Tovino Thomas understands a filmmaker's pain, says And the Oskar Goes To director Salim Ahamed
After a four-year hiatus, the director is back with his new film which has Tovino Thomas playing a first-time filmmaker
Filmmaker Salim Ahamed has a special affinity with characters who go through a lot to make their dreams come true because he has already been there. It’s a recurring theme in all his films, from his first work Adaminte Makan Abu to his last one Pathemari. It’s also present in his new film, And the Oskar Goes To (the ‘k’ is deliberate).
The protagonists in his earlier films were played by senior actors. However, in Oskar, Salim worked for the first time with one of the industry’s youngest and most in-demand actors, Tovino Thomas. There’s a perfectly good reason for that.
The film is a fictionalised account of the struggles of a real-life filmmaker. Salim picked Tovino because “he understands the pain that every filmmaker goes through”. There is also the fact that Tovino once used to be an assistant director. “His relatability with today’s youth is also another factor,” says Salim, who didn’t want to divulge more details of the actual story that served as the basis for Oskar’s script, as he wants audiences to find out for themselves when the film comes out in theatres on Friday.
However, he was willing to share that Tovino plays a cinema-obsessed man dreaming of making his first film. “The first half is about his character striving hard to complete his film and the second half covers his attempts to take it to the Oscars,” says Salim, whose debut film Adaminte Makan Abu was selected as India’s entry in the Best Foreign Film category at the 84th Academy Awards.
The impetus behind making the film came from an urge to address the issues faced by many debut filmmakers. “Filmmaking needs to be given the same degree of respect as any other profession. There are those who view cinema as an inferior craft. They have the tendency to paint everyone with the same brush. I wanted to address those things in my film,” says Salim.
Given that every film of Salim has won at least one award and also considering the cold shoulder usually given to ‘award’ films in India, I ask him if he sees the ‘award-winning filmmaker’ tag as a boon or bane. “It doesn’t worry me that much because things are changing now. There are different platforms available and people are slowly getting exposed to all kinds of cinema,” he replies. Oskar, he says, is not an ‘award’ film. “It is no different from any other commercial film starring Tovino. It’s the most expensive film I’ve ever done.”
Some portions of the film were shot in Alberta, Canada. It was recently honoured at the Alberta film festival with four awards, including Best Director and Best Actor (Tovino). Also starring in the film are Anu Sithara and Canadian actor Nikki Rae Hallow, as the female leads. Siddique, Salim Kumar, Sreenivasan, and Vijayaraghavan will appear in key supporting roles.
When asked if he takes film reviews seriously, Salim says, “As far as a filmmaker is concerned, his primary objective is finishing the film he has committed to making. To like the final result or not is someone’s choice. Different people have different experiences. I don’t dwell too much on these things.”
He recalls how his film Kunjananthante Kada, which received the least enthusiastic reception amongst all his films, helped in solving a particular dilemma faced by a couple. “While I was attending a function in Dubai, this husband and wife approached me to say that they were once confused about whose name their land should be registered under and they found the answer to that in my film. So, you see, sometimes it can be a film or a few moments from it that make an impact.”
So what advice would he give to first-time filmmakers? “Filmmaking shouldn’t be viewed as a regular career option that you pick right after school—like engineering or medicine. It should be in one’s blood. Take Mohanlal or Mammootty, for example. They were born to be part of films. The same goes for a filmmaker.”