As 2017 draws to a close, debutant directors have found as much success if not more as the veterans. Some of the successful films of this year has been directed by debutants and here is proof – Take Off by Mahesh Narayanan, Oru Mexican Aparatha by Tom Emmatty, Ezra by Jay K., The Great Father by Haneef Adeni, Tarangam by Dominic Arun, Udaharanam Sujatha by Phantom Praveen, Parava by Soubin Shahir, Adam Joan by Jinu Abraham, C/O Saira Banu by Antony Sony, Ramaleela by Arun Gopy and Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela by Althaf Salim are amongst the few.
If there is anything even harder than making a movie, it is making your first movie! For a debutant, it is his sweat, tears and a lot of toil all centered on that one day when the movie finally releases. Some of these debutants have spent time as associates before forging ahead on their own. So the going may have been relatively easy for them. But for a person without any industry connections, getting the crucial first break can be a monumental task. For a film to get a good opening, it has become essential that a popular hero or director or producer be well-known – a Herculean task for newbie directors.
Dominic Arun, the director of the Tovino Thomas-starrer Tharangam, did not face too many hurdles during his debut attempt. The script was what that took him eight months to develop. He narrates, “I knew Tovino so I had a belief that he would do it and narrated the script to him. He agreed but had a backlog of films and I got his date after six months.” Many debutants find it difficult to get a producer or a popular face in their first film. Here, Dominic being a friend of Tovino was at an advantage. It was Tovino himself who suggested the executive producer from where Wunderbar Studios entered the picture. Dominic got Kollywood actor Dhanush backing him with his purse strings. So why don’t the debutant directors give debutant actors a chance as their leads? Arun frankly mentions, “For an initial pull, we need well-known faces. Things are difficult because we have a limited number of popular young heroes who can draw in the audience.” But he does have a suggestion, “We have several veteran and established directors who have the option to try out a new hero or a heroine because they have the clout of their name to back them. These directors are already well-known so they could set an example — like Lijo Jose Pellisserry who brought in 85 newcomers in Angamaly Diaries. In my case, I was lucky with my producer and my lead actor Tovino who were ready to experiment with the off-beat script.”
For Arun Gopy, his debut directorial venture Ramaleela was a trial by fire. He had a dream team that only few debutants can dream of – superstar Dileep and hit-maker producer Tomichan Mulakuppadam. But then came Dileep’s arrest and the film’s fate hung in balance. But the gods above were kind to Arun. The film became a super hit and is still running. To Arun, the film was the culmination of his biggest dream. He candidly says, “It is difficult to get a narration sitting with a superstar. A lot of talented newbie directors cannot make it because of this important hurdle. It was my scriptwriter Sachi, who made things easy. Dileep and Tomichan came on board, thanks to Sachi’s efforts. In my case, I was the relative unknown, but Dileep, Sachi and Tomichan were popular!” Why did he insist on a superstar for the lead? Arun answers, “Mollywood is a very small industry; it is easy to say ‘newcomers be cast’, but then getting distributors, exhibitors or a theatre will be very difficult. The producers need to get back their money. If the distributors and exhibitors change their stance, we can work with newbies. Till then, we need stars to make a film run!”
Phantom Praveen, director of Udaharanam Sujatha starring Manju Warrier, worked as an assistant director in films like ABCD, Charlie and Sakhavu. So he already had a good rapport with the producer, Martin Prakkat. Praveen was in no hurry to do his film. He knew with certainty that only Manju would do justice to the role of Sujatha. Praveen had narrated the story to Manju who had shown a positive response and had asked him to come back with a screenplay. He says, “It was only Manju in the lead or the film would not have been made! My biggest tension was if Manju would agree to play the role because I could visualise only her in the role.” It was also a risk because a woman-oriented film without a ‘star male presence’ is not exactly known to burn up the ticket counters.
“The success of the film shows that there is value for good scripts with emotional content that touches hearts. It is more than 40 days now and is still going strong.”
Praveen says, “I wanted my film to be well-received, not for myself, but for my producers Martin and Joju George who had invested their trust in me!” The first-timer says, “It is only when everything falls into place that a film becomes a hit. Right from the title, the artistes, the producers to the technicians, every single person is important.”