The Kerala State Award Winner for Best Editing and one of the young and promising directors of the Malayalam Film Industry, Appu N Bhattathiri is all relaxed now, as all his hard work over the years has finally paid off. His directorial debut ‘Nizhal’ was released on Amazon Prime this month. He was generous enough to speak to ClubbyTalks.
This is the literal translation of the call I had with Appu Bhattathiri:
Could you please tell me, how did it all start, your Love for Movie Making?
“I liked cinema from when I was a kid and by 7th or 8th standard my interest was piqued in movie making and luckily I was able to pursue it and here I am now.”
Was becoming an Editor part of the plan?
“I wanted to become a Cinematographer and by the time I finished my 10th standard, I had decided to learn Direction or a course related to that. Even though I was a Science student I did not write any entrance examination for Engineering or Medical which. perhaps is a natural choice in our society.
My Friend Arunlal, who also did the Editing for ‘Nizhal’, mentioned that there is an entrance examination for Visual Effects and we deiced to write it and we got through. We did our graduation in Digital Media with a specialization in Visual effects from ICAT. I was always very comfortable with computers.
Post which, I got the opportunity in the Movie ‘Second Show’ as AD under Srinath Rajendran. And, I did Editing work for a lot of short films, This is how it all started.”
How did Nizhal happen?
“S. Sanjeev ( Writer ) and I have been collaborating for a long time now. At a point when none of our project ideas were materializing, he happened to mention the character idea of John Baby ( The Protagonist in the Movie Nizhal ). And the character eventually led us to a strong storyline.
One of our Producers, Fellini suggested that we narrate this to Chakochan (Kunchacko Boban). And, it is Chackochan who suggested Nayanthara as we were looking for a strong female character casting. And finally, it all worked out.”
How was it working with Kunchako and Nayanthara? Did you face any challenges as this was your debut ?
“Of course! there was stress and tension as this was my debut and the fact that I am directing such accomplished actors. I was very comfortable working with both of them and perhaps, that is what makes them such huge stars. They are downright professionals, they understood my requirement as a Director, and delivered it.
Chackochan was keenly involved in knowing about the characters and it was more of interactive sessions with him. I got to say Nayanthara Ma’am is extremely professional, she used to be ready, half n hour before the shoot timings, it was inspiring and at the same time made me nervous, that I need to pull my socks up and speed up things.”
Can you tell us a bit, about the idea of the Mask that Kunchacko Boban wore?
“The Mask you see in the movie now was not the initial idea, it was planned to cover half the face which would have been damaged due to the accident.”
“However, while we were working on the design ideas of the mask, ‘Uyare’ movie was released and, the character Parvathy was playing had a similar appearance as our idea, so our writer S. Sanjeev suggested that we go for this Mask and the fact that there is an interaction with a kid in the movie had to be considered too.”
I thought little Izin was brilliant in the movie, how was it working with Izin?
“Izin Hash’s character ‘Nitin’ was equally important as Kunchacko Boban and Nayanthara’s characters. I think we are very lucky to have found Izin for the character.”
“We took the audition of a lot of kids for the role, however, none of them seemed to be as Intelligent as Izin. This kid is spontaneous and surprises with his performances at times, it was a great experience, interacting and working with him, I am sure he has a great future ahead.”
Why did you come up with the title ‘Nizhal’, was there any particular reason?
“There was a lot of deliberation about the movie title, we wanted the title that goes with the overall mood of the movie and the one that people can relate to with the mystery plot.”
“The title ‘Nizhal’ pretty much justifies the character and the plot, like it is something that is always with you and yet is mysterious, it sounded like an interesting option and it was finalized.”
We have asked this before with other debut directors as well because, there are so many aspiring Directors out there, who would like to know your perspective about this. Is Assisting the right way to become a Director?
“I am afraid, I wouldn’t be the right person to have a say on that, because I have assisted in only one movie. Some aspiring directors, assist, build contacts, learn the craft, and perhaps that could be the right way if it works out at the end.”
But is it fulfilling? Would you be able to give your 100% for someone else’s movie?
“Of course, you can give your 100%. I agree that your contribution to the creative part of things is scarce, however, it is a different process altogether, you will have to take care of a lot of things as AD. I cannot finish my project without AD’s, it is collective work you know. Every individual contribution is crucial.”
What do you think of OTT platforms? Is it a boon or bane?
” I think it’s very convenient. I have plenty of content at my disposal to choose from, I watch a lot of movies on it. I am sure it has been a boon to a lot of cinemas in a pandemic situation like this. “
Could you tell us about your upcoming projects?
“Currently, I have a few Editing projects that I have committed to, for upcoming Feature films. There aren’t any other Film making projects yet that I am working on.”
Before I let you go, what would you like to say to the young aspiring Directors or technicians striving to make it in the Industry?
“Young or Old, if you love cinema and would like to make it the Industry, you should continue trying like in any aspect of life. I had been trying for quite some time, at times things will not go as you plan, I have failed a lot of times and finally, when all your hard work and ideas come to fruition, it is a great feeling.”
Well, that was my little chat with a humble yet brilliant Filmmaker. I would like to Thank Appu N Bhattathiri for making time for this simple yet interesting chat and wish him all the Luck for all his upcoming creative endeavors.
Let there be more fresh and inspiring works to entertain and intrigue curious cinema enthusiasts like myself and a hearty Congratulations to the whole team on the success of ‘Nizhal’.