The filmmaker, who made his Mollywood debut with Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Kuruthi, talks to us about what went into creating the socio-political thriller
Over the past few years, it’s the debutant filmmakers who have come out with some of the most potent and important films in Mollywood. This list ranges from Madhu C Narayanan’s Kumbalangi Nights and Anuraj Manohar’s Ishq to Manu Ashokan’s Uyare and Mathukutty Xavier’s Helen. Director Manu Warrier is the latest to join this gang with his socio-political thriller Kuruthi, which has Prithviraj Sukumaran and Roshan Mathew in the lead and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Manu, who had previously helmed the Hindi film Coffee Bloom, talks about collaborating with Prithviraj for Kuruthi, the film’s near-perfect casting and more.
You have been active in Bollywood. So, why choose the Malayalam film industry to do a film like Kuruthi?
I am a Malayali and I grew up in the VCR generation of the 90s, when you had a lot of uncles bringing movies from the Gulf. So, Malayalam movies of Lalettan and Mammootty were a part of my life growing up. There was never a question of whether I wanted to do a Malayalam film; it was all about finding the right subject and screenplay and that is where Kuruthi came in.
Prithviraj had said it was a script that Anish Pallyal had sent him earlier, and he discovered it during the lockdown. Tell us about the work that happened during the pre-production stage.
So, Prithvi had read the synopsis and he asked me if we had anything more. I told him we had the first draft ready. The original screenplay was quite different in terms of how we approached the storytelling. Once, Prithvi read it, he said he wanted to produce it but he wanted it to be a mainstream film. We understood that, because when he was onboard, we opened ourselves to a larger audience. That’s when we thought why not go back and rework the script. So, with a lot of Prithvi’s involvement and experience, we incorporated a lot of action and drama, and it became larger in scale.
Kuruthi, while talking about religious hatred, also tried to present it in an objective manner. But were you wary of the controversies it might have created and did it influence the final script?
In the first draft, what Prithvi also liked was that we weren’t taking any sides. We were trying to present a very objective, ‘as is where is’ kind of scenario where you are able to see things around you. Then it was clear that if you have the involvement of a big star, we shouldn’t tilt it to any point so that it becomes anybody’s narrative. So, there was a certain number of deliberations and discussions before we arrived at this.
The casting of the movie was bang on, from Mamukkoya to the youngsters Naslen and Sagar Surya. How involved was Prithviraj in getting the casting right?
He was absolutely clear, when he read the script and came onboard as a producer, that we have to have great actors who can rise above the script. We had lots of names that we had initially discussed and then we focused on getting the right actors. We threw around a few names and liked them, and once you have Prithviraj Productions, it’s just about him getting those names onboard.
After the film’s release, everyone on social media has been praising Mamukkoya’s performance as Moosa. How did that casting happen?
He is phenomenal, even as a person. There were some apprehensions initially if he could pull off the action scenes in the film. Anish had brought up his name, saying we should try and get him onboard if we can. It was Prithvi who ensured that he did. He really chewed into that role and made it his own. It was fun and collaborative; my AD Irshad Parari worked with him to get a lot of things right. I am quite thrilled I got an opportunity to work with him
The film was mostly shot in dark but it also has moments where light has been used effectively. Laiq is a force of darkness and Ibrahim essentially is this staunch, God-fearing man. So, how much did the visuals help in telling the story you had in mind?
The visual bit of it, to a large extent, is cinematographer Abhinandan Ramanujam’s contribution. I remember when the script was sent to him, he was so excited and said, ‘This is it man, I want to play with a lot of light here’. It was a very collaborative process where all of us including Prithvi were involved in discussing how to approach the cinematography. Huge credit to how Abhinandan played with light in the film.
The entire movie was shot in just 27 days. Was that taxing for the actors?
I actually remember Roshan saying that it was a demanding schedule. We used to start at 8am and work till 10pm. We were cut away from the world and working long hours, but none of that felt like work. It felt like we were having a lot of fun because we were so involved. It was only when we were done and heading back in our cars that we felt tired. Then you have Prithvi who was sort of that energy booster, constantly pushing us to do work.
Kuruthi is a film that reveals a new layer with every repeated watch. Does OTT release make more sense for such films as you get to pack in so much information?
100 per cent. I remember one of my cousins did this Amazon Watch Party where people come together and discuss the movie. These are things that never happened before. That way, releasing the films on OTTs is a boon. Also, most of my friends are non-Malayalis, who have already watched it and given me feedback. I agree that theatre is a different experience but the scale that Amazon Prime Video provides for a film is something that I am thankful for.