We are now in a place where we can try anything: Fahadh Faasil
The actor talks about working with director Mahesh Narayanan for the third time, the unconventional storytelling format of his new film, CU Soon, his views on the theatre-OTT debate, and more
A new Fahadh Faasil film is always a source of some joy for the film connoisseur. This time, he comes with an experimental feature called CU Soon, which also features actors like Roshan Mathew, Darshana Rajendran, Saiju Kurup, and Mala Parvathi.
In this candid chat, Fahadh talks various topics, including spilling details about CU Soon that will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on September 1.
The trailer of the film has created quite a bit of excitement. Tell us about how this film came about.
I can promise you that the film is much more than the trailer. We began shooting for this film in the first week of April and finished by the end of the month. The post-production was more time-consuming as the film was redesigned during the editing. In fact, it took almost as much as two months.
We did carry out a test shoot before we went on the final shoot. The editing is an experiment in a sense, and until people see it, we can't say for sure whether we did it right.
Judging by the footage, it seems the actors were not bound by conventional framing or blocking rules. Is this true, and if yes, was it liberating for you as an actor?
You know, actors of my generation were trained to perform for lenses whereas actors from the old days, who came from the stage, performed for the backbenchers. Their entire acting method was different. The whole idea of CU Soon was to capture everything through a single lens. There was no change of lenses. It was about a single frame, and the object or person that gets prominence was decided during the editing. To put it simply: The film emulates your phone screen when you are having a conversation with a friend. The idea was to make either of the characters look like they are at the other end of your phone, in order to get a personal connection with the audience. That is how I see the film in my head.
Was maintaining emotional continuity a challenge?
In this film, emotions took prominence over techniques and everything else, and it is even more challenging for the actors. However, we did our homework and research. The idea was always to try something we had not before.
You have worked with Mahesh on three films. Is there any quality of his that you find most impressive?
You should probably ask that to Mahesh, about me (laughs). He is the only person to have directed me three times. He has been so patient with me. I worked with him in Take Off and Malik, two completely different films. And now, CU Soon is nothing like those two. I find him to be a filmmaker who is more capable than he has let out. An editor himself, he has the advantage of deciding how to narrate a story. I have no doubt that Mahesh was the best person to do this film.
While on experiments, do you feel that such Malayalam cinema works better outside Kerala? Trance, for example, got relatively better responses outside of the State.
Some films have pan-Indian appeal—and by this, I am talking about the content, not the technical aspects. What has drastically changed in the last few years is how people have become more open to content from other States. For a person in Mumbai to watch Maheshinte Prathikaram or Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, and understand it completely, it demands effort, like reading subtitles. This noticeable change has come about not because of technicians or directors, but because of the audience.
Do such polarising reactions affect your film choices?
But they have also been kind to me, and so, I can't complain, right? When you do something good, the response is also good. Malayali audiences kept giving me chances. I kept disappointing them. A film may or may not work for various reasons. My mother, for instance, did not understand Trance. She did not grasp its conflicts; I think it is understandable and fair. My role in Trance was difficult and time-consuming. It stayed with me longer than others, though I am not an actor who lets characters stay with me for long. But people can like or dislike or understand or not understand anything. We are now in a place where we can try anything.
Do you see the responses to these films changing, maybe, after a decade?
Maybe. Look at Thoovanathumbikal or any Padmarajan film for that matter. Those films did not work at the time of their release. But that said, I do want my films to work when I am alive. I do not want to wait another 20 years to see positive responses (laughs).
Which character of yours has been closest to your personality?
My wife says Thondimuthalum (laughs).
And maybe Varathan to an extent. I mean, people told me the sober, vulnerable parts of that character reminded them of me. Otherwise, I have not heard anyone say anything like that. Varathan is the closest, I guess.
Recently, the exhibitors’ association threatened not to collaborate with those who opt for a direct OTT release. As a producer, how do you feel about this?
I feel that the content made for theatres and home-viewing are two completely different experiences. CU Soon, for instance, is a 98-minute film, and I don’t think any theatre would want that. I do not like to enter this discussion because we are addressing bigger things now. If someone sees this film and gets inspired to do a short film, that is enough for me. I am looking at the bigger picture.
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming films? We hear you don multiple get-ups in Malik
Malik narrates the story of coastal Kerala from the 1960s to the present. It represents Kerala politically and covers 60 years of a man's journey. I play my character as a 25-year-old, a 40-year-old, and a 55-year-old. It's an interesting film, and one made for the big screen.
I am also working on a project with writer Syam Pushkaran (Maheshinte Prathikaram, Kumbalangi Nights). We are hoping to shoot it by the end of this year. Maybe in November or December. Dileesh Pothan is directing it.