Deepu Pradeep, the writer of Perilloor Premier League, talks about creating the Disney+ Hotstar web series, its challenges and how his blog played a pivotal role
Malayalam scriptwriter Deepu Pradeep’s blogs have attracted great talents including Minnal Murali director Basil Joseph, who made his directorial debut Kunjiramayanam based on its stories. Now, Deepu has used more of its eclectic characters and the world for giving life to Disney+ Hotstar’s latest web series – Perilloor Premier League (PPL), which is directed by debutant Praveen Chandran and stars Nikhila Vimal, Vijayaraghavan, Sunny Wayne, Aju Varghese, Ashokan and more.
In an exclusive interview soon after the web series’ release, Deepu tells us about what went into creating the world of Perilloor, the freedom and challenges of the OTT format and more.
Web series as a format allows scriptwriters more freedom than movies. How much did you enjoy creating the world of Perilloor and its people?
I find thrill in creating characters. The stories in PPL are from my blog; if Kunjiramayanam had five stories, the web series has almost 14. That’s how I developed the script. The only character that wasn’t there in my blog was Malavika (played by Nikhila Vimal); all the other people were part of different stories. So, the process was developing a new story revolving around Malavika and weaving the other characters with it.
I enjoyed writing for a series because we have that space. This also applies to the artistes, because they have more scope to perform. If you look at the series, a minor character that we show in the market in the pilot becomes a major part in its final episode. Also, (director) Praveen chettan gave great detailing to all characters.
A lot of the Malayali audience are only getting introduced to the web series format and from whatever they have been exposed to, followed a single thread and had limited episodes. PPL has seven episodes and a plethora of characters in the village. As a writer, does that become a challenge because you have the freedom and yet you also have to keep in mind what the audience can absorb?
If you look at it, in every episode, when we tell the story of a different character in the neighbourhood, they are its protagonists. In Hamza’s story about his coconut tree, he is the hero and that’s why he has that space. Similarly, in Appukuttan Warrier’s (Unni Nair) stories, he has a crucial role. So, there was always a possibility of straying from the main thread.
But how we have treated the film is to show how their other characters’ actions affect the lives of Sreekuttan and Malavika. That’s how it is structured, and that’s why the last episode has all these stories coming together. Otherwise, it won’t be gripping for the audience.
It’s never easy to sustain humour throughout the script for a movie; so, it naturally becomes tougher when you have to do it for a series spanning seven episodes.
It was challenging, because you never know how it’s going to pan out. It’s the first time I am dabbling with the web series format, and we didn’t get a lot of time for pre-production. In terms of duration and shoot days also, it’s longer than a film. A lot of artistes were also new faces and the audience will have to like their characters. So, verbal humour needed to work. It’s true that comedy always has a market, but if it fails, the entire series won’t work.
We have not tried to go overboard with the humour in this series; we have tried to keep it as natural as possible. If you tried to add background music or tried to make it over-the-top, it would have been inauthentic. In terms of writing, comedy comes easier to me because I do write a lot of blogs that are humour-driven. Also, I try to intentionally bring a fun element to each dialogue or situation.
Coming to the source of inspiration for Perilloor Premier League – your blog, take us through writing that and creating such characters.
I started blogging in 2007 and back then, there were a lot of bloggers. But because a lot of people didn’t get their due recognition for what they wrote and also due to platforms like YouTube becoming popular, they stopped. I stuck with it because I liked creating stories and so, used it as a tool for that. If I didn’t have that medium, I would have stopped writing. So, the blog has obviously helped me create these stories to a great extent.
You have also co-written Ajayante Randam Moshanam and scripted Prithviraj Sukumaran and Basil Joseph’s Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil – both of which are big in terms of scale and cast.
They are both big films and of different genres, compared to my previous movies. They don’t revolve around a village. Ajayante Randam Moshanam is a fantasy film that spans three generations and has several action sequences. It will be released in 3D and has elements that will work with audiences outside Kerala too.
Meanwhile, Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil is an event-based film that happens in the backdrop of the temple. It’s the first time I have attempted something like that.