Ramesh Pisharody: I wouldn't have made Ganagandharvan without Mammootty
The writer-director talks to us about his second film, which stars Mammootty
Ramesh Pisharody, the writer-director of Ganagandharvan, talks to Cinema Express about his second film, which has Mammootty playing the role of a stage show singer named Kaladasan Ullas. The film arrives in theatres this Friday.
Excerpts from the conversation:
You gave Jayaram one of his best characters in Panchavarnathatha. Did that give you the confidence to approach someone of Mammootty’s stature for your second film?
It’s not just about confidence. I thought the character was so perfect for Mammukka; it was exclusively written for him. We knew it would come out well if he does it. That’s why we didn’t approach any other actor. When I first met him, I gave him a two-line idea and asked for his approval to develop it because it would've been a waste in case he did not like what I'd written. He told me he liked the subject and that everything would depend on the treatment.
How would you describe Kaladasan Ullas, your lead character?
Ullas is an ordinary, middle-class guy. We were particular that he not have any special character traits. We could have made Mammukka speak any language or given him a unique get-up, but we didn’t think those would be necessary here. Those were all consciously done away with. When I discussed the character with Mammukka, I said that when Ullas walks through a sufficiently crowded street, nobody pays any attention to him. That’s the difference between him and Jayaram’s character in Panchavarnathatha. Everyone would notice the latter.
Panchavarnathatha had characters with unrealised dreams. Does Ganagandharvan explore a similar territory too?
Yes, a little bit, but it’s a different story. To put it simply, society usually looks at certain things with a one-sided attitude. Take the media or even the law, there is sometimes a tendency to overlook a different point-of-view. That’s what the film is about.
Why did you pick the title Ganagandharvan?
There are two things. First, it’s a nickname Ullas earns on account of his participation in local stage events. Secondly, we thought about the name under a different context which makes sense from a story standpoint. In the olden days, Gandharvas (celestial beings) were blamed for any misdeeds or distasteful events that happened in the neighbourhood. Though nobody has seen them, they are still accused of doing those things.
Can you tell us about your writing process?
Once there is a story in place, I believe it’s imperative to be in constant touch with the lead actor and let him add suggestions to the role, rather than doing everything yourself.
It’s a multi-stage process then?
Right. A story may invoke different reactions in different people. We have to expect that the audiences are going to come up with all sorts of questions, intelligent or otherwise. We may have a justification for a particular thing at a particular moment, but the audience in the theatre, might not feel the same. So, it’s better to clear any doubts first before going ahead. We have to do justice to the actor. If they don’t understand their characters, then forget the audience.
While directing Mammootty, were you influenced by his past performances?
Definitely! It’s natural for a fan to make his favourite actor repeat his iconic moments. When directing Mammukka one day, I told him it would be nice if he did a scene the way he did in an earlier film. He told me, “I’ve been noticing this for a while now. You’re always telling me to do something that was done and over with. We should try something that’s not been done before.” His contributions helped me get over those influences.