Ajoy Varma is a proper Mumbaikar in every sense because Aamchi Mumbai is where he was born and brought up. And like any other young man, he was enamored by Bollywood films. That fascination made him seek a career in films and he worked as an editor in Bollywood for almost 15 years. He also went on to direct two Hindi films Dus Tola and S R K. But Bollywood was not the only cinematic canvas he was exposed to - being a Malayali how could he stay away from the allure of Mollywood? “I have been exposed to Malayalam films since my childhood and coincidentally most of the movies that I saw were Mohanlal films. You can even say I was raised watching his films. Since Hindi was my comfort zone, obviously Bollywood became my place of work; I became an editor and directed two films,” he states.
But there was a thought that remained with him throughout his Bollywood career – he someday wanted to direct a Malayalam film and that too with Mohanlal in the lead. An almost impossible dream but then the universe conspired. A writer friend of his - Saju Thomas - approached him with a subject that Ajoy felt was apt for the superstar. He states, “I had decided that if Lal sir would reject the script, then the film would not be made! I felt it was appropriate for him.”
So Ajoy met Mohanlal and to his surprise, Mohanlal immediately agreed. “There was a certain amount of anxiety about how he would react to the story but he responded in a very positive manner. So everything proceeded smoothly,” he answers. The result of that fruitful meeting is the film Neerali. The trailers and teasers of the film hint at large scale VFX effects and Ajoy agrees, “Yes, there are VFX effects and live shots too. I cannot reveal too much about the film but it is a thriller drama.”
The film is also in the news for the evergreen pair of Mohanlal and Nadia Moidu teaming up after almost three decades. That was not a planned move but the outcome of a discussion with his team who felt bringing back the hit pair of yesteryear would invoke a certain sense of nostalgia and curiosity. He reveals, “Mohanlal too was part of that discussion.”
As a person who has worked in both the industries now, he qualifies to talk about the differences between both Bollywood and Mollywood. “Whatever language you work in there is no grammar associated with it. The differences aside, what I am thrilled about is working with Mohanlal, which will be the biggest opportunity of my life.” The crew of Neerali is also largely from Bollywood. An engineer, Ajoy realised somewhere along the way that cinema was where his heart was and turned to films. He edited shorts, documentaries, television programmes and ads before venturing into direction. Some dreams do come true!