Meri Awas Suno director Prajesh Sen: I make sure women get prominent space in my films
The filmmaker-writer talks about Meri Awas Suno, his third collaboration with Jayasurya that's gearing up for release on May 13
After dramatising the journey of two real-life characters on the big screen, filmmaker Prajesh Sen has, this time, turned to a largely fictional story, albeit with "aspects of a real-life individual currently alive." The core idea of Meri Awas Suno was brought first to Prajesh's attention by actor Jayasurya, cast in the film as a radio jockey RJ Shankar. "When Jayettan first told me this man's story, I decided to buy the rights. We will reveal his identity at an opportune moment," says the state award winner. Meri Awas Suno marks his third consecutive collaboration with the actor whom we saw last in Ranjith Sankar's Sunny.
Have you ever wondered what the life of a radio jockey gifted with a soothing voice and an ability to tell stories would be like after they get off the air? Prajesh was curious too, and in Meri Awas Suno, he found such a premise. "Jayettan plays RJ Shankar as a vibrant and positive individual connected with societal matters. The story revolves around some of his personal troubles and other events concerning him."
This fascination of Prajesh with the world of radio goes way back to when radio personalities were known only by their voices, unlike today, where platforms like YouTube have brought them more visibility, thereby putting them much closer to their listeners. Prajesh recalls a visit to the Akashvani office long ago when he was eager to get a peek at the eminent radio personality Satheesh Chandran. "From listening to his memorable voice all the time, I had this image of him in my mind. We didn't see their faces in the newspaper or anything. So, when I got there and heard a familiar voice, I looked in that direction to see him, who looked nothing like what I had imagined. Many of them are like that. Today, we know how most popular radio jockeys look."
Meri Awas Suno, says Prajesh, is not only influenced by his experiences of listening to the radio but also drawn from his experience as a journalist. Prajesh, who started his career with All India Radio, misses the days when the storytelling in radio plays had "more depth and feeling" than they do now. "In those days when they narrated a play, we felt as though we witnessed everything with our naked eyes. When they describe a character coming from somewhere, his qualities and costumes, you can visualise that person. For example, one thing I enjoyed listening to back then was the description of vallam kali (Kerala's traditional boat race). Legends like Nagavally Kurup and his successors used to narrate the details of such events with much vividity that even when I saw a boat race with my own eyes, I didn't feel the same impact."
As with his films, Captain and Vellam, Prajesh was also particular about having substantial female characters in Meri Awas Suno. "I make sure that women and their values get a prominent space in my film. Before I set out to do a film, I see to it that they are given due consideration in my stories," says the writer-director who realised his long-cherished dream of working with Manju Warrier through Meri Awas Suno. "Manju plays a doctor, activist and friend of Shankar. I felt she did her part beautifully. Right from my school days, I hoped that one day, I would get to meet her and work with her. Fortunately, I managed to give her proper space in our film with a character that, I believe, did justice to her. She is the ideal actor who makes herself available for communicating ideas."
The film's other integral female characters are occupied by Sshivada (who plays Shankar's significant other and a TV journalist) and Gauthami Nair (an RJ at Shankar's station).
Meanwhile, Prajesh is elated about actor-director R Madhavan's Rocketry reaching Cannes. The Nambi Narayanan biopic, which Prajesh co-directed, will premiere at the prestigious venue this May. The film's screening, alongside that of recently restored Indian cinema classics, is a gesture to celebrate India's enduring 75-year-long relationship with France. Rocketry's screening at the 75th edition of the festival is significant owing to Nambi Narayanan's brief stint in France while working on the liquid propulsion project.