Direction: Madhupal – the credits itself are enough to create euphoria. Since he donned the hat of a filmmaker after that of an actor and writer, Madhupal has never ceased to amaze film buffs. Excitement is high in the air as his third film Oru Kuprasidha Payyan, after much-acclaimed Thalappavu and Ozhimuri, is waiting for release this Friday, but Madhupal reveals that he is nervous. His ocean-like serene eyes never give away the apprehension, but the director admits, “I am very frightened thinking about the results.”
He need not be, because Madhupal directorials have been bold stances, a need-of-the-hour fight with the system. Oru Kuprasidha Payyan (hereafter OKP), too, is a tale of resistance, but on a personal level. He explains, “Thalappavu depicted fight with police and judiciary as the protagonist stayed within the system aiming at the progress of society. When it came to Ozhimuri, again it was a fight, with judicial system and patriarchy, but it was within a family. OKP is a fight on an individual level. Yes, it questions the establishment, because we live in an era where one can be a victim or an accused any moment.”
OKP, starring Tovino Thomas in the lead, is a murder mystery where a common man is accused of a crime he hasn’t committed. “Through this movie, I pose my queries and apprehensions regarding the system, from the perspective of a law-abiding citizen. When a common man becomes a victim of establishment and it becomes his responsibility to prove his innocence, I strongly believe that there’s something wrong with the system. It’s not that I am an anarchist; I have immense trust in judiciary and fourth estate, but the flaws need to be questioned. That’s what my movie stands for,” he says.
Both his previous films were rooted in a particular period and geographical space, but OKP is different. “It’s very much contemporary – the placement and the story. The story is set in contemporary premises, but the path it explores is very unfamiliar and is unlike anything we have seen or experienced so far. I can assure you that,” his words ooze confidence. Such has been the groundwork – travelling from courts to courts, observing civil proceedings, treading the long-winding trails from trial rooms to justice and exploring the unseen realms of the establishment.
Madhupal’s uncanny ways of narration, in films and his books, show his eye for detail – shows the perfect blend of a writer and a filmmaker in one person. As he puts it, “A character is not someone who appears on the screen out of the blue; they have a story, genesis, language, geography and lineage which reflect in their body language, mannerisms and even a swift movement. From the boy-next-door played by Tovino to Sharanya Ponvannan whose character had Tamilian roots, those are specific.”
From a handful of known stars in his debut and bit more starry cast in his second film, Madhupal has moved to an all-star cast in OKP. Was he banking on the stardom of actors like Tovino to tell the story of a common man? “It wasn’t stardom that made me go after them. The actors I chose are the ones who are perfect fit for the characters and they all had to be familiar to the audience to narrate a contemporary story. The character Ajayan had to be someone who has a mind as willing as his body. Since I know Tovino, his attitude and persona for long, he was my natural choice. Someone who is head over heels about cinema, he could deliver exactly what I have in mind for Ajayan. Established actors made communication easy and moulding them was easy as a collective. You won’t see the familiar Nimisha (Sajayan), Anu (Sithara), Saranya, Venu (Nedumudi), Alencier, Sujith Sankar or Sudheer Karamana in the movie,” he says.
As a narrator of the tale of now, what does Madhupal have to say about the contemporary situation in his work space – the Malayalam film industry, which is going through a revolutionary phase after the tiff between actors’ guild A.M.M.A. and the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC)? “Any work space has its own merits and demerits. For me, this industry is both work space and a family. Any issue in a family can be sorted out if all the members have a meal together at least once a day. Lack of unity and ego make matters worse. Only if people share their thoughts with each other can issues be solved instead of announcing opinions to the virtual world to the nameless faces out there,” he feels.
Madhupal also compares the whole situation to OKP, “It’s like what I say through my film. When a crime happens, different levels of investigation happen. A lot of theories crop up. To err is human, but if one’s sure about having committed a crime, do not deny, admit it. Be honest and end all discussions.”
It is also a time where MeToo movement is sending shock waves through the global entertainment sector. Artistes across various film industries have expressed their decision to not collaborate with predators in their future projects. Such a move hasn’t been witnessed in Malayalam.
Madhupal clears that he would never take such a stance, “If a person is tailor-made for my character, his personal issues never matter to me; only his creativity does. Only when my decision would hurt a person would I be a criminal or a culprit; otherwise, I am also a human being like them, with shades of beast and angel in me.”
With a couple of short stories and scripts getting ready and plans afoot for more journeys, Madhupal has a lot in store. All through the rocky ride in the industry, he would love to stay frank and bare his soul. He sums up, “What I fear the most is breach of trust. I would never interact with someone staying on either sides of a wall. I love to talk to people looking into their eyes, with trust.”...