Sudheesh Gopinath: Madanolsavam has an eternally relevant subject

The debutant filmmaker and writer-filmmaker Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval on collaborating for the script of Madanolsavam, which arrives in theatres this Friday
Sudheesh Gopinath: Madanolsavam has an eternally relevant subject

When Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval's name is attached to any film, especially when he is involved in the capacity of a writer, one’s ears naturally perk up. After Mahesh Narayanan’s foray into screenwriting for an associate who made his directorial debut through Malayankunju, Ratheesh—the brains behind Android Kunjappan and Nna, Thaan Case Kodu —is doing the same for an associate of his, Sudeesh Gopinath, with the latter’s directorial debut, Madanolsavam, headlined by Suraj Venjaramoodu, Babu Antony, and Rajesh Madhavan, among others.

Armed with a working experience of a little over a decade in the industry, Sudheesh began his career in television working under KK Rajeev, whose working style greatly appealed to the cinema-obsessed youngster with no prior filmmaking experience. “The way he directed actors and moved the camera... it was not the typical way of doing things, especially with regard to blocking. It later became a trend with directors who were influenced by that,” says Sudheesh, who eventually left television at a point when he found the work “too mechanical.” 

This doesn’t imply that Sudheesh is belittling television work. He simply found the “limited scope for creativity” in television difficult to deal with. What he found advantageous, however, was the quick way of doing things, like shooting fast, which made things easier for him while shifting to directing movies. After working in the arthouse space for a long time with filmmakers such as Priyanandanan, P Balachandran, and Jayan Cherian, Sudeesh switched to the mainstream with director VK Prakash. 

“It was from that point on that I seriously started thinking about the monetary side of filmmaking too—that it was important too because that was not a priority until that point,” says the Kasaragod native, who later worked under Ratish Ambat, Joshiy, and as a chief associate of Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval on all three of his films. 

Sudheesh has had illuminating experiences with all these filmmakers. From Joshiy and Ratish Ambat, he learned the art of imagining shots for a giant canvas— “to narrate stories through a visual medium.” From Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval, he learned the art of directing actors and extracting naturalistic performances. 

“I learned different things from different films,” recalls Sudheesh, who had cut his teeth in the film and digital format. “With the film format, we didn’t worry about dealing with an erased memory card and recovery and reshooting, which happened to us at one point. Besides, there is a discipline that film demands. Only the necessary footage is shot, whereas today, with digital, we can mould the film to a certain pattern. There is more freedom, which means more people getting into filmmaking.”

After Sudheesh found in the story of Madanolsavam potential for a directing vehicle, he brought it to Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval’s attention. “It’s a hitherto unexplored subject, still pertinent when placed in the context of Kerala and Indian politics,” says Sudheesh. “It’s a story with universal appeal; it can happen wherever there is democracy. We can see these things happening in society even after completing the movie. More than politics, it revolves around a man’s personal journey and situation—how Suraj’s character Madanan gets trapped in certain situations. Ratheesh’s script filtered the story through his signature satirical lens.”

When I ask Ratheesh how it felt to write for the first time a script for another filmmaker, he says, “When writing for another person, even though we write it like it’s our own baby, we have to forego attachment to it once we hand it over to a director with a vision different from yours. It then becomes that person’s baby. We cannot be stubborn about wanting it to shape up the way we wanted. I liked this story a lot, and initially considered directing it, but then I thought it would make a good directing vehicle for Sudheesh. This script resulted from a collaborative effort, which involved taking inputs from Sudheesh, who wanted me to write it because he wanted some elements of my writing that he liked in his film.” (Ratheesh has also written a script for director Martin Prakkat, a project recently announced with Kunchacko Boban and Biju Menon attached. “The process is different for both,” adds Ratheesh. “While writing that one, Martin’s filmmaking style had to be incorporated into my core narrative.”) 

Chiming in, Sudheesh describes their collaboration as the sort with a constant and healthy exchange of inputs. “Since we all are part of the same gang who would see each other outside work, too, we understand each other: we are all on the same page. It’s a zero-ego space. Even when it comes to the other team members, like our cinematographer Shehnad Jalal, instructions were crisp; he gets the pattern we wanted. The same goes for the music, sound, and art departments... Since we’ve all known each other for a long time, we found it easier to execute our ideas.”

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