Anoop Menon, who has scripted the film and is also playing its lead actor, talks about the movie and his collaboration with its director Kannan Thamarakkulam
It’s been a busy year for Malayalam actor-director-scriptwriter Anoop Menon. He kicked off 2022 with a sleeper hit, Twenty One Gms, and has then been part of movies such as Padma and King Fish that he has also scripted and directed. Upping the ante, he is now gearing up for the release of his next script, Varaal, which he says is his biggest ‘commercial’ film yet. The film, which is set to hit theatres on October 14, also has Prakash Raj, Sunny Wayne, Renji Panicker and Hareesh Peradi in pivotal roles.
In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, the multi-talented artiste talks about what went into creating a political thriller, working with its director Kannan Thamarakkulam and the feedback of his first two directorials.
From the trailer and its cast, is Varaal the biggest film that you have scripted?
Yes, it’s also by far my most commercial script. Almost all my movies, right from Beautiful to Padma, were movies that were made on a limited budget. It works because nobody loses money and some of them have made good money. But I wanted to do something on a bigger scale. Actually, Varaal was not intended with this star cast; it was planned as a bigger, star-studded extravaganza. But it didn’t happen that way. Keeping all the paraphernalia intact, we swapped the lead actors. Prakash Raj, Sunny Wayne and I play the protagonists now, but we had three other actors in mind earlier. For the earlier plan to happen, we had to wait longer; also, I was involved with other projects.
What is Varaal about?
It deals with current political scenario, but it doesn’t partake in any character assassination. One character could be the amalgamation of several real-life politicians. We, however, do address Kerala politics – both contemporary and future. The movie is set in 2024 during the next general elections.
All your previous scripts have dealt with interpersonal relationships. While writing a political thriller, you also have to be aware about what’s happening in the State. Are you someone who keeps a tab on socio-political happenings or did you have to do extensive research?
I have never followed politics. This was a story that a journalist friend had told me – what we see in the media, even though it might be a controversy or a scandal, are actually planted by the same people who are being accused of it, to cover up something bigger. I wanted to know what lay beneath many of the media blitzkriegs and that’s how I started talking to a lot of my friends in the media. So, their contribution along my imagination is what led to Varaal.
It's a multi-starrer with some big actors such as Prakash Raj, Sunny Wayne and Renji Panicker. How did you manage to fit each of them into the film?
The thing is it could be due to some implicit faith in me that all these people came onboard; because even before reading the story they all agreed to be part of it – be it Shanker Ramakrishnan, Renji Panciker or Prakash Raj. I only gave them a two-minute character narration and for some, I didn’t even give that. However, each character – right from Prakash Raj to a cameo by Balaji – has something to do in the movie. They were cast because they had something that only they can offer. The film’s producer PA Sebastian also left no stone unturned.
You have also transitioned into a director and this is your script. How was the working dynamic between Varaal’s director Kannan Thamarakkulam and you on the sets?
Kannan, notwithstanding the films he has done and the kind of humiliation and insults that are meted out to him by a section of the media, is a terrific director. You would see it in the film. More than anything, I want this film to work for Kannan. He understood what I had conceived, in all its senses. That was revelatory for me. From the first scene itself, he got a complete grasp of what I was trying to say and then every scene was like a breeze. I have this tendency to write my script on the sets. So, he would get the dialogues only an hour before the shoot begins. Even then, he did a remarkably good job.
Both your directorials – Padma and King Fish – released this year. How was the feedback and what is your takeaway from those?
For King Fish, whoever watched the movie, loved it – be it Mohanlal or Prithvi (Prithviraj Sukumaran). I couldn’t release it well because I was in the US. It did really good business in terms of OTT and satellite. Padma, on the other hand, was a profitable film for me as a producer. I always wanted to make a movie on modern-day marriage. So, within the constraints – it was the pandemic and we had to shoot it indoors, I believe it came out well.