Madhura Manohara Moham marks State Award-winning costume designer Stephy Zaviour’s directorial debut
Throughout her career, Malayalam actor Rajisha Vijayan has strived to ensure that she doesn’t repeat her characters. That’s probably also why it has taken her so long to do a fun, family entertainer. The wait will end with Kerala State Film Award-winning costume designer-turned-filmmaker Stephy Zaviour’s Madhura Manohara Moham, which is all set to release on June 16 in theatres.
In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, the actress, who had recently starred in the heist thriller Kolla, talks about working with Stephy, what to expect from the movie and the changing tastes of the audience.
Though Stephy has been part of a lot of movies as a costume designer, how was it collaborating with her for her directorial debut?
I have known Stephy for so long. Both of us got State Awards the same year (2017) and the same year, there was an event by FEFKA, where all the winners were felicitated. That was our first meeting. Two weeks later, we met again and then we just clicked. We did June together then, and it was a journey from being friends to best friends. By now, she has worked as a costume designer for about 100 films.
She was the one who brought the film to me. Back then, she was not attached to direct the movie. She said she heard the script and when the writers narrated it to me, it worked for me too. I was the first artiste, who heard the narration. It was only later that it was decided that Stephy will direct it, and then it was a long journey, finding the producer, finalising the cast, shooting the movie and now, finally releasing it in theatres.
I have always felt that Stephy is a great narrator. Even when she tells us stories from her past, she keeps us engrossed. I would always tell her that she’s such a good story-teller. There was another story that she herself had written and we were trying to get that made, but somehow it didn’t happen and this became her directorial. I always knew that she is going to be a fabulous director, creatively. But I didn’t know how good she was technically because she had never assisted anyone, even though she had the experience of working behind the camera for about 100 movies.
But from the very first day on the sets, she was confident and that blew me away. She was in control of everything and it never felt like this was her first movie. I am proud of her and happy that I could be part of her debut film.
What can you tell us about Madhura Manohara Moham?
It’s about a mother and three children. Sharafudheen plays the elder brother, then there’s my character and then Malu, who is essayed by debutant Meenakshi. Arsha Baiju plays Sharafudheen’s pair and Vijayaraghavan sir and Neena Kurup ma’am essay her parents in the film. There’s also Baiju chettan, who is part of the movie.
Does this film explore a lot of dynamics between the siblings?
Generally, the siblings in Malayalam cinema share a goody-goody relationship where the sister has an over-protective brother. This movie is entirely different in that regard.
It’s placed in Pathanamthitta and so the geography and tone are varied. I feel every place has a unique disposition and politics that have an influence in its residents’ everyday lives. For instance, their point of view. It’s fun because Pathanamthitta is one of the least explored locations in Malayalam cinema. Our writers are from there and so that contributed a lot to the setting.
This year, a vast majority of the movies that were released in theatres, didn’t work at all. While making a movie now, even if the film has a superior content, is there a sense of uncertainty, as in you can’t tell confidently whether it will work or not?
Of course, it’s there. I think it has always been there, but if you let it get into your head while you are making a movie, I feel it will be substandard because you won’t be able to give it your all. You have to believe it will work. If you are already in doubt, your input will also suffer simultaneously. You cannot work without having that kind of positive mindset. It’s better to not think about the predicament, just go with the flow and see what happens. Ultimately, everyone is trying to make a good film. Right now, the situation is that sometimes good films also might not work in theatres because there’s so many factors – from the audience’s taste, weather to competition from other movies which are releasing – that are outside our control.
If you look at the films that have worked in Malayalam post-pandemic, it’s mostly those that are able to bring the family audience to the theatres. How does Madhura Manohara Moham fit into that?
I feel people just want to come to the theatres and have a laugh riot. They want to escape from their daily issues and have some fun. The thing is we don’t know when the next big change is going to happen. The audience’s taste or the way they appreciate films keep changing every few months and so, you can never predict which content will work. But right now, there’s space for humour and family-oriented movies that also leaves you with something to think about when you leave the theatres. I believe Madhura Manohara Moham slots into this genre.