'I couldn’t have asked for a better team'
...says filmmaker Ashraf Hamza on making his directorial debut with Thamaasha, which is backed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, Chemban Vinod, Sameer Thahir, and Shyju Khalid
It’s not every day that you see a newbie filmmaker making his full-length feature debut with the backing of four renowned and most sought-after names in Malayalam cinema.
Meet Ashraf Hamza, whose maiden directorial Thamaasha comes from Happy Hours Entertainments —the same production house behind last year’s critical and commercial hit, Sudani from Nigeria. This time, the company — run by director Sameer Thahir (Chaapa Kurishu) and cinematographer Shyju Khalid (Kumbalangi Nights) — decided to team up with director Lijo Jose Pellisserry (Angamaly Diaries) and actor Chemban Vinod Jose to deliver what seems like another promising film.
With the exception of Vinay Forrt, Divya Prabha, Grace Antony, and Navas Vallikunnu, the majority of Thamaasha’s cast members are newcomers. According to Ashraf, the film is a light-hearted romantic comedy in which Vinay is playing Sreenivasan, a Malayalam professor. “It’s a role that is quite different from the one he did in Premam,” Ashraf tells us. “After Sreenivasan’s job becomes permanent, he decides to get married. So he starts looking for prospective brides who would be apt for his personality. And when he finds her, he falls in love. Though that’s the basic plot of the film, we also discuss through it a relevant and debate-worthy topic — we don’t want to give it away at the moment — underlined by humour.”
The film was shot at Ashraf’s hometown Ponnani, Malappuram. It was there that he developed an intense love for cinema. “My father used to manage a movie theatre and, naturally, I watched a lot of films and yearned to be a part of them,” says Ashraf, who has worked on some short films, documentaries, and ads prior to this.
It was his friendship with KL 10 Patthu director Muhsin Parari, another Malappuram native, that led to the possibility of doing a feature-length project and Ashraf’s subsequent arrival in Kochi. It’s been three years since he came to the city. “Muhsin and I were working on a script which he is planning to direct next. But that was put on hold when Sudani... and Virus (both co-written by Muhsin) happened. It was through Muhsin and Zakariya (director, Sudani...) that I got to meet Lijo, Chemban, and other Kochi friends,” Ashraf recalls.
The script of Thamaasha has been written by Ashraf himself. The impetus for the film’s central idea came from Lijo and Chemban. “They asked me if I would be interested in making a film on this particular subject. We then went and discussed it with Sameer and Shyju, and the rest is history.”
Given the film’s small scale, the team wrapped up production in 30 days. Ashraf adds that the support of Lijo, Chemban, Sameer, and Shyju means a lot to him. “It was a huge confidence-booster. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. They gave me the necessary strength and push to go forward. I’m fortunate enough to have them as my friends. They were very hands-on. We discussed each and everything in detail before proceeding to shoot something. I was not worried about taking time because I had all the time in the world to do a scene right before moving on to the next one. We were ready to do as many retakes as possible.”
While Sameer served as the director of photography Shafique Mohamed took care of editing duties. The film has music by Shahabaz Aman and Rex Vijayan. The first track, Paadi Njan, composed by Shahabaz, was released online a few days ago. The rest of the tracks are composed by Rex Vijayan.
Thamaasha marks Muhsin’s debut as a lyricist. “I learned one day that he has a talent for writing lyrics. As the film is set in Malappuram, we felt it would be nice to have the songs carry a Malappuram flavour. Paadi Njan gives you a taste of that,” says Ashraf.
Thamaasha is expected to be released on June 5.