Location Diaries: The wink that went viral
Director Omar Lulu talks about his experiences working on the films, Oru Adaar Love and Happy Weddings
One evening, director Omar Lulu got a call. It was from his six-year-old son Eshan who lives in Dubai. “Papa, you must take Roshan [Abdul Rahoof, for the yet-to-be-released film Oru Adaar Love],” said Eshan. Omar's son had seen Roshan dance regularly in a TV show and had become a fan.
But when Eshan called, Omar was having doubts about Roshan. “He had not performed well in the audition,” says the Thrissur-based Omar, at a hotel room in Kochi. “What made matters worse was that he had slipped and fallen.”
But Roshan kept sending videos to Omar's Whatsapp account of his dubsmash moves. “When I saw that, I realised that he looked good and performed well,” says Omar. “He also had a cuteness. So I decided to give him a small role.”
Soon, the shoot began at the Don Bosco school at Mannuthy. The first sequence was of Roshan coming down some steps. Omar felt it would be better if a girl also walked down with him. He saw young actor Priya Prakash Varrier walking past.
“So, I asked her to walk down the steps with Roshan,” says Omar. “But when I looked through the monitor, I realised that both of them had a very good chemistry.”
The next sequence was for the song, Manikya Malaraya Poovi. To give a light-hearted feel, Omar decided that Roshan would do some winks. He had seen Roshan do it in a dubsmash video. “The initial plan was for Roshan to wink at Priya and she would stare back,” says Omar. “However, when I shot Roshan winking, I asked Priya whether she knew how to wink. She said yes. So, in a sequence when Roshan lifts both his eyebrows, Priya gives a wink.”
When Omar looked through the monitor he felt very excited. He immediately called the producer Ouseppachan and asked to stop the shoot. “I wanted to rework the script, to give more space for Roshan and Priya,” says Omar. The producer, understandably, was upset.
Then Omar said, “Sir, I will release Manikya Malaraya Poovi on YouTube and you can see the reaction. Then you will understand.”
Omar’s gut feeling turned out to be right. The song, which was released on February 9, went viral and racked up millions of views, making Roshan and Priya instant stars. In fact, so great was the impact of Priya’s wink, that she now has 5.4 million followers on Instagram, twice more than young superstar Dulquer Salman.
During this time, Omar was browsing through Facebook and came across a boy called Satyajit who sang of friendship and love, without any musical accompaniment. “I liked his voice,” says Omar.
So, he sent a message. But there was no response. At that time, a young actor came to meet Omar. He was from Kottayam where Satyajit lived. A miffed Omar asked the boy, who knew Satyajit, why the singer had not replied. The boy rushed back to Kottayam and brought Satyajit to meet Omar.
The director asked Satyajit whether he had any new songs. The youngster sang a song called Freak Penne. “It had good lyrics,” says Omar. “So I took Satyajit to [music composer] Shaan Rahman’s house in Kochi. When Satyajit sang Shaan immediately stood up and clapped.”
Later when Shaan sent the music for the song by e-mail, he wrote in the subject line: ‘Sure shot’. Freak Penne will be released soon.
Meanwhile, Omar had a different experience with his film, Happy Weddings (2016). When he wrote the script, he intended to shoot inside a train. But when he inquired about the cost, it was very high. “We have to deposit money at the station as well as give daily fees,” says Omar. “Since it was my first film the budget was low.”
Omar wondered what to do. One night, he, along with a few crew members were having dinner at a thattukada near a highway in Thrissur.
“Suddenly, I saw a low-floor bus going past,” says Omar. “The bus looked nice, with all the lights inside it. I felt that maybe I could do the shoot in a low-floor bus instead of a train.”
The next morning, when he opened a Malayalam newspaper, there was a feature which mentioned of how the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation was encouraging cinema shoots inside low-floor buses. “This was a sign from God,” says Omar. So, he had no doubt about hiring such a bus for the film.
Just before the shoot for Happy Weddings began, Omar was again going through Facebook. There was a video, called Rock Sasi, by a bearded young man named Pareekutty Perumbavur. “He spoke of how a girl tricked him,” says Omar. “I liked it, so I called him.”
They met and Omar decided to give him a role. “Pareekutty told me, ‘Thank God the girl ditched me because it helped me to get a role’,” says Omar.
And the part: It was the exact opposite of what happened to Pareekutty in real life. “He had to steal the girl from the hero,” says a smiling Omar.