'Mangalyam Thanthunanena is based on lives of many Malayali couples'
...says Tony Madathil, the scriptwriter of the Kunchacko Boban-Nimisha Sajayan-starrer that is set for release on September 20
If it hadn't been for his wife Reshma's encouragement, Tony Madathil believes he wouldn't have reached where he is today. The scriptwriter of the Kunchacko Boban-Nimisha Sajayan film Mangalyam Thanthunanena credits his wife for providing him with the right amount of push and sending him in the right direction.
The film, which comes out on September 20, is also the feature debut of Soumya Sadanandan, formerly a documentary filmmaker and an anchor on Kappa TV's Film Lounge. Both Tony and Soumya are close friends who met many years ago at the IT firm they used to work in; and both realised that they weren't cut out for an unfulfilling 9-to-5 job. But Soumya found her freedom much earlier. "One day, Soumya told me she was quitting. I was sad that I won't be seeing my friend again and also because of the fact that she managed to 'escape' before me," laughs Tony.
An interesting coincidence brought Tony and Soumya together again. But before that, Tony had to spend eight years in the same job. One fine day, he decided to make that pivotal decision. "My wife saw that I was unhappy. I wanted to be a full-time writer. But I was conflicted about it. She said if I didn't quit, she was going to. I finally made up my mind. I was going to be a writer."
Tony is not just into film scripts but also novels and plays. He admits it was a little awkward initially. "It's okay for the wife to be unemployed but when it happens to a man, it's unacceptable in our country. People make fun of you for sitting in the front seat holding your baby while your wife is driving the car. But it didn't bother me."
So what was that interesting coincidence that brought Tony and Soumya together again? "My wife and I were stuck in a heavy traffic jam one day, and we just looked to our left and there was Soumya in another car. I couldn't believe it. She told me she was now an assistant director and I told her I'm a writer (laughs)."
When asked if Mangalyam Thanthunanena was inspired by his own marital life, Tony says it was inspired by the lives of many Malayali couples. In the film, Kunchacko is Roy and Nimisha is Clara, a middle-class couple. "It's about people who get married expecting their marital life to be a certain way and then later find out that it's nothing like what they had imagined. It's made for anyone who is married, unmarried, or planning to get married."
Kunchacko's character is an irresponsible spendthrift who has trouble managing his finances and Nimisha's character is the exact opposite. "For Roy, everything has to be grand. And this nature of his has cost him a lot. He doesn't know where each rupee is going. Clara, on the other hand, is cautious about even spending Rs 25. We have seen couples like this everywhere, even in our own families. What would a man in Roy's place do when put in such a challenging situation? It's about Roy's self-realisation and his attempts to mend his ways," reveals Tony.
When it came to the casting, it was easy to come up with a name to play Roy but not Clara, says Tony. "During discussions, we all felt Kunchacko would be an apt choice to play Roy; we were all on the same page. It was a bit of a challenge to cast Clara though because we wanted someone who wasn't too glamorous. Clara is a strong character and we didn't want the audience to be distracted; we wanted them to focus on the character. I initially thought Nimisha wouldn't be able to pull it off, but then she read the script and it made her quite emotional. That's when I knew she understood the material."
Apart from Kunchacko and Nimisha, Mangalyam Thanthunanena also stars Vijayaraghavan, Shanthikrishna, Leona Lishoy, Hareesh Kanaran, and Salim Kumar. The film will be a realistic drama, promises Tony. "We tried to keep everything as authentic as possible. The language I have used is actually what we speak in our own home."
Does he think it is a good time for new writers in Malayalam cinema? "Yes, it is. Actually, I believe that any time is good for a writer provided they have a good script in hand. If they have that, it's not that difficult to sell it."
He calls producer Alwin Antony a practical businessman. "If he likes a script, he knows how to sell it. He has a good idea of what works and what doesn't. It was he who came up with a Hindu title for a story about a Christian family. I liked the title because even though the story is set in a Christian family, it is applicable to everyone, irrespective of their religion," he signs off.