The film, which was adjudged Best Second Film and won for Best Story at the recent Kerala State Film Awards, will soon gets its world premiere on SonyLiv.
As a half Malayali-half Kannadiga, who grew up in Kerala, but went to school in Karnataka, filmmaker Senna Hegde is not too well-versed with either Malayalam or Kannada. But he is a bit more partial to his Kerala roots, one would think. Having grown up watching Malayalam cinema of the 80s and 90s, Senna says that he hopes audiences will see some semblance of the filmi sensibilities of that era in his film, Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam, which won two awards at the recently-announced Kerala State Film Awards - Best Second Film and Best Story. “I am a huge fan of Balachandran Menon movies. That’s the kind of cinema that inspires me,” he says.
When Senna wrote this film, he was sure that he wanted to present it as a Malayalam film, featuring the local dialect of his hometown Kanhangad. But given his long association with producer Pushkara Mallikarjunaiah, who backed Senna’s earlier Kannada film Katheyondu Shuruvagide, he ran the story by the former. “This is a story that I had written right after Katheyondu Shuruvagide, and I had decided that I was going to make it in Malayalam. Initially, I thought I’d keep it to a neutral Malayalam accent and although I can read and write the language, I am not fluent and need someone’s help to write my thoughts. Along the way, I thought it was not working and ditched the idea, but told Pushkara about it. He heard the story and suggested we should make it in Kannada, which I was also okay with, since the subject is universal. My Kannada language skills are also not up to the mark, so I got someone on board to write for me. He’d even sent me a draft, which was nice, but I was just not convinced; you know, sometime you get a gut feeling if something is working or not. Something was missing and I realized that it needed to not only be set in my hometown Kanhangad, with the local dialect and a cast of relative newbies from the area. At this point, I got back to Pushkara and told him that I could find another producer to make it as a Malayalam movie, but he insisted on making it, irrespective of the language. That’s how it all fell in place,” explains Senna.
Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam was shot in Kanhangad in about 23 days and was wrapped up just before the pandemic hit. “After the initial days of lockdown, the team then got together and began editing and other post-production processes. Sending it to the festival circuit was not on the agenda, because it is a commercial film with song-and-dance routines, comedy and drama, etc. But a friend of mine suggested sending it to the International Film Festival of Kerala, for which it was picked up. That’s when we realized that this movie has some potential and people are seeing something in it. The film got four shows at IFFK, of which I attended a couple and to my mind, it was one of the most appreciated Malayalam films at the festival. Buoyed by the response to Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam at IFFK, we wanted to send it to other prestigious festivals too, hoping to hit some targets and that’s how it landed in consideration of the jury for the state film awards,” Senna elaborates.
So, what’s film about? It has, after all, won in the best story category. “It’s as simple as the title – an engagement on a Monday. The story is set in the house of a man named Vijayan, in a middle-class family set up. The event is his younger daughter’s engagement, for which the near-and-dear ones of the family start arriving a couple of days earlier. The entire narrative follows the dynamics of the people, not only in Vijayan’s family, but also everyone who has come to partake in the ceremony. It’s a family comedy drama,” he says. Is it inspired from his experiences or things he has seen in the neighbourhood? “The core idea comes from something that happens quite regularly. For instance, the girl is not too keen on marrying the guy, but it is being forced on her. People may say that girls today have more choices and a say in their lives, but there are still those who are afraid to stand up to their parents and that forms the crux of the narrative. How she deals with her dilemma is what the film is about,” adds Senna.
Why did he choose newcomers, though? “Primarily because I wanted to shoot the film in Kanhangad, but also since I was using sync sound and needed people who knew the local dialect. There are no known actors from that belt, so, we had to audition for most of the talent that you see onscreen,” he says. Is that why the film is coming to OTT? The film’s digital partner Invenio Origins has, apparently, struck a deal with SonyLiv. “Theatres in Kerala are opening only on October 25 and at 50% capacity and ‘n’ number of films are lined up till end of January next year. A slot may open up only in February or March, but then, our film has no star value, which is very important for theatres, especially after a sabbatical of a year and a half, they want star-oriented movies. Considering all this and that we’d have to wait another 3-4 months, we decided to take up the good offer that was on the table. It was time for us to let go and move on. Also, there are very few people who have probably heard about this film on social media, the rest of our target audience has no clue about Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam. We don’t have a face value – no offence to my actors, but there is no recognizable face out there. Pushkara and I were okay with taking it to OTT, because the ultimate goal is to make some money, so that the producer doesn’t lose much and, of course, make sure that everyone watches it. Luckily, we got a platform that is quite popular,” he says.