Bhramam, the upcoming Prithviraj Sukumaran starrer marks the Malayalam directorial debut of Ravi K Chandran, the veteran cinematographer-turned-filmmaker. The dark comedy, which is the official Malayalam remake of the acclaimed Bollywood movie Andhadhun, is slated to be released on Amazon Prime Video, on October 7, Thursday. Bhramam features an extensive star cast including Shankar, Mamta Mohandas, Raashi Khanna, Unni Mukundan, and so on in the other pivotal roles.
In an EXCLUSIVE tete-a-tete with Filmibeat, director-cinematographer Ravi K Chandran opened up about Bhramam, remaking Andhadhun, working with Prithviraj Sukumaran, and much more.
Excerpts from the chat:
1. Bhramam marks your second outing as a director, and it is your Malayalam directorial debut. What motivated you to don the director's hat once again?
I was offered 2-3 scripts before Bhramam. I didn't like a few of them, and the others didn't work out the way I wanted. I didn't want to take up a film unless its script is perfect for me. Then they offered me this film. I saw Andhadhun and liked it. And I also felt that this film could be made in Malayalam.
So, I spoke to the director of Andhadhun, Sriram Raghavan sir, and he also mentioned that he was looking for a Malayalam actor for the role initially. Also, he had seen locations in Kochi for the film. That was kind of a coincidence. That's how the project finally happened.
2. Andhadhun is a film that has been considered a classic. What prompted you to make your Malayalam directorial debut with the remake of that film?
We wanted to remake Andhadhun much before it earned cult status. But it got delayed then because of the pandemic. But the decision was made long ago when the film was in theatres. Now, after 2-3 years when our film is coming out soon, Andhadhun became a cult film.
We wanted to buy the film (remake rights) immediately after its release. So, we didn't have the burden in that way. We watched Andhadhun on the second day of its release, and it was not even a hit then. We knew we are going to make it, from much earlier. So, we were actually growing with that film.
3. Was it challenging to make a remake film that appeal to the sensibilities of Malayalam audiences?
A lot of films have been remade in different languages. For example, Singam - they remade it in Hindi with the same title. Same with Ghajini, which was considered a cult film. It is happening all over the world. So, I've never thought about the challenges associated with a remake while making Bhramam.
The perception that the Malayalam industry doesn't remake films is actually not true. If you dig deeper, many popular films have been unofficial remakes. It does happen in the industry. But earlier, there were no media to write about these things. But now, we know from where a particular film is being copied.
4. Bhramam had garnered attention with its stellar star cast, right from the beginning. How did Prithviraj Sukumaran, Shankar, Mamta Mohandas, and others become a part of this project?
When we saw Andhadhun and thought about making it in Malayalam, Shankar sir was there in our minds all the time. I can't think of anybody else for this role. So, there was no change in that. Prithviraj wanted to buy the remake rights of Andhadhun after he saw it. So he immediately agreed to do this project when we approached him.
Tabu's role in Andhadhun is very difficult to play. So, when we thought about casting for that role, Mamta seemed to be the best choice. And then Jagadish was finalised to play the doctor, which is also a pivotal role.
To play the cop in the film, we wanted a very handsome guy (laughs). For Mamta (who plays Shankar's wife) to have an extramarital affair in this story, we really needed to have a good-looking guy in that role. Shankar sir looks very good even now - he is Mohanlal sir's contemporary and looks so fit for his age. Unni Mukundan was a fantastic choice for this role- he is a revelation. Also, Ananya, who played Unni's wife in the film, is fantastic.
5. Bhramam marks your first collaboration with Prithviraj Sukumaran. Can you please share your experience of working with the actor?
I had my own doubts on how I'm going to deal with Prithviraj, as he is one of the most experienced actors out there even though he is young age-wise. He has done over 100 plus films. Also, Prithvi has directed a super hit film, with big actors like Mohanlal and others.
When I did this film with him, I thought he is going to tell me things like 'this scene is not working' or 'it should be choreographed in a different way', or something like that. So, I was mentally prepared to take all that. But he didn't say anything. He used to do his job and then go and sit in his van or discuss scenes with his co-stars. There was not even a bit of interference from his side.
Also, when you are working in the Malayalam film industry, you have terrific actors here. So, you don't have to tell them much. All these actors are very good at their craft. For example, Jagadish will be improvising his dialogues from the minute he is on the sets. So, it was a joy to shoot all of them. They all were totally into the film and were not deviating for even a minute. Also because of the pandemic, the visitors were not allowed on the sets. And, all actors used to come to the sets prepared. So, you just go there, put the shot, and they will perform.
6. From the trailer, it is evident that Bhramam is going to be a visual treat for the audience. What was the most exciting part of the visualisation of this film?
When I decided to shoot Bhramam in Kochi, they said it is a done-to-death place. People have shot many, many films here. Still, people are shooting. But I said, you known I'm coming to this place after long 20 years. So, for me, it is my vision of looking at things. Like, a foreigner coming to India and shooting these places are different right? It was like that.
When I entered this location, everything was fascinating for me. Even a simple door and its colour excited me. So, I was looking at it with a fresh perspective. And now a lot of people have seen the film and they say that it is looking visually interesting.
Actually, I didn't do anything extra for this film. I used very minimal lights because I didn't get enough time to light up extensively, as I have to concentrate on the direction also. Even Prithviraj was saying that the frames are looking beautiful even though I didn't use many lights. So, I was telling him that he is too handsome for this role, and I can't make him look bad (laughs). Even Raashi Khanna, Mamta Mohandas, and Unni Mukundan - they are all good-looking people. So, you just have to put the camera on their faces and they all will look very interesting.
When you get an actor like Unni Mukundan in a frame, there is a drama in it. On a related note, Unni is very happy about his work in this film, and so are we. He has a great potential as an actor.
7. So what is your favourite role now - a cinematographer or director?
A cinematographer any day (laughs)
8. Did the pandemic limitations affect the making of Bhramam?
Yes, especially in terms of getting the crowd. Suppose if wanted kids in the scenes, we can't take the risk and get them to the shoot. Sometimes, we had to go to the locations where the kids are present, we took special permission, and we took very minimal crew who are tested, and shot the sequences with them. It was the same when we wanted the appropriate crowd for certain scenes. But filmmaking always involves lots of compromises.
9. What do you have to say about Bhramam, to the audiences who are waiting to watch it?
It is a very interesting black comedy. It is not a slapstick comedy but has a lot of situational comedy. The characters who are in the wrong situation will make you laugh. I hope the audience will enjoy this film as much as we did making it.
10. Tell us about your upcoming projects
I'm currently shooting for a project called Bheemla Nayak in Telugu as the DOP. It is a remake of the Malayalam film Ayyappanum Koshiyum.