Anveshippin Kandethum director Darwin Kuriakose: Tovino's increased market value has benefited our film
The filmmaker shares about his cinema journey and all that went behind the making of his dream debut
Dolwin Kuriakose and Darwin Kuriakose, two Kottayam-based twin brothers from non-filmy background, have lately been associated with several high-profile projects in Malayalam cinema. Dolwin, the elder sibling, heads the production house Theatre of Dreams, which debuted with the multi-starrer Kaapa. The banner's upcoming slate looks promising with leading stars like Mammootty, Prithviraj Sukumaran and Tovino Thomas at the helm. Darwin, on the other hand, is living his long cherished dream of becoming a filmmaker. His directorial debut Anveshippin Kandethum, also backed by his home production, is hitting screens this Friday amidst high expectations. Starring Tovino, the film, according to the director, is unlike the usual cop stories. "It is more about the investigators than the investigation," he says.
In this conversation with CE, Darwin details his tryst with cinema, and the evolution of Anveshippin Kandethum—from ideation to execution.
How did the cinephile and later, the filmmaker in you shape up?
Cinema has always been part of our lives. Since we were twins, it was difficult for our parents to manage us. Theatre was the only place where they could keep us engaged and naturally, our love for cinema blossomed from there. I remember watching Aniyathipravu as a kid and getting curious on seeing the words, 'Direction - Fazil'. The same card appeared towards the end as well and I found it fascinating. Though I didn't have any idea about cinema at that age, I realised that a director is someone very powerful. Years later, a friend got me in touch with director Johny Antony sir, who was magnanimous enough to include me in his direction team. I worked under him in Bhaiyya Bhaiyya, and later assisted in a few other films, including Jinu V Abraham's Adam Joan. It was that bond which led to Jinu scripting my first film.
How did the idea of Anveshippin Kandethum first germinate?
Post Adam Joan, Jinu and I became close and discussed subjects often. We initially started working on a very ambitious project, but couldn't proceed with it because of its scale and subsequent demands. Jinu then told me about this idea of Anveshippin Kandethum and I found it interesting. I was there with him throughout the scripting. He would write a set of portions and then discuss it with me. If I had any suggestions, he was always ready to incorporate them. Beyond an usual writer-director relationship, there was a sense of brotherhood between us. Jinu trusted my instincts and let me envision it the way I wanted it. He trusted me so much that he hardly visited the sets during the shoot. In a sense, it also made me more responsible.
The film was first announced in 2021, but it took another two years for it to go on floors. How much fine-tuning happened during this period?
When we first discussed the film with Tovino, the lockdown restrictions were still in place. At that time, he had a few other commitments lined up, including Minnal Murali and Naradan. It meant that we could begin shooting only after all that. But now that I look back, I think the wait was a blessing in disguise because Tovino is a much bigger star today. The increased market value for his films inspired us to enhance the budget a bit more and deliver it the best possible way. In this period, there were also some changes in the technical department. Girish Gangadharan was our first choice for cinematography, and he was even part of the initial location scouting. But he had to opt out because of the lockdown. In a way, Gautham Sankar's addition also turned out to be a blessing, because I could communicate my needs a lot more freely. I'm very pleased with how the visuals have turned out.
Tovino's last cop outing Kalki had him in a larger-than-life role, whereas in Anveshippin Kandethum, he seems more grounded. What was the brief for him?
Tovino is an actor who doesn't need a lot of briefing. He just needs a gist of the situation to understand the character's current mental state. We wanted his character Anand Narayanan to be relatable to anyone who has ever come across a police officer. Anand is also a forthright cop who looks up to his father, a retired constable. Interestingly, in real life also, Tovino considers his dad as his hero. So, we managed to convince his father to play the part in the film as well. Though uncle was initially hesitant, he eventually agreed. His only concern was if shooting would get delayed because of his inexperience, but he did a really good job. In hindsight, I think it was a perfect call to cast him because the father-son bond has great prominence in the narrative.
Since the film has a period setting, did you have any references to recreate a bygone era?
We didn't have to look too far away as cinema itself is the best form of documentation. As the storyline is set during the 80s and 90s, we mostly relied on films from that era for references. It was still a challenge to recreate that period because a lot has changed over these years, particularly the buildings. We don't have many structures that instantly remind us of that era. Thankfully, I had a dedicated team, who managed to find apt locations.
Were there any similar researches for authentic portrayal of the police procedures?
Jinu had done in-depth research during the scripting stages. It was mostly related to how investigations were carried out those days when technology was still in the nascent stages. On my part, I wanted to ensure that no policeman watching the film should feel wrongly represented. I spoke to several cops to have a better understanding of them and their tiring job. We had Shaji Maarad, a real policeman, who also co-wrote Ela Veezha Poonchira, to help us on the location. Since he has also acted in the film, he was there throughout the shoot to guide the actors with the body language, police procedures and other technicalities. It also helped that all the actors were cooperative and willing to put in the extra efforts.
One of the film's USPs is the presence of composer Santhosh Narayanan. How did that happen?
During the scripting, Jinu mentioned that it would be great if we can get someone like Santhosh Narayanan as composer. Though he said it very casually, I took it seriously and started attempting to reach him. Santhosh sir is infamous for not picking calls, but I kept pursuing. After repeated attempts, it was through his wife Meenakshi that I was finally able to speak to him. I learnt that he wasn't very keen to do Malayalam films and had already rejected a few offers. But because of my relentless persistence, he agreed for a narration over Zoom. It lasted for just five minutes, and he nodded halfheartedly. He knew that it would take another two years for the shoot to commence and thought he could back out at that time. But I was not one to budge and tried being in touch regularly. Finally, it was after seeing the visuals that he had confidence in the film. After that, our interactions became more frequent. He even compelled me to stay in his home in Chennai and be with him throughout the rerecording.
Is it restricting or liberating to work in your own production?
I feel it's a mix of both. Very early in my career, my aashan Johny Antony taught me that it doesn't matter how glorious the reviews are; a film is not a success if its producer doesn't earn back their investment. So, even though this film is produced by my brother, I was cautious not to let the budget shoot up at any point. At the same time, I also had the freedom to take certain calls without waiting for his approval. Parallel to Anveshippin Kandethum, he was producing another film, and from what I observed, his approach towards both these projects have been the same. He doesn't complain even if we extend the schedule by 2-3 days, because quality has always been the priority.
How involved are you with the functioning of Theatre of Dreams?
I might have been there during some script narrations, but apart from that I don't have any involvement, including the finances. It is completely headed by Dolwin.
What's coming up next from the banner?
Bazooka starring Mammukka is currently in the post-production stage. Then there's Tovino's Munpe, which will be directed by editor Saiju Sreedharan. It's a big film and I can assure that it will be a wonderful new experience for the Malayali audience. We had also announced Khalifa with Prithviraj as the lead, Vysakh as the director and Jinu Abraham as the writer. As far as I know, Jinu has finished its scripting. It's again a big film that needs to be shot across multiple locations, so it might take some time to begin production.