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Rebel director Nikesh RS interview: You need to know where to insert songs and fight to make a commercial film the right way

Director Nikesh RS gets into a conversation with OTTplay about his maiden directorial, Rebel, which stars GV Prakash and Premalu-fame Mamitha Baiju in lead roles 

Rebel director Nikesh RS interview: You need to know where to insert songs and fight to make a commercial film the right way
GV Prakash with Nikesh RS

Last Updated: 03.53 PM, Mar 20, 2024


Debutant director Nikesh RS may have taken inspiration from a plethora of light-hearted subjects to begin his feature film journey. But the filmmaker chose a collection of true incidents that took place in his hometown of Munnar to make his first film, in the form of the political period drama Rebel. Starring GV Prakash and Premalu-fame Mamitha Baiju in the lead roles, the director gets into a conversation with OTTplay to talk about his maiden directorial.

“I had written a couple of stories, but I was not 100 percent satisfied. I am from Munnar, and when I saw the issues that people there are facing, I was able to get into this subject for Rebel. After hearing the stories of what my relatives went through, I was able to collect the details and make it into a film story,” says Nikesh.

Politics and inspiration

So, did he foresee any controversies that the film might stir, given its political milieu and if it could connect with Tamil audiences? Nikesh says, “More than seeing it as a controversy, I understood that there is a significant population of Tamil people in Munnar and I knew that talking about their issues would connect with Tamil audiences. Secondly, Rebel is about an issue that is present in all states and we are sure there is no controversy involved. There are people from both parties who support the other language people and we have focused on only those who create trouble.”


Rebel is based on true events and is inspired by stories told by students who have gone to Palakkad from Munnar to study. “I have heard many stories of what they felt and experienced. Rebel is a story formed out of collective experience, along with creative liberty for cinematic experience,” he adds.

Cross-linguistic films

The upcoming film also adds itself to a list of films that have cross-linguistic narratives. Just like the Hyderabad-set Malayalam film Premalu and another Malayalam film, Manjummel Boys, which has a Tamil connection, Rebel is a Tamil film that is set in Kerala’s Munnar and talks about the rights of Tamilians. Nikesh says that in recent times, people have begun watching films without thinking about linguistic differences, since now content rules above all else. Calling it a healthy trend, he says, “There are a lot of Malayalam dialogues in the film and I was sceptical if they would be understood. But after Manjummel Boys, Tamil audiences were able to understand Malayalam and also enjoy it. That is a huge boost to Rebel.”

Nikesh says that the writing of Rebel was hard since it is about politics. “We did not want to mess up or go wrong because the story is political by nature. It took me about a year to work on the script and since it’s set in the 1980s, there was extensive pre-production work before we began shooting. We had to scout for locations that also adhered to the time period,” he adds.

Beginner’s luck

As a first-time filmmaker, Nikesh says that he does not want to have a signature style and adds that even though Rebel is a serious subject, the film has been treated in a commercial manner. Nikesh says, “We did not want the audience to feel extensive drama and hence have not chosen to take the live root. We have tried a new-age filmmaking styles. I aspire to do a variety of genres, including romance, action and drama.”

Rebel was written with GV Prakash in mind, despite the fact that the actor has never performed full-fledged action roles, Nikesh says. And this is where his extensive pre-production came in handy. “We had planned how his costumes should be and what type of shots had to be kept. He has done a lot of romantic roles, and when we show him as an action hero in Rebel, it is my responsibility to make it believable.”

Time and again, Nikesh stresses that he has treated Rebel as a commercial package. Quizzed about what a commercial film is, he says that the story is packaged with elements that will appeal to the audience. He adds, “We have devised the shots in such a way that treatment will appear different. Only songs and fights do not make a film commercial. To me, Premam is also a commercial film and it is simply the way you shoot and stage these scenes that makes it commercial. You need to know where to insert a song, fight or emotion so as not to sacrifice the content. Rebel will be commercial in that sense.”

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