The director speaks candidly to OTTplay on the making of his critically acclaimed drama film, Kaanekkaane, starring Tovino Thomas, Suraj Venjaramoodu, and Aishwarya Lekshmi
The COVID-19 pandemic has derailed several potential releases in the Malayalam industry and beyond, in the last 18 months. But many makers saw OTT platforms as a viable option to release their films and reach wider audiences - one such film is Kannnekkaane. In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, director Manu Ashokan talks about how his second film after the success of his directorial debut, Uyare, had to be pushed back as a result of the various lockdown measures implemented in the state, and across the country.
“There is no doubt that the pandemic has affected us. So, Kaanekkaane was always going to be an OTT release, a theatrical release was never an option,” says the director. Manu Ashokan reiterates the sentiments of several filmmakers who believe that an OTT release is the only viable option in the current climate. The success of Malayalam films in recent months, including Kaanekkaane which was released last week exclusively on SonyLiv, seems to have vindicated the decision.
With regards to the film itself, Manu explains that he envisioned the characters to be relatable based on the script written by renowned writers Sanjay and Bobby. “These are characters who resemble people we know from our daily lives, so I was particular that they looked the part. My wife (Sreya Aravind) was the costume designer, so it was easy for me to communicate my vision for these characters,” he says.
“I did not want the character portrayals to be too dramatic, so I requested the cast, ‘don’t act’. The idea was to have very simple and down-to-earth portrayals. I believe it was a fantastic achievement by the cast, and I enjoyed working with them.”
He goes on to explain that his good relationship with Tovino Thomas, the lead actor, was crucial, after working together in Uyare. “This was also the first time I worked with Aishwarya Lekshmi and Suraj Venjaramoodu, and it was a wonderful experience,” he adds
The performances by the cast and the effort that has gone into it are clearly evident. The few flashback scenes, in particular, have been carefully crafted, without the use of different colour grading as identifiers for the audience. They helped to avoid any sort of confusion with regard to the chronology of the narrative. “The characters look a lot fresher in these few flashbacks, and there is a different feel to the overall aesthetic of the scenes,” adds Manu. This narrative technique, though not entirely uncommon, has worked like a charm.
Even though a few social issues were subtly hinted at in the narrative, Manu points out that it is more character-driven focusing on the individuality of these characters by highlighting their personal struggles. “Unlike Uyare, where the focus is more on a social issue, Kaanekkaane focuses more on raw human emotions. Ultimately it is a film about redemption, and that shows that perspectives can change with love. So in a way, Kaanekkaane at its core is a story about love and redemption,” he concludes.
The film is a retrospect on how human beings are imperfect, and it’s these imperfections that make us human.