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Family scene: Sara Alambara, Jayasurya and Bharat Gopy in Balachandra Menon’s ‘De Engottu Nokiye.’
The signboard on the building reads Press Club. “Relax,” says a soft voice. There is silence.
The same voice shouts “Action.” A tall heavily built man in his fifties, clad in white shirt and dhothi, walks towards the building. A young man comes out to meet him with hands outstretched as if to shake hands. But suddenly the tall man slaps the young man hard across the face.
“Cut” comes the same voice. The voice is very familiar. It is that of Balachandra Menon, and he is directing his latest film ‘De Engottu Nokiye.’ The tall man in action is Janardhanan and the young man, Edavela Babu.
The sets have been put up on Technopark campus near Thiruvananthapuram. Veteran director Balachandra Menon explains the scene that was canned.
Show of muscle power
“Janardanan plays Vettikkattu Sadanandan, the elder brother of the Chief Minister. Edavela Babu is a reporter. It is a show of muscle power in politics that was filmed.”
Balachandra Menon, acclaimed as a ‘family audience’ director, has chosen politics as his theme this time. “Through satire, I wish to draw attention to the ugly but hidden side of politics and the dirty games politicians indulge in. What I want to say is conveyed through the role of Thilakan in the film. Thilakan’s character says: ‘Let’s respect our country and our national flag.’ That is the mood I am trying to create.”
Giving a glimpse of his style of filmmaking, Balachandra Menon says: “First, I develop the concept of the film. Then there are several rounds of discussions before the script is completed. But even during the shoot, I leave room for improvisation. If necessary, the script is changed to suit the situation.”
The next shot depicts a conversation between Janardanan and Jagathi Sreekumar.
Although the shot is to take place in a hall, Balachandra Menon changes the background of the scene when his assistants tell him that the hall is unavailable.Yet another new face
Balachandra Menon introduces Sara Alambara, in the film. Considering his earlier films, this comes as no surprise. Actors such as Sobhana, Parvathy, Lizzie and Annie made their debut in Balachandra Menon’s films and later went on to become popular stars.
Balachandra Menon is all praise for Sara.
“She is very professional. She has good grasping power and timing. She dons the role of Parvathi. Usually, with new faces a lot of film is wasted because of retakes. In her case, retakes were few.”
Sara, who belongs to Alwarpet, is a student of Engineering Management in the United States of America. “I play a girl who stands by her man. I have been doing ad films and it was during a shoot in Kochi that my name was recommended to Menon sir. ”
‘De Engottu Nokiye’ happens to be the last film of thespian Bharat Gopy. "It was a shock. I had to rewrite the script with Janardanan in Gopy’s place. Janardanan has done a good job.”
Jagathi Sreekumar, who plays the Chief Minister in the film, says the humour in the film is more effective because it is not slapstick.
“It is hasyam in the real sense of the word. There is no resemblance, in either speech or attitude, to any living or dead politician, in the portrayal of the character. There is no mimicking either,” he adds.
The hero in the film is Jayasurya who acts as Vettikkattu Sivan. He is happy that the director has reposed faith in him to enact the role.
“Also it is a privilege to work with stalwarts like Thilakan, Jagathi Sreekumar and the late Bharat Gopy. Jagathi is an actor par excellence given his spontaneity. He is someone I would like to emulate.”
The cast includes Mala Aravindan, Nedumudi Venu, Salim Kumar, Indrans, Kochu Preman, Rajan P. Dev, Kollam Thulasi, Balachandra Menon, Prasanthi, Lena, M.R. Gopakumar, Sukumari, Kaviyoor Ponnamma and Kalpana.
Lyrics of Gireesh Puthenchery, Kaithapram and Chandru have been set to music by M. Jayachandran. Stills are by Mahadevan Thampi. The film, produced by AVA Productions, is slated for release in the first week of April.
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