'Forensic was an opportunity to do something with a broader appeal'
The film's co-director Akhil Paul talks about conceiving Forensic, working with Tovino Thomas, and writing a gripping story in the age of multiple platforms
The post-production of Tovino Thomas' Forensic is in its final stages, with the team currently in the middle of the dubbing process. Actor Saiju Kurup, who has finished dubbing for the film, expressed satisfaction with the way the film is shaping up. So does one of the film's directors, Akhil Paul, who is making the transition from writing to directing with Forensic. This is Akhil's second script after 7th Day (2014), starring Prithviraj. Forensic, which initially had filmmaker Sujith Vaassudev attached, was later taken over by Akhil and his friend Anas Khan.
In a conversation with Cinema Express, Akhil talks about his writing process, working with Tovino, and the challenges of writing a gripping story in the age of multiple platforms.
Despite being a first-timer, Akhil found the experience of directing the film not too challenging. "The immense support from, not just Tovino, but also the production side, and the fact that I was working with my friend, made things much easier," says Akhil, who visualised the film like a director when he first wrote it. "Since I have not assisted anyone before, I visualise how each scene should look, sound, and feel, while I'm writing. So to turn all of that into a technical reality was a very exciting process for me."
Elaborating more on his writing process, Akhil shares that he first wrote the script plainly, with no concern for the limitations, the camera angles or shot divisions. All of that came later. "When it came to the stage where I had to step in as the director, I sat down with the actors, cinematographer, and production team to give them a brief about the shot divisions and everything, so that everyone had a clear idea about what we were all supposed to do. Everything went smoothly because we did the pre-production well."
Having a friend like Tovino as the film's main man also helped Akhil to a great extent. Tovino had played a supporting part in 7th Day. "I've known Tovino for many years, and during one of our discussions, we talked about the dearth of good investigation thrillers at the moment in Malayalam cinema. When Anas and I got the spark of the idea, we shared it with Tovino. He got excited and agreed to do it."
The impetus for the film's core idea came to Akhil from a newspaper article on an incident that occurred in India a few years ago. "Since no other film has addressed it so far, we felt it was a good place to start," he says.
The film will be delving extensively into forensic science, a first for Malayalam cinema. Akhil reveals that the investigation at the film's centre is told from the point-of-view of two principal characters, one played by Tovino and the other by Mamta Mohandas. "When I thought of doing another investigation story after 7th Day, which was more of a crime drama than a full-fledged investigative story, I thought of ways to make it more interesting for me as a storyteller. It then hit me that we have not seen a Malayalam film that dealt with forensic science that deeply. So using it as the backdrop helped me conceive some fresh sequences."
To make it as authentic as possible, Akhil browsed through a lot of books and articles on the subject. And once the screenplay was finalised, the team visited the Kerala Police Headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram as well as the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Forensic Science to interact with several experts. When the shoot began, two forensic experts were present on set to give inputs.
When asked if it's challenging to write a suspenseful, gripping story in the age of OTT platforms, Akhil says, "It was a challenge, yes, but I also saw in this an opportunity to do something that could potentially be of some interest to not just Malayali or non-Malayali audiences but also the rest of the world. So we constructed the film keeping that in mind. We tried to incorporate elements and information not explored in other films before — at least, not in Indian cinema."
In addition to Tovino, Mamta and Saiju Kurup, Forensic also stars Renji Panicker, Dhanesh Anand, and Giju John, among others. Produced by Raju Malliath in association with Navis Xaviour and Siju Mathew, the film is expected to reach theatres by the end of February or early March.