'There is nothing controversial about Ayyappan'
...says August Cinema's Shaji Nadesan as he talks about their upcoming film and his association with the lead actor, Prithviraj
Last weekend saw the surprise announcement on social media by actor Prithviraj of a new film he is about to star in, directed by Shankar Ramakrishnan. The title of the film: Ayyappan. The subject: Lord Ayyappa. Needless to say, the timing of this announcement raised some eyebrows and provoked some interesting (and funny) discussions on social media.
Some questioned the timing while others were curious about the interpretation of Ayyappan. In a brief chat with Cinema Express, the man backing the project, Shaji Nadesan, of August Cinema, has shared his thoughts on the matter. "We weren't trying to take advantage of the Sabarimala issue. We announced it now simply because we felt it was the most auspicious time. It's not a calculated announcement to create controversy. And there is nothing controversial in the script either. We've been planning this project for two years, waiting for everything to come together."
The shoot is being planned for Vishu next year, and Prithviraj is expected to appear in four get-ups in the film. In addition to Ayyappan, the film will feature all the key characters associated with the Ayyappan story such as Vavar, Udayanan, Malikapurathamma, and the King and Queen of Pandalam.
Shaji says the team is going for a raw and realistic approach, with more emphasis on the character's life and ideology instead of going for a TV serial or VFX-heavy cinematic approach. "He was a prince, revolutionary, and common man rolled into one. He was a mortal who attained divinity just like Gautham Buddha or Sri Krishna. It's through their benevolence, sacrifices and humanitarian deeds that they became 'deities', and that's exactly what we intend to show through this film. It will be about his adventures, his existence, his relationship with Maalikapurathamma, his sacrifices....things like that."
Based in Thiruvananthapuram, August Cinema was founded in 2010 by Prithviraj along with Shaji Nadesan, cinematographer Santosh Sivan and actor Arya. The company is known for taking on projects that are sometimes risky in terms of both budget and content. Their recent undertaking, Theevandi, turned out to be a big success in spite of its minimal pre-release buzz. Shaji didn't expect the film to do that well after the floods happened, and attributes the success to "sheer luck".
When asked about his association with Prithviraj, who was once part of August Cinema, he says, "When Prithvi left the company, some people assumed that there was a disagreement between us. He left simply because he wanted to start his own independent production company (Prithviraj Productions). August Cinema owes a lot to Prithvi's efforts and we can't thank him enough for that. Our relationship still remains intact. We've always shared the same outlook on cinema. Out of all the people in the industry, I love and respect him the most."