He’s a young and promising director from Kerala and is in the middle of shooting his superhero film Minnal Murali. Manju Ramanan speaks to the very talented film-maker Basil Joseph.
A superhero film set in Kerala is unusual?
Yes. It is. It is unusual for Malayalam films to have a superhero. We had to be careful about this genre and not get people irritated by its logic. The super power of the superhero is the X factor but the story is king, not the visual effects or the stunts. It is important that the character is grounded and has a certain nativity about him so that people relate to him. Also, today Marvel has made several films in the sci-fi genre that audiences are exposed to. We made sure that the film had a good story, screenplay and basic emotion.
All your films are located in a fantasy village?
Yes, it is my world. It is like a village you would usually find in a comic book. This film is set in Kurkanmula, an imaginary village too just like my earlier films that were set in imaginary villages such as Kannadigal etc. I am inspired by RK Narayan’s Malgudi Days. In my zone, timelines don’t matter, neither do mobile phones etc. That is the reason, these spaces have to be imaginary.
You started out as an actor and moved to being a film-maker. Have you finally found your calling?
Direction is top priority and acting comes secondary. I am emotionally attached to my projects. Acting is an exciting job but film making excites me even more. It comes with much more responsibility.
Did the film stall during the lockdown?
It did but we have shot the major part of the film already. We have shot the action ad choreography sequences and the major story elements already. So, we released the teaser. I the trailer, other characters will be revealed. We are hoping it is a theatrical release. It is a film for families and kids and not really for the OTT platform.
Tell us about your association with Tovino Thomas, the lead actor?
Even before he became a big star, Tovino Thomas and I have been good friends. He has played significant roles in my earlier film Godha and Ennum Ninde Moideen. We don’t have the gap between us and there is a deep trust between the actor and the director. Also, he is an exciting guy. He will push himself to do anything and not just typical commercial stuff. Also, he makes efforts to maintain himself in a superhero movie. There is a child in both of us. We are immature that way and so it is easy for us to express ourselves. It is very easy for us to communicate.
How do you see this film contribute to the varied kinds of scripts Malayalam cinema has supported?
Malayalam cinema has a culture from the early 80s. Right from the films of P Padmarajan, Bharatan, KG George, John Abraham, they all have influenced the film-makers of the generation. In 2000, the masala movie shappened and by 2010, content wasn’t that good. But now it has picked up and what is more, it is influencing people too. There is a film festival culture in Kerala that is very popular and people queue up for it. When Kim Ki-duk, the Korean film-maker came to one of the festivals, he was heralded like a superstar. His films always get massive audiences at IFFK.
What are the films you have enjoyed watching?
The Hindi films I have enjoyed watching are most of Anurag Kashyap, Shojit Sircar, Vikramaditya Motwane, Zoya Akhtar’s films etc. Hindi movies have influenced me a lot. And there is so much of content coming in from Tamil – from directors such as Vetrimaaran, Nalan Kumaraswamy etc. Also, I love the work of actors who support this kind of cinema namely Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, Vijay Sethupathi and Karthi. There is a new wave of cinema happening in the country and it is good for us all. ‘Cu Soon’ was such an interesting Malayalam film that released recently and had a different approach to the process of film-making and was a thriller.
Tell us about your next project?
It is a genre I haven’t tried before. That is all I can say.