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Por director Bejoy Nambiar Interview - Assistant direction is always my learning ground and will never leave it

Director Bejoy Nambiar, who is awaiting the release of Por, talks about assisting Mani Ratnam, exploring male ego with Por, writing women characters and more 

Por director Bejoy Nambiar Interview - Assistant direction is always my learning ground and will never leave it
Bejoy Nambiar

Last Updated: 01.54 PM, Feb 27, 2024


Filmmaker Bejoy Nambiar can be easily called an anomaly of sorts. The director, who hails from Kerala, made his debut with Hindi crime thriller Shaitan and next helmed Tamil film David as his sophomore project. Throw in Hindi neo-noir action thriller Wazir and experimental anthology Solo in Tamil-Malayalam in the mix, Bejoy took a break of seven years from theatres, and experimented like no other with the then-booming streaming space. An OTT film Taish, a segment on compassion in Tamil anthology Navarasa, a mystery drama series called The Fame Game, an intergenerational group of women taking a road trip in Sweet Kaaram Coffee, and a series on reverse hawala in the form of Kaala.

Meanwhile, after seven years, Bejoy is making his comeback to theatres with Tamil Hindi bilingual Por/Dange. And guess what it is? A campus-set action drama, featuring Arjun Das and Kalidas Jayaram in the lead roles. And in between all this, Bejoy is also assisting Mani Ratnam in the upcoming Thug Life. With unpredictability eventually becoming the middle name for Bejoy, he says, “I think the assisting part is constant and I am very greedy about it. I look forward to those activities and try my best to work my life around that. Whatever I am doing goes secondary and I am hoping it continues. Because it is the only time I get to learn, by watching and observing. It is always my learning ground for me.”


On what makes him choose next

With a varied content creation to his credits, Bejoy says it is the stories that excite him. “I am always on a lookout on ideas that keeps circling me, and feel there is something you can pursue, you start imagining, seeing and picturizing it. So even though I have a bank of ideas, I try to narrate them to friends, actors and others to see who is getting excited about what, and if something gets them intrigued, then I get excited and I know that is what I have to work on next, which also finds traction with people.”

Amid a sea of huge star ensemble cast like Thug Life, and Vettaiyan, Por is a campus-bound action drama that features a young cast including Arjun, Kalidas, TJ Bhanu, Sanchana Natrajan, among others. Speaking about this facet, the filmmaker says, “To be honest, there was no reference point for Por. I knew that I wanted to do a college film and tell the story of this one incident that happened I know of, through the narrative of two hypermasculine guys. But I also got to understand that there is no reference point to a film like this or a comparison. We were on to something good; I knew there was something fresh. Our main target was college-going youngsters and I hope the film finds its audience.” Even though Bejoy says Por is an urban film, accessible and entertaining, told in mainstream format, the filmmaker assures that Por will be refreshing to watch.

On Por casting, male ego

The makers of Por also make a unique casting choice, by making Arjun (who is stereotyped to be the angry young man) play a sober and calm-headed person, while Kalidas, known for his demure personality plays the aggressive character. Mentioning that it was very intentional to reverse the casting, Bejoy explains, “Especially after Paava Kadhaigal, we have seen Kalidas as the soft one. But I want him to see in a different light and play slightly aggressive. In case of Arjun, we have seen him do angry young man, but wanted to make him more laid-back and calmer. They were the perfect foil for each other.”

In line with films like Parking, Driving Licence, Ayyappanum Koshiyum, touching upon the concept of male ego , Bejoy concurs that Por also acknowledges the concept. “The incident the film is inspired from sparked because of an ego tussle. It was a small issue that blew up and became a riot. So, ego is the core of it. I tried to bring that into the film, address it through women characters especially.”

On writing women and doing bilingual

Speaking of the women characters, Bejoy said that to offset the male characters, they had authored back female characters and for them to move. “They were not token characters at all and my writing characters have women in it. That was our first brief. Even though our film is about these two men, the women need to have agency of their own and place in the film. That I something I am very conscious about and be part of as much as what is happening.”

And it is also the reason, why he made Sweet Kaaram Coffee, a series that involves three generations of women from a family taking a road trip together without any male guidance. “Yes, 100%. When they offered it to be, I just grabbed it because it gave me a chance to tell story of women and I can also justify that I can tell stories of women. In fact, I have written so many stories for women, one being the short film Siblings, for my wife Sheetal Menon. I won my first award for working on it. Sometimes when working on a feature film I might not get such opportunities, so I am always open for projects like Sweet Kaaram Coffee.”

Even though Por is written and directed by Bejoy, the filmmaker has worked with a group of writers for the screenplay and dialogues. Calling it important that he collaborate with fellow writers, Bejoy says that once he comes up with the story, his hunt for writers is crucial to solidifying the script. “We flesh it out completely with the help of the writers. With Por, I had the basic idea ready and collaborated with writers. We go through it multiple times, before and after going on floors, to thicken the script,” he adds.

Revealing that Arjun’s character is fashioned after his college senior, Bejoy says that just like any other director, he is always on a lookout for characters on a sub-conscious level. “When I was writing about it, I didn’t realise. But later one day, when I was writing a scene, it struck me it was exactly the same happened with my senior. I remember vividly the person. Meanwhile, Kali is a mix of 2-3 characters I had seen in college. I even styled certain characters after people I have seen,” he adds.

Called Dange in Hindi with Harshvardhan Rane and Ehan Bhat playing the lead roles, Bejoy says that he wanted the authenticity to prevail by roping in local actors. “The one term that has been hurdling me is pan-India. You can dub a film and release in other languages, but it might not work every time. If I make this film only in Tamil, it is not necessary that it would travel in Hindi as well. The subject is also a campus story that is relatable to many.”

But Bejoy also reveals honestly why they chose bilingual. “As much as I have the greed to establish myself in both the markets, and reach a wider audience, the reason we did this because I would not have been able to mount the film in this scale and size, if I did it in one language. Since it is being made in two languages, I was able to get the budgets I want and the derivates are also more,” he adds.

Talking about having a theatrical release after seven years, Bejoy exclaims at the realisation and says how streaming platforms have enabled him as a storyteller. “It has been an interesting learning curve, and with each project, the curve only gets deeper. With Por, I think that will go one step ahead for me.”

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