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Director Maju on his next, Appan- Cinema express

Director Maju on his next, Appan

The writer-director on depicting a dysfunctional family haunted by the actions of its patriarch in his second feature, Appan, led by Sunny Wayne and Alencier Ley

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Published: 18th April 2022
Shots from Appan

The idea of a dysfunctional family with a patriarch whose relatives look forward to his demise is not fresh, but that doesn't mean there can't be new ways of telling it. Filmmaker Maju's second feature, Appan, navigates the same territory, but his synopsis suggests the film doesn't go on the same tangent as Dileesh Pothan's much-acclaimed Joji. One thing the filmmaker assures is that his film will be raw and drama-heavy and hints that an OTT premiere on a reputed platform would do wonders for the film.

Appan, as the title suggests, is a tale of fathers and sons. Of sons haunted by their fathers' legacies and sins. But it's also a tale of four women who seek salvation from the oppressive atmosphere that engulfs them. The film has already received notes of appreciation from veteran scenarist Raghunath Paleri and noted journalist Pramod Raman after a preview screening.

Maju tells us that the film wouldn't have been possible without the support of Collective Phase One: Geetu Mohandas (filmmaker); Rajeev Ravi (filmmaker, cinematographer); B Ajithkumar (filmmaker, editor); and Madhu Neelakandan (cinematographer) that were instrumental in setting the project in motion.

In a conversation with us, Maju cites the cinema of KG George as a primary influence for Appan, particularly when he set out to sketch Ittychan, the despicable patriarch with lecherous leanings essayed by Alencier Ley. "The story germinated from my reflections on migration and the wildness that engenders in some individuals. Irakal was a primary influence. For instance, we had Alencier humming some lyrics that evoke Thilakan's father reciting verses. I wanted it to be tormenting and disturbing just like it did in Irakal."

Sunny Wayne plays Itty's Njoonj, who has had enough of his father and his taunts against not just him but also his family members. Pauly Valsan plays the mother who has been leading a miserable existence since she entered into wedlock with Itty. 

The film also features such actors as Grace Antony and Ananya. For the film's "most complex character", Sheela, Maju cast newcomer Radhika Radhakrishnan. "Every character has a negative shade to them," adds Maju. "They all go through complex emotions, including the child of Sunny Wayne's character." 

Elaborating on the female characters, Maju shares, "All four women in the film have four different personalities. Ananya's character is more of a new-gen type. She is the sort who strongly resists the atmosphere she is living in. She would leave the place at the drop of a hat. Grace Antony's character has inherited some of her dad's qualities, including some physical attributes. The latter has a dual side to her. She wishes for his death but is also desperate to have a share of his property before he passes. Sheela is someone whose true intentions remain concealed for the longest time. All these women -- from different generations -- eventually find common ground owing to their past. At times they find inspiration in each other." 

Maju shares that Appan began in his mind as a darkly humourous script that gradually evolved into an intense drama. "The script reaches a point where these characters' ordeals no longer looked funny. I had to do justice to all that suffering, for which there seems to be no end in sight. So it was necessary to move away from humour and focus on their feelings of disgust and hatred towards the contemptuous Itty," says the filmmaker, who co-wrote the script with R Jayakumar. "But at the same time, we also wanted to end the film on a cathartic note. After all, the audience needs some degree of closure, right?"

Maju shot Appan through challenging shoot schedules last year during the pandemic. Josekutty Madathil and Ranjith Manambrakkat bankrolled the film under their Tiny Hands Productions banner jointly with Sunny Wayne Productions.

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