Friday, May 6, 2011

To sir, with love

Director Mohanan's ‘Manikya Kallu,' is a tribute to teachers for whom teaching is a passion.

It has been quite some time since Malayalam cinema came up with a film that touches our hearts. Films that leave you speechless, without the usual spurt of adrenaline, films that talk about people like us have become a rarity. A film about those special people – teachers – who light the spark of knowledge in us has become even rarer.

Bollywood tried its hand at the genre with films such as ‘Black' and 'Tare Zameen Par.' Director Mohanan, after the mammoth success of his debut film ‘Katha Parayumbol,' focusses on ‘inspirational teachers' in his latest film, ‘Manikya Kallu.'

Excerpts from a conversation wherein the director talks about the idea, and inspiration behind the film, and the challenges success bestows on a person.

The idea and inspiration

I was disturbed by the state of government-run schools in Kerala. I myself went to a government school and had had a memorable time there.

‘Mash' (a colloquial usage for the term master) and teacher were an integral part of our lives then. They continue to hold a special place in their students' lives. For them, teaching was not just a profession, but a passion. Such teachers are a rarity now.

The sheer definition of school itself has changed over the years. Ideally it should be a place for a child to grow and nurture his or her talent.

Schools should function as a platform for the teacher and the student to connect, in the most fruitful manner. But is it happening now? How many teachers are looking at the real pleasures of teaching?

How many of them are willing to mould their students' lives? How many of them are willing to be the change that they want to see in this world?

This film is a reality check on all those issues.

The film

The plot centres around Vannanmala Government High School - an almost dysfunctional school in a remote village in Kerala with just 50 students on their rolls.

Vinayachandran, played by Prithviraj, is a newly appointed teacher who attempts to change the scenario. His job is not only to inspire the students to learn, but also to inspire his fellow teachers to teach.

Vinayachandran also has a special reason to be there. And that is the twist and drama in the film.

Cast and crew

Prithviraj was the first choice for the lead since he, as an actor, is capable of carrying the subtle social message I want to convey through the film. Only a popular actor can do that.

The female lead has been enacted by Samvritha Sunil. Chandni, her character, is a physical education teacher.

The cast includes Nedumudi Venu, KPAC Lalitha, Kottayam Naseer, Anoop Chandran and Jagadish.

The crew is almost the same as my previous film – with P. Sukumar wielding the camera, Ranjan Abraham doing the editing and M. Jayachandran composing the music. I have scripted the film. The producer is Gireesh Lal.

The challenges

The success of the previous film has its pros and cons. It makes certain things easy in terms of your next project, but it will also make you more susceptible to criticism. You have raised the bar with your previous work and now you have to go higher than that.

What do you do if you start from a 'perceived best'? It is a challenge that made me contemplate and wait for this so long before I began my next work. And the wait helped.

I analysed the feedback I got for ‘Katha Parayumbol' and noted down the elements that clicked. I also could place myself in the current filmmaking scenario. It was an internal audit wherein

I tallied my aspirations with my capabilities as a creative person. And I got an equation that I am content with. So I will continue to work on my forte that is films like ‘Manikya Kallu,' which has both personal and socio-cultural angles to it.


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