The scriptwriter talks about B Unnikrishnan’s directorial and breaks down the formula for ‘mass’ entertainer that he has mastered over the years
Last Updated: 09.45 AM, Feb 16, 2022
Scriptwriter Udaykrishna has now arguably become the go-to guy for ‘mass’ entertainers in Malayalam. Even as the Pulimurugan and Madhuraraja scribe is gearing up for the release of B Unnikrishnan’s Aaraattu, he has similar big budget movies with Mammootty, Dileep and Unni Mukundan in the pipeline.
In an exclusive interview with OTTplay ahead of the Mohanlal-starrer’s release on February 18, the scriptwriter breaks down the formula for ‘mass’ entertainers that he has mastered over two decades in Malayalam cinema and also talks about what went into creating Neyyattinkara Gopante Aaraattu and how the references from previous Mohanlal movies figure in the film.
B Unnikrishnan and you had first approached Mohanlal in 2020 for a totally different project and it was Mohanlal’s idea to do an entertainer. How did you come up with the script for Aaraattu?
We had this idea for another big movie but its story journeys through different states. It was a movie we had pitched because the scale of some of his films were becoming massive and this adhered to that. But we couldn’t shoot it, especially because the COVID-19 cases were at its peak then. So, Lalettan said let’s do an entertainer that can make people laugh. We only had a month’s time to put together the script and the project. Fortunately, we zeroed in on a character and Lalettan was excited about it. After that, everything just happened at break-neck speed.
This movie is also extensively set in a village and there are a lot of characters. Because the film was shot during the pandemic, we had to block all their dates together and work in a bio bubble.
Based on just the trailer, the movie has references to many of Mohanlal’s previous movies including Aaraam Thampuran and Lucifer. Was that deliberate?
It is. The story is told through those references. I have enjoyed all these movies and Aaraattu can be considered a fanboy’s tribute to Lalettan. So, these references are placed in a particular order that I believe would be enjoyable to the audience too. Shades of all these movies are there in Aaraattu and the audience will be able to recall these scenes.
Over the years, you have written the most number of ‘mass’ entertainers in Malayalam including Pulimurugan, Madhuraraja and Masterpiece. Is there a particular template for these films?
Absolutely. In Tamil, Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Vijay and Ajith have been using this formula and they also don’t try to steer too much away from this. In Telugu, all superstars have been following the same template. This contributes to the business aspects of the film – the initial box office revenue and the hype.
In Malayalam, we use it less because our heroes aren’t too interested in such films. I don’t think anyone else is utilising that format for their films now. I came into the industry after watching and being thrilled by such movies of SN Swamy, Dennis Joseph, Joshiy, K Madhu, Ranjith, Shaji Kailas and Renji Panicker. Every Friday, if we would see a superstar’s flex with a gun or a hockey stick, people would clamour to theatres. That enthusiasm and passion are what still drives me in this industry and that’s why I would keep using that formula till my career is done and dusted.
Could you break down that formula for us? What goes into creating a ‘mass’ film?
Mass films formula basically consists of creating a hero and then aspects of introduction, interval punch, lead and climax. The entire stands on these pillars and if you can place the story right, it will be a hit. But if it’s unbalanced even by a slight bit, the entire story fails. It’s basically a thin line and depends entirely on how you weave the story thread. In a ‘mass’ film too, the hero does comedy, action and has emotions, but everything will be a dose higher than a normal film. Right now, most of the filmmakers are opting for a realistic approach in Malayalam cinema, but these kinds of films are also required.
In Aaraattu, the black Mercedes Benz and other identifiers are just adornments to Neyyattinkara Gopan’s character. Who the character is and what his intentions are, are what drives the plot. The rest are just paraphernalia – be it the clothes he wears, the songs or his style in the action sequences.
Pulimurugan, your previous collaboration with Mohanlal, had a memorable villain in Daddy Girija, played by Jagapathi Babu. What can you tell us about the antagonist in Aaraattu?
In every film, only when the villain is strong, the hero too becomes powerful. Else there will be no conflict. All ‘mass’ entertainers focus on the hero, the heroine and the villain. In realistic films, fate is often the antagonist. In Aaraattu, we can’t pinpoint a particular villain. It’s a journey in search of an antagonist. There is a line of villains and the story tries to find out who the real antagonist is and what is his aim; that’s the suspense of the story.
You have also scripted Monster, which has you teaming up with Vysakh and Mohanlal. It again is a film that you had written in record time.
Cinema is like that. You can’t script everything, keep it ready and then wait for the film to happen. I don’t think that we will have the time or patience in the coming years to write a realistic film and then keep approaching filmmakers till it’s made. You analyse everything before you do a film, because ultimately a huge amount of investment is required for a film. So, the movies have to be suitable for that year and time, and should be different from the competing films that are also set to release then.
People approach us because they have confidence that we can script a film based on these. They believe that because we are experienced professionals, we can come up with a script instantly and shape up a project in a quick time. The scriptwriters though are always under the pump, because we shiver every time we take the advance amount as we are unsure if we could complete it within the deadline.