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Jan-e-Man producer Lakshmi Warrier on scaling new heights- Cinema express

Scaling new heights

Jan-e-Man producer Lakshmi Warrier talks about her enriching experience with the runaway hit and her inspiring career trajectory

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Published: 21st February 2022

In the age of the OTT boom, where it has become the norm for new Malayalam releases to opt for a digital release just weeks after the theatrical release, it's rare to see a Malayalam film with no superstar fortifying its place in theatres for more than 60 days. The makers of the runaway hit, Jan-e-Man, have a good reason for not pulling it from the big screens yet. One can find nearly packed houses even today. As the film is set to celebrate its 100th-day run this week, we speak to its producer Lakshmi Warrier about her enriching experience with the film and her inspiring career trajectory.

Malayalam cinema has recently seen the rise of successful female producers but Lakshmi has the unique distinction of being the first and only woman production manager in Malayalam cinema to don the producer's hat. A self-described extrovert, Lakshmi was adept at "organising and coordinating events", a trait she seemingly inherited from her father. A chance conversation with family friend Lijo Jose Pellissery compelled the business graduate to look for opportunities as a production manager. Naturally, being a woman -- from a middle-class family, that too -- in an industry dominated by males wasn't easy. But Lakshmi was determined to follow her passion nevertheless. "During my stint as a production manager, a lot of men weren't willing to have a dialogue simply because I happened to be a woman. They'd rather take instructions from our project head, so you had to literally call up the controller or executive to get them to do their tasks," she recalls. "It's difficult for them to accept that a woman can also do this job. Other women are capable of it too, but people's mindset needs to change first."

Mammootty, with whom she had worked in a few films, once asked her jokingly if being a production manager was her "shortcut" to becoming an actor or director, and she told him that wasn't the case. (Mammootty, she says, is among her strongest supporters aside from others in the industry like producers Anto Joseph and AD Sreekumar.) "I genuinely wanted to be a production controller," says Lakshmi, for whom turning producer wasn't part of the plans at the time. "My interest was purely driven by passion."

She would change her mind later, though. A few bitter experiences along the way led her to start an independent production company with cinematographer Ganesh Menon. Their first film was the Soubin Shahir-Suraj Venjaramoodu starrer Vikruthi. Then came Jan-e-Man, which opened with minimal fanfare, but strong word-of-mouth and unanimously positive reviews meant that the film would be around for a while, which it did. Lakshmi attributes its success to the talented team comprising director Chidambaram, his co-writer (and actor) Ganapathi, cinematographer Vishnu Thandassery and the entire cast and crew whose remarkable talents were witnessed by all on the screen. "When they first pitched Jan-e-Man to us, it was not even a story or a script; it was only a thread. But we recognised a spark. Maybe other producers won't get it, but we did," she says.  

Lakshmi believes that her experience dealing with multiple aspects of production aided her instincts. "Since we are already familiar with the struggles of a newcomer, we understood why Chidambaram or anyone else from the team would need something. So when there was a little hike in the budget, we didn't make a big deal of it. And Ganesh ettan's experience as a DoP also came in handy when our cinematographer, Vishnu Thandassery, also a newcomer, needed some equipment. We didn't have to depend on others much to know whether something would work or not. And like I said before, the team is promising. All of them were already friends, except for Basil Joseph, who eventually became one of us."

Lakshmi recalls the production was 'old school' in that everyone stayed together instead of spending their breaks in caravans. The team turned an adjacent bungalow in the shooting spot to the temporary residence for the entire schedule. The various departments that worked on Jan-e-Man occupied its rooms. "Everyone had something to contribute. Since the costumes, make-up, or editing people were all living in the same place, things were easier to get done. We all got together to eat, sing, gossip, and shoot from 6 in the evening to 6 in the morning. We didn't put pressure on anyone. And since we all happen to be in the same age group, we all got along really well," she adds.

Lakshmi shares that Sun Network has acquired the satellite and digital rights of Jan-e-Man. The film will most likely hit streaming platforms this April.

Meanwhile, Lakshmi has already started working on her next project, Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hai, a lighthearted relationship comedy entertainer starring Basil Joseph and Darshana Rajendran. Mudhugau director Vipin Das is helming the script, which Lakshmi says is "funnier than Jan-e-Man".

We can't wait.

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