Anoop Sathyan: I got to use the ‘actor Dulquer’ here instead of ‘superstar Dulquer’ in Varane Avashyamund
In this candid chat with Express, Anoop Sathyan talks about his debut feature Varane Avashyamund, working with Shobana, Suresh Gopi, and more
With Varane Avashyamund running successfully in theatres, director Anoop Sathyan has firmly established himself as a talent to be reckoned with. His confident work made it evident that he has inherited his father Sathyan Anthikad’s filmmaking genes and imbibed all the right lessons.
But Anoop is someone who didn’t have to use his father’s name to get where he is now. Before Varane Avashyamund, he learned the craft of filmmaking by making acclaimed short films and documentaries on subjects that were close to his heart.
“All that gave me the necessary confidence and made me realise that I had what it takes to be a filmmaker, so I was never bothered about the burden of legacy,” says Anoop, who worked as an associate director of Lal Jose for five years. “Despite knowing who I was, Lal Jose sir didn’t give me any special treatment. I was treated like any other AD.”
Though he has never worked with his father, he says he learnt how to handle a movie set by observing his and Lal Jose’s working process. A software engineer-turned-filmmaker, Anoop says his father was earlier hesitant about both his sons considering filmmaking as an option. (Anoop has a twin brother Akhil Sathyan, who is making his directorial debut with Fahadh Faasil soon.)
“Because I was the son of Sathyan Anthikad, some people asked me why I didn’t make a film sooner. But I’m happy that I got to make this film at this age because all my experiences up to that point helped me a great deal,” he says.
It was while working on Lal Jose’s Vikramadithyan that Anoop met Dulquer Salmaan, who came to know only much later that he was Sathyan Anthikad’s son. Anoop first told the story of Varane Avashyamund to Nazriya Nazim, who was later replaced by Kalyani Priyadarshan due to scheduling conflicts. “When Nazriya left, I restructured the screenplay and ended up liking the second version more. Earlier the focus was more on the mother and daughter, but then it evolved into a narrative which was distributed among four characters,” he explains.
For Dulquer’s character ‘Fraud’, Anoop wasn’t sure if it was appropriate for him. But Dulquer, also the film’s producer, readily agreed because he could connect to the character. “I got to use the ‘actor Dulquer’ here instead of ‘superstar Dulquer’,” he recalls.
For the roles of Major Unnikrishnan and Ganga, Anoop’s “dream combo” was Suresh Gopi and Shobana. “People told me it would be difficult to get them. But I arranged an appointment myself instead of making it happen through my father. Shobana ma’am initially went from no to a half-yes once she heard the story. But she wasn’t quite sure, so I waited for confirmation. Suresh sir liked it and was very supportive. But there was a point when I considered making the film in another language. Thankfully, Shobana ma’am responded, and she chose this as her comeback film.”
On the film being set in Chennai, Anoop says, “The story is happening there, to begin with. The mother and daughter live there because, unlike in Kerala, people are less judgmental. Besides, Chennai is my favourite city—you can find the atmosphere of a village anywhere in the city, even in an apartment complex. Apart from the culture being easily relatable, it was more convenient for Shobana as she lives there.”
Anoop prefers watching his actors perform up close and not on the monitor. Being a proponent of the old method, he likes the single-camera set-up and avoids spot editing. “Since the veteran actors are used to this approach, they found it easy. There was an editing plan already in my head, so there was no confusion. I could focus properly. There was no need for me to take so many angles.”
He believes that if one is clear about what one wants, then a single camera set-up would make others’ jobs much easier. “Once I get the required shot, I don’t take anything else. Most of the takes in the film are first-takes. Shobana happens to be a first-take person,” he says.
Anoop credits all the actors for making the film work, especially Suresh Gopi and Shobana. To him, Shobana was the reigning lady superstar for a long time. Naturally, he was thrilled to cast her in his first film. “There was no doubt about any of their performances. Also, I got the confidence to keep that climactic speech after meeting Suresh sir in person. He can make a dialogue look very sincere and moving, with his voice modulation and the innocence on his face. It would have been risky otherwise to place a six-minute speech like that.”