20 July 2015

Review of Love 24x7

In our films we have only that seen love happens, like two people getting attracted towards each other as if there was a magic or some divine intervention. This thing happens only to young people who are still students or young people who are on threshold of entering real life. The rest of the story will be about how they fulfill their destiny of being together for a lifetime after overcoming every hurdle presented by this world.

Writer director Sreebala K Menon attempts to do something different and natural in her first feature film Love 24x7 where two mature adults start liking each other and then discuss how to take their relationship forward, do they like each other enough to make a commitment they would like spend their life together?

The backdrop of this story is a television news channel where everyone is professionally committed but also knowing that their work isn't the ‘be all and end all’ in this world. The director presents the inner workings of a newsroom in a light hearted way. She weaves a love story into the narrative as seamlessly as possible. Roopesh Nambiar (Dileep) is the face of this channel, yet, he is very casual about it. When a new trainee Kabani (Nikhila Vimal) comes in, he rags her in a mild manner, then it goes on to become banter between the two and then a slow brewing romance. Still, this film does not become only the love story of the hero and the heroine, there are other things going on parallel to this. The entry of Dr. Sarayu (Suhasini) is one such thing. She is a friend of Roopesh's mother and his local guardian of sorts, she was widowed at a young age and had to bring up her son single handedly, he has migrated to the US and has a family of his own. She takes Kabani under her wings and the wisdom she provides to Kabani (without being preachy) is immense. Her early widowhood, leading a campanionless life and then the revival of romance of her youth with her college mate played by Sasikumar, becomes fodder for Kabani, and how it subtly changes her and makes her ask her mother if she wishes to have a companion.

All these things makes Love 24x7, a few notches above the typical films made targeting the box-office collections. Here even Dileep’s histrionic instincts of going over the top are curbed, yet he seems to be comfortable in the skin of Roopesh Nambiar. Nikhila Vimal seems to be worthy of the confidence reposed in her by the director.

Suhasini is her charming best throughout, only the guitar in her hand when she is singing Chura Liya feels to be too big for her comfort. Sasikumar’s aristocratic presence adds more depth to the proceedings. Sreenivasan is unduly subdued without his brand of self-deprecatory humour.

Verdict: Love 24x7 is a promising debut by Sreebala K Menon as a filmmaker and it makes us wait for her next outing.

As it appeared in Rediff.
Read Sreebala's interview here.

17 July 2015

Sreebala K Menon Interview

Eid is one of the four festive seasons when Malayalam Cinema presents its bounty for the viewers. This year too there are at least four big films slated for release during this period and one of them is Love 24 X 7 starring Dileep and newcomer Nikhila Vimal. It is directed by Sreebala K Menon who is a long time associate of Sathyan Anthikkad, she is also known as a short story writer and a columnist. She has also made her name as short film maker with ventures like Panthibojanam and Journey from Darkness to Light, which won accolades at the first Abilityfest held in Chennai in 2005. Here she talks about her first directorial venture, feelings about being a female director and also about the rigours of being a film maker making her miss the isolated process of writing.

Tell us something about the genesis of Love 24 X 7.

I had started it as a short story in 2013, then as I went forward with it I felt the subject has the scope of being developed as a full fledged script as I was also searching for a subject for a film but it got delayed as the film industry went through a churn as the TV channels became very strict with the satellite rights and the industry virtually came to a standstill.

About Dileep being the leading man as his trademark is lowbrow humour.

I feel that Dileep is a director's actor, a director can mould as he or she wishes. If you see the spectrum of characters that he has handled you can see that, on the one end there is Kathavasheshan (directed by T V Chandran) and at the other end there is Chanthupottu (directed by Lal Jose). He is branded as a hero who excels in lowbrow humour because those are the films that have been most successful. He did take some time to decide to do this film or no but once he came on board he even decided to be a partner in production.

About the others in the cast.

The story is about five characters and Sreenivasan was the first one to read the script and had agreed to do the character I had in mind for him. I had mailed the synopsis of the story to Suhasini Mam and then went to meet her and narrated the script she had agreed on the spot. I also went and met Sasikumar Sir and he also agreed to do the film. It was very comforting for me that all this senior artists stayed with me even after the inordinate delays in the making of the movie.

How was the experience of directing them as most of them are directors and writers?

Most of my cast was technically well versed beginning from Dileep, who started his film career as an assistant director, Sreenivasan Sir, Suhasini Mam, Sasikumar Sir to Siddharth Siva and Shankar Ramakrishnan is an accomplished director. But, they never interfered with my work, if there was anything that was discussed it was the scene to be shot that day as we had discussed the script in detail beforehand. In fact it was an advantage to have such people around who understood the job, so, they gave their best to ease my pressure.

The leading lady played by newcomer Nikhila Vimal.

When I was writing the story I felt a new face would be suitable for the character. Nikhila had played the role of Jayaram's younger sister in Sathyan Sir's Bhagyadevatha where I was an associate, she was a very young girl then studying in eighth or ninth standard. She had also appeared in a programme about Sr. Alphonsa on Shalom TV. We are facebook friends and she had uploaded a few recent pictures there, I liked them and requested her to send me a few more with different looks. I didn't feel that she needs to be auditioned as I had liked what she had done in Bhagyadevatha.

On being a female director…

I think carrying your gender as publicity gimmick are over. Generally, being female director does not make much difference. When I go for a narration to an artist, he or she will see if the story is good or bad and not whether it is narrated by a male or female. The same way a lay viewer does not buy a ticket thinking that this film is directed by a female, he just wants a feeling that his money was well spent in the end. Yes, sometimes it does give a special feeling when I introduce myself as a director.

What would you like to be known as, a writer or a director?

I like to think myself as a writer. I came into films to learn scriptwriting as there was no one outside to teach me. And, as I went along I understood that scripting and direction go hand in hand. The only I miss now is pure writing, there are lot of people depending on you when you are directing a film, so, you cannot seek solitude and peace when an idea strike you. There are lots of stories that have gone unwritten because of this.

Finally, how was the experience of seeing something you had written transform into a visual experience on the big screen?

It was a totally new and marvellous experience for me. Till then I had just seen something I had written in printed or book form. And, seeing that the characters you'd conceived coming alive and uttering the lines you'd written for them. Or the actor getting a totally different meaning from what you had originally thought while writing a seen is unbelievable and I am totally satisfied by it.

*The edited version as it appeared in Rediff. Felt something amiss there, so, posting the whole thing here.

07 July 2015

Two short films

Last week I saw two short films; eerie, dark and somewhat funny. Do have a look. 

Ramaniyechiyude Namathil 

Thank Ajit Yohannan for sharing the above one.

Bloody Moustache

You can read more about the Bloody Moustache here.