As a Malayali, when you watch the trailer of the upcoming movie Waiting starring Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin, if you feel some familiarity with the places shown in it, it is not coincidental. A comedy-drama directed by Anu Menon, the story of this Bollywood movie unravels in a hospital in Kochi. Anu, a Tamilian, who is married to a Malayali Vivek Menon from Kochi, says that the spark for the movie got ignited from a personal experience.
“Waiting is a heart-warming tale about a difficult situation, told with humour and hope. It came from a personal experience. But, then it took a life of its own” says Anu. “It took me many years to write the story. It got a green signal in July 2014 and we started the shooting in November,” adds Anu, who wanted an entirely different setting for her movie and finally zeroed in on Kerala.
“I wanted a place that is still relatively untouched by the fast paced city life like in Mumbai, Delhi or Bengaluru. I wanted a contrast. And I wanted the plot to be surrounded by beauty while exploring the pain the characters are going through,” she elucidates.
Waiting has premiered at Dubai Film Festival and the response was great. It was screened to packed houses. In the trailer of the movie, the characters are shown sitting in a waiting room.
Does that signify something, like waiting for a miracle? “It symbolises a lot of things. We all are waiting — all the time — for something or the other. And literally these two characters are waiting while their spouses are in a coma,” she adds.
About casting Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin in lead roles, Anu says, “I just saw them as my lead actors. They were the only actors who read their respective parts and said yes. The rest, as they say, is history!”
Anu had a great time working with them. “I learnt some very important lessons on writing while working with Naseer sir.” Another factor about Shah that fascinated Anu is his commitment towards his work. “His commitment to be truthful to the character is so great. As a director, I sometimes felt that he knew the character way more than I did. Kalki is the most talented and chilled out actress I have worked with. She is so professional and yet easy going. It was amazing,” recalls Anu.
Actress Suhasini is also seen in a significant role in the movie. More than a movie that was shot extensively in Kerala, what makes Waiting a movie worth waiting for Malayalis is that it includes a lot of Malayali actors as sidekicks.
“The supporting cast that includes actors Dinesh Nair and Krishna Sankar is largely from Kerala. I got the regional actors through a local casting agent called Gautam Pisharody who is also an actor,” says Anu, who feels that the place helped her narrate the story in a better way.
How was her experience shooting in Kerala? “We were here for about a month and a bit. The experience was beautiful though there were many challenges as we were predominantly an all-woman crew,” says Anu, who left her job to become a filmmaker. “I was in advertising for a long time, but I always had the urge to tell stories. So, I gave up my job and joined a film school in London.”
Anu has had a roller-coaster ride in life and says “The journey so far was full of surprises—very gratifying at times and very hard at times. But I would not change it for anything else,” says Anu, who visits Kochi every year. “My in-laws live here. I like the beaches and backwaters of Kerala. I have had some nice holidays in Marari beach. I love the houses on the backwaters in Fort Kochi and all the bridges in Kochi. It is like a European city.”
Anu currently lives in London. So, what is next? “I have a few scripts ready. Let’s see which gets the green signal first,” she concludes....