related activities and directed many plays on the stage.

He then went on to work as an assistant with some eminent filmmakers. The association that he had with theatre, theatre personalities and filmmakers like K.R. Mohanan, P.T. Kunjumohammed etc finally inspired him to try his hand at filmmaking. And thus happened Neythukaaran, the much acclaimed film directed by Priyanandanan which fetched for him the State Award for the Best Debutante Director plus a National Award for the lead actor Murali. And then came Pulijanmam, released this year, which too has been getting rave reviews and was also shown in the Malayalam Cinema Today section in the IFFK 2006. Priyanandanan speaks about his films and his way of filmmaking in this interview given to Unni Nair of

Tell us how you happened to make Neythukaaran?

Being involved with the theatre even when I was struggling for a livelihood, I was in close contact with many eminent theatre-personalities and filmmakers too. Neythukaaran was originally written (by N. Sasidharan) for the stage. But I felt that the subject would fare better if made into a film. I got a producer but he backed away in the middle. So I decided to go ahead with the film on my own and began collecting funds from friends. Then I got a good producer who agreed to finance the film. That's how Neythukaaran happened.

What was the reaction when Neythukaaran was finally brought out? And how did you feel?

The film was appreciated by all who saw it at various festivals. And when it was repeatedly telecast, it was accepted and appreciated by the general public. Neythukaaran also won for me the State Award, and the State Award and the National Award for the lead actor Murali. I naturally felt very happy and elated that I could achieve this with my first film itself.

After Neythukaaran, you had announced a film based on Shabdangal, the acclaimed novel by Vaikkom Mohammed Basheer. That didn't happen. And then you announced another film titled Athu Mandaarapoovalla, based on M.T. Vasudevan Nair's story. It too didn't take off. Why so?

Shabdangal was planned with Mammootty in the lead role. He had agreed to do the film, and that too without taking any kind of remuneration. Similarly Athu Mandaarapoovalla was planned with Prithviraj and Kavya Madhavan in lead roles. But both these films didn't take off. The problem was that I was a newcomer and I was making the kind of films that wouldn't prove to be crowd pullers. I had to tell those who came to take up the distribution that the films I am making would get their investment back, but may not bring them any profits. Naturally producers and distributors went away and I had to drop those projects.

Could you tell us about the subject of Neythukaaran in your own words?

The film tells us the story of Appa Mesthri, a Communist in his times. Neythukaaran tells us what happens on the last day in the life of this veteran communist. The day incidentally is March 19, 1998, the day veteran communist leader EMS Namboothiripad died. Through memories and associations of Appa Mestri with EMS and activities related to communism and the Communist party, the film examines the psychology of our society. My attempt was to state that for every leader there is a generation of value-conscious workers. No one speaks about this generation. I have only used the death of a legendary figure like EMS and the life in a region like Kannur to analyze the change in values in society.

What about Pulijanmam, your second film? Tell us about the theme of the film.

Pulijanmam' (Tiger's Life) is the film version of the famous drama by the same name by N. Prabhakaran. It's a film that brings Kerala's age-old myths and realities on a single platform, with Theyyam as the backdrop. The story revolves round Prakasan, an educated man who chooses to lead the life of a farmer and who decides to stage a play recreating the myth of Kaari Gurukkal or Pulikonda Thondachchan - a myth that still lives on in Pulavar community of North Malabar. While recreating the myth, the film also throws light on many happenings that take place in Prakasan's life and also in the world surrounding him. Pulijanmam sheds light on Kerala's contemporary socio-political situation and on the disillusionment of the youth.

Share with us your views about filmmaking?

I don't see filmmaking as a business. I don't intend to make films with the sole intention of making money. I believe that cinema has its own space and that has been revealed to me through Neythukaaran and Pulijanmam. People have loved seeing these films of mine and there have been requests to screen them to groups across the state. I believe that we can make good, meaningful films on a small budget if we establish the proper kind of understanding and team-spirit among the members of our crew. The government should also do something to encourage films made on low budgets, and at least Doordarshan should try to telecast such films regularly as it used to do in the past. I believe sincerely that good films would always find the right kind of audience and hence such films should be encouraged.

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