George Kora: Tholvi FC is about a family coping with failures
The actor-filmmaker on his latest, which sees him return to the lighthearted territory of his earlier family-centric films such as Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela
Having established himself as a writer-filmmaker with a fairly firm grip on family-oriented subjects, through films such as Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela (co-written with Althaf Salim), and Thirike (independent script, directorial debut), George Kora’s return to similar ground with his latest feature Tholvi FC comes with expectations of good tidings. He describes it as a “comedy-drama” exploring the “after-effects of failure” on four individuals of a family, played by Johny Antony, Asha Madathil, Sharafudheen, and himself. Johny Antony’s character is the father looking for ways to make quick cash; Asha Madathil’s (Mukundan Unni Associates-fame) character is a librarian who wants to be a novelist; Sharaf and George play their two sons— the former begins a cafe in the hopes of being an independent entrepreneur after leaving a plush Bengaluru job while George, a footballer, now nursing an injury, coaches kids to be in the field.
“The ‘tholvi’ in the title refers to ordinary failures everyone encounters—career, love or... anything they’re passionate about. The four character arcs intertwine, and they have to come together as a family,” says George, also an actor in his own right, having featured in films such as Premam and, most recently, Christy and Mukundan Unni Associates. Thirike marked his directorial debut, notable for being India’s first film to feature a Down’s Syndrome-affected protagonist (portrayed by Gopikrishnan). A “very personal” film for him, George regrets not getting to release Thirike in theatres because of the pandemic. “People discovered it through OTT and Telegram, and viewers from Kerala and outside connected with it because we made it with much honesty.”
George calls himself an “accidental” director whose first goal was to become an actor. When an opportunity to work on a script with actor-filmmaker Althaf Salim came knocking, George took it, which slowly paved the path to directing his solo feature. “It was essential for me to hone my craft and learn more about the process, and I thought starting with lighthearted entertainers was a good way to go about it before moving on to terrains alien to me,” says George while acknowledging that a family entertainer in the middle of a season filled with hero-centric, big-scale action movies is an anomaly. But he is not letting that concern him. “Maybe that’s also a good thing because when a possible fatigue slowly sets in, people might yearn for a family entertainer. Besides, our story treads more in an urban space, as opposed to some hamlet.”
As in his earlier films, Tholvi FC, too, has elements drawn from George’s personal life, blended with fictitious ones. As for the casting, the filmmaker was fortunate to get all the actors who were his first choices. “I always knew for sure that I wanted to do a film with Sharaf ikka because he is someone with an interesting range. As someone who got to see him up close shooting for Girirajan Kozhi in Premam, I’m blown away by what he has demonstrated in his recent films such as Varathan, Aarkariyam and Rorschach. Everyone perceived him as a mere slapstick comedian at one point, but look where he has reached now. I felt the actor in him would have much more to offer, and we have not seen him in an urban space like in Tholvi FC. It was an exciting prospect to which he immediately agreed.”
Also expressing his delight at working with Johny Antony, George recalls the actor-filmmaker’s impressive ability to deliver a nuanced performance unlike what he did before. “I guess it has to do with his experience in front of and behind the camera. He asks a few questions just to get an idea of a character’s basic motive, speaking style, and how humorous he can get, and he would quickly grasp everything you want him to. He is an expert at improvisation. You don’t have to do much; he’ll ultimately deliver something better than what we wanted. You just give him one half, and he’ll deliver the other. A director’s dream. I believe the characters of Sharaf ikka and Johny chettan in Tholvi FC will stand out in their filmography.”
Shot by Syamaprakash M.S. and edited by Lalkrishna, Tholvi FC has Gayathri Kishore as costume designer and Ashik S as art director.