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Exclusive! 1744 White Alto’s world allowed us more flexibility compared to Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam: Senna Hegde

Award-winning filmmaker Senna Hegde talks about his latest release 1744 White Alto, which has Sharafudheen, in the lead

Exclusive! 1744 White Alto’s world allowed us more flexibility compared to Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam: Senna Hegde
Senna Hegde
  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 03.55 AM, Nov 17, 2022

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The teaser and trailer of director Senna Hegde’s latest crime-comedy caper 1744 White Alto piqued the curiosity of the audience. The expectations are also high as it follows his award-winning film Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam. Senna, however, is quick to say that both movies are completely different and the audience wouldn’t even know that the two films are made by the same team.

In an exclusive interview ahead of the release of 1744 White Alto, which has Sharafudheen, Rajesh Madhavan and Vincy Aloshius in the lead, the filmmaker talks about what went in to the creation of the fictional world the movie is set in, his writing process and more.

From the trailer of 1744 White Alto, it’s got a very Wes Anderson-esque feel to it while also reminding the audience of movies that have a Western setting. How did you land on this setting and story?

The movie is shot in Kanhangad but the story is not necessarily based there. It’s a fictional land, somewhere in Kerala, that we are portraying in the film. In terms of its feel, it’s a character-driven film. It’s a cat and mouse chase between people involving a car and the police. That’s the thin storyline it has, but there are a bunch of weird characters coming together. It’s a comedy with crime elements attached to it.

With regards to its colour, the summer of Kasaragod is very dry and the grass in certain stretches have a yellowish tinge to it that gives it an American, mid-Western feel. So, (co-scriptwriter and cinematographer) Sreeraj Raveendran had suggested why not play around with it because it’s not something that has been attempted too many times in Malayalam. The whole movie has an isolated feel to it. In the entire film, you don’t have any background play per se. For instance, when a car is on the road, there’s usually a lot of other vehicles too. But here, it will just be that one car on that lonely highway. The characters are also lonely that way. There aren’t any other characters in the background. It blends well with the terrain.

Senna and Sharafudheen on the sets of 1744 White Alto
Senna and Sharafudheen on the sets of 1744 White Alto

You have also co-written this film with Sreeraj, who is also its cinematographer. While having him script it with you, does it also help establish the visual language of the movie upfront?

It is something that I pushed because he was initially reluctant. None of us are writers, but we love writing the story we want to tell. It’s easy to put on paper something that is coming from our minds rather than telling an actual writer and forcing our ideas off them. Sreeraj joined Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam halfway, but for this, I got him involved right from the beginning. What happens in such cases is that when we write and complete the script, half the pre-production is already done. The most complicated aspect or things that we will have trouble executing get figured during the process of writing. So, we find the solution right then and there, rather than waiting for the pre-production to happen.

It also helps us understand the story better. When we get on the sets, we don’t need to have a lot of conversation. We just have to look at each other and say this is what needs to be done. So, it saves us a lot of time and effort.

But how soon does it take for you to complete the script, especially the way you approach it?

Usually, the initial version of my script gets done fast. It’s difficult to explain my writing process because there’s no method in it. I don’t know where I start and I finish. Maybe Scene 18 is what I write first. I write a lot of different scenes and then find a common ground to connect all of this. That just works for me. Once the initial draft is written, I keep making changes till I call action.

Was there ever a time after the film’s release, that you thought that what if you had retained the previous version of a scene?

Not really. I am the kind of person who doesn’t look back. It doesn’t do a whole lot of good, especially if what I have done hasn’t worked. Sometimes what happens is that I don’t shoot a lot of footage. I just shoot the minimum; only what’s required. So, sometimes there is a tinge of regret, during the editing phase when I wish that I could have filmed that one extra shot to make the edit smoother.

Rajesh Madhavan and Senna Hegde on the sets of 1744 White Alto
Rajesh Madhavan and Senna Hegde on the sets of 1744 White Alto

You had said 1744 White Alto has a thin storyline and is more character driven. Such films also require the actors to have complete trust in the filmmaker.

Yes, with Thinkalazcha Nishchayam, the actors had no choice. They had to trust me or find another film to act (laughs). I am not trying to be arrogant, but that was the process. I told them that they won’t get the whole script, they will only be told what they had to do 15 minutes before the scene. With 1744 White Alto, the process was more or less the same, except with Sharafudheen, who read the entire script so that is comfortable and knows what the story is. It’s not like we don’t give everyone the script, if people asked, we do. Because Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam was a success and it also convinced people that we know how to do our job, the artistes put their trust in me.

The art in this film, again, pops as compared to Thinkalazcha Nishchayam.

It’s a very staged film compared to Thinkalazcha Nishchayam, which is very rooted in the sense that the story and its characters are based in Kanhangad. 1744 White Alto is a world that we created and so, we had the flexibility of what to include in that world and what we don’t. We could push the envelope with this film and hopefully we could get away with it.

A still from 1744 White Alto
A still from 1744 White Alto

Also, Sreeraj is very adamant about picking a colour palette. Once we decided that we will have teal and orange, and anything in between that as part of our colour palette, we had to stick to that. We also have two great guys handling the art – one of was Ullas Hydoor who had worked in Thikalazhacha Nishchayam and had done the production design for this movie and the other being Vinod Pattanakkadan, who is making his debut as an art director.

You also have Kunchacko Boban’s Padmini coming up. What’s the status?

We were supposed to shoot it earlier this year, but there was a delay with the monsoons also affecting us. As on now, we are planning to shoot it at the end of November. Most of my focus is now on Padmini, the writing is done and recce is happening.

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