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Exclusive! Puzhu director Ratheena: When Mammootty has given me space, I want to ensure I use it the best way

The debutant filmmaker talks about her experience helming the Mammootty and Parvathy Thiruvothu-starrer Puzhu, which will drop on Sony LIV on May 13

  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 06.09 AM, May 12, 2022

Exclusive! Puzhu director Ratheena: When Mammootty has given me space, I want to ensure I use it the best way
Ratheena PT and Mammootty

Every fan turned filmmaker would want to see their screen idol be showcased in a role that stands out. Director Ratheena PT is among those who have got the rare opportunity to do so with Mammootty through her debut film Puzhu, which also has Parvathy Thiruvothu in the lead.

In an exclusive interview ahead of the movie’s release on Sony LIV on May 13, Ratheena, who has previously worked as an executive producer in Uyare as well as with director and actor Revathy, shares with OTTplay her experience helming the film, which has the megastar playing a full-length negative role after decades.

In an earlier interview, you had said that you have been a huge fan of Mammootty. So, how did this opportunity to direct him in your debut film come about?

I have been in the industry for over a decade now, and since arriving in cinema, my wish was to meet Mammukka, to get to know him and also do a movie with him. Over the years, I got acquainted with him. Your responsibility increases when a person gives you that freedom and space. So, when I went to him with my first script, I didn’t want him to reject that film.

When I finally pitched him a story, he liked it. I told him I needed someone to help me write the screenplay and that’s how he introduced me to Harshad ikka on the sets of Unda. So, we started working on it and by the time we were done, it became a big project. However, it wasn’t possible to do that during the pandemic.

In the meantime, Harshad ikka had already talked to Mammukka about a script that will have him play a negative character throughout the film. So those discussions restarted and that’s how I came onboard as a director for Puzhu.

A first-time filmmaker would want to present a different side of Mammootty and you had this opportunity to direct him in a negative role, something that he hasn’t done too often in his stellar career.

We didn’t purposely create a negative role for Mammukka to do. When such an idea took shape in Harshad ikka’s mind, he thought Mammukka would be the best person to do the role and that’s how he told him. Mammukka reply was, ‘It will have a lot of scope to perform’. We have seen him play such characters in Vidheyan and Munnariyippu, and so we know how well he can pull these off. Otherwise, there’s no reason to conjure up a negative role and cast Mammukka in it. The character has a negative shade from start till end, and as makers, what drove us was that we could showcase Mammukka’s best performance in recent times through this character. Also, it’s him who is performing; we are benefitting from it as fans and filmmakers.

Do you recall the experience of directing Mammukka on the very first day?

A lot of people would tell you about the kind of person Mammukka is. I hadn’t worked with him, not even for an advertisement. So, it was the very first time collaborating with him. Puzhu’s chief associate Baby chettan had worked with Mammukka is several films over the past two decades, so I had a fair idea of how he is on the sets. But before the first day, I thought, ‘It’s after all just Mammukka. I can tell him anything. It’s not like I don’t know him at all’. So, I went ahead with the mindset. And he was extremely co-operative, he gives you the freedom and space. If he has a doubt in the script, we would discuss. So, it was a healthy process. As a director, it was a great atmosphere to work with. We had a great crew, cast and when all of that comes together, it just makes for a happy experience and we could sustain the rhythm throughout.

Was Puzhu conceived as an OTT release from the start?

No. When the movie took shape, the producers thought it wasn’t a movie that would largely appeal to a wider section of the audience. It’s anyways the production house’s call and not the director’s. They discussed it with me. As far as I am concerned, it’s raining this week and very few would go to theatres. But when it releases on an OTT platform, a lot of people will watch it and that’s what matters to me.