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Exclusive! Fahadh Faasil: Malayankunju is the toughest film I have done, we had to crouch, crawl to shoot it

Fahadh Faasil talks about his upcoming survival thriller Malayankunju, the challenges involved in shooting the film and more

Exclusive! Fahadh Faasil: Malayankunju is the toughest film I have done, we had to crouch, crawl to shoot it
Fahadh Faasil in a still from Malayankunju
  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 05.29 AM, Jul 18, 2022

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There’s a reason Malayalam actor Fahadh Faasil now enjoys a fanbase spanning the entire country – he continues to surprise (and shock) with every film. In fact, his upcoming release Malayankunju, a survival thriller about a man trapped 30 feet below ground level after a landslide, had him on all fours, literally pushing himself and the earth around him.

In an exclusive interview with OTTplay ahead of the film’s theatrical release on July 21, Fahadh talks to us about the challenges of shooting the Sajimon Prabhakar directorial, which is scripted and cinematographed by C U Soon and Malik director Mahesh Narayanan.

Fahadh Faasil in Malayankunju
Fahadh Faasil in Malayankunju

Malayankunju is about a man trapped after a landslide. How physically exhausting was it to play the character?

The story is set 30 to 40 feet below ground level and that’s what we had tried to shoot. In the first discussion itself, we had decided we would set up a space for the shoot. We filmed it in the order of the scenes and so the first half went without much hassle. Once we began work on the latter half, that’s when we started facing the challenges. From the interval onwards, it’s a one-actor narrative. So, there aren't any dialogues between characters. On top of that, shooting the film was an exhausting process because none of us could stand and shoot in that space. To get in the sets, you had to crouch and crawl. So, it was physically taxing and I was exhausted mentally as well; it’s one of the most difficult movies I have been part of.

It's a different kind of film. I have never done a film like this or seen one in the recent past in Malayalam. Maybe Malootty was there but it’s more about what’s happening outside – the efforts made to save the child. Here, we stay with the character. I think it makes for a great theatrical experience and that’s why we tried to make this film.


Was it a movie that was planned because of the pandemic restrictions?

The cases were going down when we filmed the first half. Then I had an accident, and there was another lockdown. So, there was a gap of eight months before we resumed again.

The Malayalam films that you have done since the pandemic – be it Joji or Malayankunju – all have this restricted atmosphere where a lot of internal struggle happens, leading way to an implosion of sorts.

That’s the process that happens in every film. Before the pandemic, everyone wanted to explore wide angles. Everyone wanted to set up the story – as to where it is placed – and this setting up process itself accounts for 5-6 scenes. After the pandemic, nobody wanted to set it anywhere. It was more like it’s happening in your house. I think every film will change with society or its circumstances. So, I am guessing it’s just that.

Fahadh Faasil in a still from Malayankunju
Fahadh Faasil in a still from Malayankunju

Malayankunju is also your first theatrical release since the pandemic.

In fact, it was not meant to be a theatrical release. Even when we started the second schedule, theatres were closed in Kerala. It was supposed to be a direct-to-OTT release on Amazon Prime Video. But after a point, we realised that the detailing should be experienced in theatre. For this kind of film, home-viewing is for the repeat audience. Initial viewers should watch this in theatres. So, we went back to Amazon Prime Video and got it back from them. That’s how it is releasing in theatres now. Knowingly or unknowingly, a lot of things fell into place including AR Rahman joining the film.

It’s obviously an ambitious project and something close to you – with your father Fazil as its producer, Mahesh Narayanan as its scriptwriter and cinematographer. Tell us about getting Sajimon Prabhakar, who is making his debut with the film, to helm it. Was that your decision?

I have known Saji almost from the beginning of my career. I have worked in about four films in which he was the associate director. So, I had an idea of what he is capable of. Once I started talking cinema to him, that’s when we met up writers and began narrowing down the narratives. It’s also where I figured I must place him with a different kind of idea. Then we spoke to Mahesh about several ideas. One day, when we were jamming, Mahesh came up with this idea about a guy, who has suffered a lot of personal tragedies. What troubles him now is that there is a newborn baby. He is an electronic mechanic and so he wakes up early in the morning to get his work done. That’s also when this baby starts crying. So, he is always irritated with the baby. And then a landslide happens and all he can hear is this baby’s cry. What he hated all his life becomes the cry of hope, and the film is that internal journey.

Fahadh Faasil in a still from Malayankunju
Fahadh Faasil in a still from Malayankunju

Speaking about the stories rooted to Kerala, from the visuals of the song and trailer of Malayankunju, you have once again impeccably transformed into this rural youth for the role.

I totally depend on the make-up artiste and costume designer for those aspects. They give me the elements to make me look the part and once I put it on, it always helps me behave that way. I totally depend on my team for all this. I don’t have an upbringing where I was in Thodupuzha or any of those places. I totally depend on the creative heads to give me the inputs to get things right. For Malayankunju, it was Dhanya, Ronex and their team; it was a combined process. Also, the script had all the details that lent the depth required to play the character.

Fahadh Faasil and Mahesh Narayanan
Fahadh Faasil and Mahesh Narayanan

You have frequently said that in the past few years, you need to share a particular vibe with people to collaborate with them. It’s also why you have been working a lot with Mahesh. What sort of freedom does it give you as an artiste?

It’s the wavelength that Mahesh, Sajimon and I share. It’s easy for us to derive what to shoot and what not to. The process is easy and convenient. That’s why it’s happening frequently.

Are you planning to take up more entertainers this year? You also have Akhil Sathyan’s Pachuvum Athbhuthavilakkum coming up in December.

I have only signed that film in Malayalam. I have never looked at the feel of the movie; I try to tell a story that hasn’t been told before.