Siva Sai (L). Poster of Gaganachari.
Siva Sai (L). Poster of Gaganachari.

Gaganachari co-writer Siva Sai: Maniyan Chittappan is a tech wizard akin to MacGyver and Tony Stark

Writer on his recently released science fiction mockumentary Gaganachari, its upcoming spin-off Maniyan Chittappa featuring Suresh Gopi and much more

The future of science fiction in Indian cinema appears promising, particularly with the tremendous success of Kalki 2898 AD and the warm reception to Gaganachari. Interestingly, both films were released just one week apart, much to the delight of Siva Sai, the co-writer of Gaganachari. "I truly see the simultaneous success and positive reception of both these films as some form of cosmic intervention. It was highly improbable that something like this could happen here, and it could potentially set a precedent, especially considering that the audience who grew up watching such films are now adults."

Siva's interest in cinema developed by growing up seeing Mohanlal on screen. He also cites legendary filmmaker Robert Zemeckis as his biggest inspiration. Siva considers himself fortunate to begin his career in cinema with a Mohanlal-starrer, by assisting the veteran filmmaker Priyadarshan on Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea (2021). "That experience was a significant crash course for me. Normally, one learns the craft after working on two or three films, but Marakkar... provided me with the experience of working on multiple films."

We spoke to Siva on the evolution of Gaganachari, Krishand's involvement in the film, the upcoming spin-off Maniyan Chittappan, his rapport with Arun Chandu and his familial privileges.

Excerpts:

Q

Gaganachari has resonated even with people who are not typically receptive to science fiction...

A

When I started my career assisting Priyadarshan sir, he used to tell me, 'Humour is that one element you should incorporate into all your scripts in some shape or form.' Even in a bizarre premise, if the jokes land, you're on the right track. I believe this is why the film connected with such a broad audience—the humour worked.

Q

How did your collaboration with Arun Chandu begin?

A

I was introduced to him on the set of his previous directorial Saajan Bakery Since 1962 (2021) when I went to meet Aju Varghese. We instantly clicked as we discussed our aspirations as storytellers. During COVID, a time when many of us were encouraged to explore our creativity, we began exchanging ideas. One day, Arun pitched me the idea and asked if I could collaborate with him on the writing. That's how we first developed the concept for Maniyan Chittappan. However, as we wrote it, we realised it couldn't be confined to a limited budget. Later, we decided to set it aside for now and focus on something with a similar essence.

Q

What was your thought process while writing Gaganachari?

A

When the pandemic struck, we found ourselves out of work and wanted to create something that stood out. Given the restraints of the time, we had to think of a way to present this story in a minimalistic way. This led us to choose the mockumentary format, inspired by What We Do in the Shadows (2014). Snowpiercer (2013), too, was a reference for creating the dystopian world and class divide in Gaganachari. Also, I like to think of Gaganachari as a pilot episode of a sitcom. Eventually, we incorporated our imaginations of how world politics might unfold after 20-30 years, given the current trajectory.

Q

Can you explain how Krishand's involvement contributed to the film?

A

Gaganachari came on his radar when the trailer of the film was leaked. After viewing the entire film, he was impressed with how it looked and proposed to come on board as an executive producer, with the condition that we would be open to his suggestions to better it. The current tighter and crisper version you see is largely due to his involvement. Specifically in the writing, many additions were made based on his inputs, particularly enhancing the dialogues of Mallika (Sukumaran) ma'am.

Siva Sai
Siva Sai
Q

Does the already announced spin-off, headlined by Suresh Gopi, Maniyan Chittappan, occur within the same timeline as Gaganachari?

A

Maniyan Chittappan is an intergalactic traveler, who can go to different points of time and space or dimensions. Given that aspect, he can go anywhere and see anyone. Also, Maniyan Chittappan is set in a different dimension from Gaganachari. So, maybe he will meet Allen, Vibe, and Victor, during one of his journeys.

Q

Does Maniyan Chittappan possess any superpowers?

A

Not really. Maniyan Chittappan is imagined as more of a high-functioning tech wizard on the lines of MacGyver and Tony Stark. His intelligence and ingenuity are his superpowers, making him the smartest man in the universe. With someone like Suresh Gopi portraying the role, we are looking forward to his input to further enrich the character.

Q

How did Suresh Gopi become involved with the project, especially considering the fact that the Maniyan Chittappan easter egg in Gaganachari has the face of Prithviraj Sukumaran?

A

As you can imagine, it was Gokul (Suresh) who recommended Suresh Gopi for the role, as he truly belongs to Arun's and my geek tribe. When Suresh Gopi heard the idea, he immediately showed interest, and we had several meetings discussing it. He also genuinely enjoyed watching Gaganachari and provided his insights on how it could have been improved. As for Raju ettan's face in the comic in Gaganachari, he could represent a version of Maniyan Chittappan in a different dimension, inspired by Doctor Who. In another dimension, it could even be Lalettan.

Poster of Maniyan Chittappan
Poster of Maniyan Chittappan
Q

Given that Suresh Gopi is headlining it, will Maniyan Chittappan feature the same kind of biting sociopolitical commentary as seen in Gaganachari?

A

There will be some of it but I don't think it will be as hard-hitting as it was in Gaganachari. Maniyan Chittappan deals with a much larger vision.

Q

Moving forward, have you committed to any other films?

A

Yes. I am parallelly working on two projects as of now. One of them is a satirical sports comedy, more like a tribute to our generation's fascination with WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).

Q

Do you feel like you had it easy getting into films, given your lineage?

A

Yes, I definitely had it easy and I won't deny that I am a product of nepotism. All my uncle (KB Ganesh Kumar) had to do was recommend me to Priyadarshan sir and I got the opportunity. Even though I am not all proud to say this, that is the fact and I am completely aware of my privileges. I know how hard it is for people who are outside without any connections in the industry. That being said, if you look at my family, it's a club of well-settled overachievers including ministers and bureaucrats. I could have used those connections as well but I chose to do films. Going forward, I can open up collaborations with people who are struggling to get in, which I have been doing since day one.

Poster of Gaganachari
Poster of Gaganachari
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