Asif Ali didn’t treat me like a newcomer: Mandharam director Vijesh Vijay
Though the film is a romantic entertainer, Vijesh elaborates that it's also a coming-of-age drama in addition to being a story about friendship and parental bonds
For someone whose first film is about to come out, director Vijesh Vijay doesn't have a hint of worry on his face. Instead, he is full of enthusiasm and confidence. This is a man who seems to know what he is doing.
When asked how he manages to stay tension-free, he tells us that he has been asked this question before and he doesn't know exactly. "Maybe it's because I knew that I was destined to make films. I've struggled a lot, but there was always this feeling inside me that I would get to where I am now. And I also know that audiences will come to see my film," says Vijesh.
Mandharam, starring Asif Ali, was initially planned for a September 7 release. However, the unexpected floods led to the release getting postponed. The film was also nine months in the making, with multiple breaks between schedules. Did these delays concern him? "Not at all. I was happy that I finally got to direct something, even if it was going to take a while to come out."
Asif Ali will be seen in three different get-ups in the film. Though Mandharam is a romantic entertainer, Vijesh elaborates that it's also a coming-of-age drama in addition to being a story about friendship and parental bonds. "I've always been interested in films that appeal to the emotions and senses. I believe in cinema that entertains. I'm not interested in making films that nobody wants to see. When an ordinary man gets off from a long and hard day at work, he wants to see something that makes him feel good. Most people don't go to the theatre to get depressed further (laughs). That's the kind of cinema I want to make because that's the kind of cinema I want to see as an audience member," he says.
Vijesh cites Alphonse Puthren's blockbuster Premam as a perfect example. "I know there are some folks who didn't like that film. But I enjoyed it. I thought it was a fun experience. Isn't that what cinema was invented for?"
Since he brings up Premam, we ask him what he thinks of the comparisons people have been making between that film and Mandharam, given the fact that it shows Asif's character in three different time periods. The director clarifies that though they are two different films, there is nothing wrong with past influences showing up in your work. "Even if you take the Hollywood movies made today, there are concepts in them that we have seen many times before, in an older era, being repackaged to appear fresh for a new generation of moviegoers," he observes.
Vijesh believes that it is all in the treatment, regardless of the subject being old or cliched. "Mandharam narrates the emotional journey of Asif's character; and what he goes through, some of us may have gone through a similar experience. It's possible for more than one person to go through the same experience, no? There are situations in this film that I and M Sajas (writer) have gone through."
Having an actor like Asif on board made things much easier, he adds. "Being the open-minded guy that he is, Asif was willing to accept our ideas and put in that extra effort to help us realise them. And he came up with some cool inputs of his own. We had an incredible rapport on set. He didn't treat me like a newcomer. Now that I have made one film with Asif, I know everything about him. So in case I make another film with him, I know that I'll be able to utilise him better."
Vijesh tells us the songs in the film were added post shooting. "I had a clear idea of where I wanted to place the songs. So I shot the footage I wanted for the music much earlier. The actors didn't know that this footage was being shot for the songs. At that point, there were no lyrics or music; we just used some random, dummy lyrics instead. Everything was written and composed later." He reveals that one of the songs, which is about to be released online soon, was written by him.
Mandharam is produced by Monisha Rajeev and Tinu Thomas under the banner of Magic Mountain Cinemas. Kannada actor Varsha Bollamma (who made her Malayalam debut with Kalyanam) and Anarkali Marikar (who debuted in Aanandam) play the main female leads, while Jacob Gregory, Arjunan Asokan and Vineeth Vishwam appear in supporting roles.