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Exclusive! Ganesh Raj: Pookkaalam is set in a world I wasn’t familiar with, but wanted to explore after Aanandam

The movie, which has Vijayaraghavan and KPAC Leela in the lead, revolves around a couple who are over 90 years of age

  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 07.15 AM, Jun 21, 2022

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Exclusive! Ganesh Raj: Pookkaalam is set in a world I wasn’t familiar with, but wanted to explore after Aanandam

Ganesh Raj with the cast and crew of Pookkaalam | Credit: Sinat Savier

Director Ganesh Raj’s debut directorial Aanandam reflected the vibrancy of youth in all flavours. But for his sophomore venture Pookkaalam, the filmmaker has chosen the other end of the spectrum, with both its protagonists being nonagenarians.

In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Ganesh, who recently completed shooting the film that has Vijayaraghavan and KPAC Leela in the lead, tells us the reason he picked the subject with aged characters.

“I wanted to try something different. Aanandam’s world was something that I was familiar with. It had just been a few years since I graduated from college, so I could relate to it better,” says Ganesh. “For my second film, I wanted to push myself some more. I didn’t know much about the world of Pookkaalam; it’s about much older people and is set against a rural Christian backdrop. I am not even married and because my parents’ jobs were always based in the cities, I have spent most of my time there. So, I wanted to explore this side of life too with this film.”

On the film’s central plot, the director, who has also written the movie, says, “It’s about a couple who have been married for 80 years. They are both extremely old, over 90 years of age. It’s about an incident that happens in their life and how it affects not just them, but their entire family and people around them.”

Soon after the film’s vibrant first look poster was released a few days ago, the casting of the movie was one of its highlights. The director says he is a firm believer of getting people who could play their age to essay the characters in his films and he had done the same for Aanandam too that introduced a bunch of exciting young talents to the industry. “In Pookkaalam, we couldn’t cast someone who is 85 or 90 in the movie especially because it was risky during the pandemic and it’s not easy for them to handle the entire schedule of a movie,” he says.

The filmmaker explains that he has been a huge fan of Vijayaraghavan and always felt that he has so much to offer, especially in a lead role. “The kind of effort he puts in for his roles is legendary. I have often felt that we could utilise him more. I also knew that he would jump at the role. When I narrated the script, I could understand that he too was waiting for a chance to play such a role. He is actually 72 years old and he looks and feels much younger,” explains Ganesh.

Finding the female protagonist though was challenging. “Unfortunately, in the past few years, we have lost some of our senior artistes,” he says. “So, we had to look for people in their 70s. That’s when I got to know about Leela ma’am, who was part of Jayaraj sir’s Roudram and had won the State Award for her performance in the movie. It turns out that she was an actress in the 60s, and had taken a break for 40-50 years before doing Roudram. She is also above 80.”

Ask him about how he had paced the shoot so that it wouldn’t be too troublesome for the cast too, he says, “Fortunately, they are both physically fit. While writing the movie also, I kept in mind not to include unwanted night sequences. It had to be practical especially considering the pandemic situation. Without compromising too much, there was always another alternative to show the same thing on screen. Also, during my research, I found out that most people at this age spend their time at home.”

Apart from the lead duo, the movie also has a stellar supporting cast featuring Basil Joseph, Roshan Mathew, Suhasini Maniratnam, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Jagadish, Johny Antony, Abu Salim, Annu Antony and Sarasa Balussery among others.

“Most of them are my friends, so it was easier to get them onboard,” says Ganesh, who has previously worked with Basil and Vineeth while assisting the latter’s directorials and had directed Roshan and Annu in Aanandam. “Basil knew that I was putting together a project and so when I told him about the character, he immediately agreed. Vineeth ettan is my mentor and a big brother to me. I first just narrated the story to him and he’s the one who said that it would be good if he played the character. Everyone came to be part of the film like that.”

Now, with the shoot of the movie complete, ask the filmmaker if it’s a theatrical or an OTT release and he says, “We haven’t thought about it. Right now, we want to finish the film. We would like to release it in theatres but that depends on when we finish the post production. Fortunately, the producers have been very supportive. As of now, the idea is to make it the best possible film.”

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