Prasobh Vijayan: Lilli is a survival thriller
The director discusses his debut, Lilli, and the present state of independent cinema
Among the long list of upcoming films made by newcomers is Lilli, which is scheduled to release in July. In a candid chat with CE, director Prasobh Vijayan discusses the film, the current state of independent cinema, and the inspiration for making a film on his own.
Described as a survival thriller, Lilli stars Samyukhta Menon as a pregnant woman abducted and locked up in a secluded location by a group of men. "There have been many kidnapping films but I don't think anyone has done before a kidnapping story involving a woman who also happens to be pregnant. When there is a baby involved, there is an additional level of risk and intensity. In a situation like that, when the woman is physically and emotionally weak, she will be giving more priority to her baby's life than her own. The stakes are much higher."
The filmmaker didn't find it challenging to give directions to Samyuktha. "It's not that difficult when you have a detailed character description and properly planned scenes. We had plenty of time and she did it really well. I think Samyuktha is destined to be a big star."
Prasobh says he didn't expect a big production company like E4 Entertainment to come aboard a project like this. "They're keen on taking on interesting, subject-oriented projects made by new talents. First of all, our film has a miniscule budget; and second, I didn't have anything to show as a 'track record' -- nothing to impress the producers with. There was a time when you needed to have a track record before approaching someone. Now, things have changed; all you need is a good script and you're on."
It's a great time for independent filmmakers in Kerala right now, according to Prasobh. "Just imagine trying to make your first film some seven or eight years ago. It was the Internet boom, and we were consuming plenty of information; we were bit by the filmmaking bug and we all wanted to make something. Our minds were stuck in the 80s and 90s. But in order to get a producer's approval, it was necessary to have some experience first."
Prasobh cites Chappa Kurish director Sameer Thahir as a big influence. "Yes, in Hollywood, we have Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino, but in Malayalam, it was what Sameer Thahir did that opened up doors for guys like us. He didn't shoot that film with a big camera; he shot it on a Canon 7D and screened it in normal theatres just like any other film. Before that, you were required to shoot on film stock, use lighting set-ups, etc. He didn't do any of that. This takes cares of budget issues. It becomes a home-made industry. When Sameer managed to cast Fahadh Faasil in his film, I asked myself, 'If he can get Fahadh in a film like that, why not us?'"
A filmmaker with a good subject matter and well-written script doesn't have to worry about attracting viewers, believes Prasobh. "Today, if you have a good story, producers are willing to support you. They just have to be convinced that you can do a low-budget film without compromising on quality. If your subject matter is good, even if there is no initial pull, these random theatre-goers -- the ones who watch a movie just for the sake of watching something -- will provide good word-of-mouth and this helps your film. So you don't necessarily need big names to build buzz for your film. Something like Angamaly Diaries or Shutter is a perfect example of this. They won critical acclaim despite the cast being filled with newcomers."
Lilli also stars Aryan Krishna Menon, Kannan Nayar, Dhanesh Anand, Sajin Cherukayi and Kevin Jose Menon.