Vysakh Reetha: Naalara Sangham is a quirky gangster drama

The Showrunner of the upcoming SonyLIV web series Sambhava Vivaranam Naalara Sangham, talks about the series and his long-time association with director Krishand
Vysakh Reetha: Naalara Sangham is a quirky gangster drama

Vysakh Reetha, an aspiring filmmaker, has been omnipresent in all of director Krishand's films—including Aavasavyuham: The Arbit Documentation of An Amphibian Hunt (2022) and Purusha Pretham (2023)—as the chief associate director. Now, with the upcoming Malayalam web series set to be streamed on SonyLIV, Sambhava Vivaranam Naalara Sangham (The Chronicles Of The 4.5 Gang), Vysakh has stepped into the role of an independent showrunner. 

Hailing from Trivandrum, Vysakh's journey into the world of storytelling began during his childhood. "It was when I watched Singeetam Srinivasa Rao's Pushpaka Vimana (1987), that the art of storytelling started intriguing me," Vysakh adds. After completing his schooling in Trivandrum, he pursued management studies at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, followed by a course in film direction at ESRA, a renowned film school in Paris.

Vysakh's cinematic journey took a significant turn when he crossed paths with director Krishand in 2014. "Back then, both of us were struggling with hardly any godfather to support us," he recounts. Despite being involved with Krishand right from his initial days, it was during the latter's debut feature, Vrithakrithiyulla Chathuram - A Minor Inconvenience (2020), that the former started collaborating with him on a higher capacity. "The only film for which I couldn't work as Krishand's chief associate director is his upcoming action film, Sungsuvinte Sangarsha Ghadana - The Art Of Warfare," he adds.

Similar to many others in his field, Vysakh finds inspiration in iconic figures like Padmarajan and Bharathan. However, since joining the industry, he holds Krishand in the highest regard. "His unconventional methods, clarity of thought, and preparedness to execute projects as an independent filmmaker have been incredibly inspiring to me. He also deepened my understanding of many outstanding international films."

Vysakh (left) with Krishand
Vysakh (left) with Krishand

Sambhava Vivaranam Naalara Sangham (SVNS) is a project that Krishand has been nurturing for almost a decade now. Before OTTs started showing interest in Malayalam content, it was even pitched as a feature film to many others, but most of them failed to understand it. When SonyLIV expressed interest in bringing original Malayalam content, our team were among the first to be invited. "It was through our editor K Sasikumar's recommendation that we got the opportunity. After the SonyLIV executives liked our pitch, it took us around two and a half years to finally go into production." 

Initially, it took more than a year for their screenplay to be approved, after undergoing numerous rewrites. "Whenever we provide a draft, the decision-makers at SonyLIV would read it and offer their suggestions or seek clarification to understand the significance of certain scenes," he reveals. While some may perceive this process as overly strenuous, Vysakh feels it helps both the creators and actors to shoot the content with complete clarity. They pitched SVNS as a two-season project and Vysakh informs that they have already received approval for a second season. The show features an ensemble cast, which includes the likes of Jagadish, Indrans, Sanju Sivram, Darshana Rajendran, Zarin Shihab, Vishnu Agasthya, Santhy Balachandran, Prashanth Alexander, Hakkim Shahjahan, Rahul Rajagopal, Sreenath Babu, Niranj Maniyanpilla Raju, Zhinz Shan, and Anoop Mohandas, among others.

The first season of SVNS comprises six episodes, all written and directed by Krishand, with approximately forty-five minutes each. "SVNS is a quirky gangster drama," Vysakh says, adding, "Unlike the usual gangster stories that are high on violence or bloodshed, this is more of a fun-filled dark comedy and drama based on many true stories that happened in Trivandrum." The series showcases five protagonists, one among them being a dwarf, as implied by the title. "The story follows these five lead characters, hailing from a slum, as they venture into the flower mafia around temples and other odd businesses to gain the respect of the public. We have also delved into discussing developmental politics through this show." The shooting of the series is still in progress, scheduled for completion in May.

Elaborating on his new role as a showrunner for SVNS, Vysakh explains, "As a showrunner, my role is to act as a bridge between the production studio, streaming platform, and director. From the initial pitch to the final output submission, I am the ultimate decision-maker for all aspects of the series. Managing the distribution of funds across various departments and ensuring the series stays true to the approved vision without deviations are also key aspects of my role. I also make sure that the show meets the deadlines and adheres to the platform's Standards and Procedures (SAP) protocols. Unlike some of the other showrunners in Malayalam who focus only on specific areas, I oversee writing, direction, and the entire production process." 

Vysakh on the set of  SVNS
Vysakh on the set of SVNS

On whether the streaming platform's SAP turns out to restrict the creative vision, Vysakh says, "It often poses a challenge to the creative process but considering the potential legal concerns that may arise for the platform, exercising caution is necessary. For instance, when portraying a corrupt cop affiliated with the Kerala Police, one cannot use their original logo due to the risk of legal repercussions."

As a showrunner, Vysakh envisions a bright future for long-format storytelling in Malayalam, despite feeling that many of the shows released so far leave much to be desired. "One major shortcoming among many of the Malayalam shows in this initial wave is that they often remodel stories originally envisioned as feature films and then merely divide it into episodes for the sake of presenting it as a series." However, he is hopeful that this is likely to change as we move forward, with many promising Malayalam shows in the pipeline. Additionally, he also feels this shift will provide ample opportunities for aspiring writers.

He is also preparing for his directorial debut, which is written by Purusha Pretham-fame Ajith K Haridas. "It's a historical mystery drama that is still in the writing stages. I am planning to commence shooting by the end of this year," says Vysakh.

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