Two siblings and a bakery
Saajan Bakery director Arun Chandu opens up about making his second film at his hometown and working with Aju Varghese and Lena
It's not every day that you see a filmmaker shooting his second film and completing it when the release of his first feature got delayed.
But things are finally looking up for filmmaker Arun Chandu, who is in the middle of post-production of his second film, Saajan Bakery since 1962. His directorial debut Sayahna Varthakal, a political thriller starring Dhyan Sreenivasan and Gokul Suresh, will also see the light of day soon.
Starring Lena and Aju Varghese, Saajan Bakery is billed as a light-hearted film about sibling rivalry set against the backdrop of the titular bakery. The idea came to Arun while going through a particularly tumultuous phase triggered by the roadblock he encountered while making Sayahna Varthakal.
Arun credits Aju, with whom he co-wrote the Saajan Bakery script (along with Sachin R Chandran), for rescuing him from that phase. "Since Aju and I hail from Pathanamthitta, the idea of Saajan Bakery originated out of our desire to make a film in our hometown. It's an idea that evolved organically through our evening discussions," says Arun.
At first, the duo had planned to begin filming in March, but Aju compelled him to start as early as December 2019, a decision that in hindsight turned out to be fruitful for the team, considering the present situation. "We finished in January and hoped for an April release which didn't happen. However, the delay gave us plenty of time to polish the film in post-production. We had finished ahead of schedule. We got the time to do 17-18 scenes that were not in the locked script."
Associated at one point with full-fledged comic roles, Aju recently proved his ability to take on characters from the other side of the spectrum in films such as Helen and Kamala. Arun observes that Aju is an actor who is perfectly aware of his strengths and limitations. "He is not one to get carried away easily by something," he adds. "He is well-versed in the technical stuff and is open to trying out new things. He is okay with disagreements and is willing to take suggestions. There is the freedom to exchange ideas. As a producer, he creates space for multiple possibilities."
On Lena, who plays a significant character in the film, Arun says, "She plays someone who is somewhat close to her real-life personality. It's a performance that oscillates between playfulness and seriousness which makes it difficult to guess her age."
Debutant Ranjitha Menon plays the other female lead, while Ganesh Kumar and Grace Antony appear in significant supporting roles.
The inspiration for the titular bakery came from a bakery run by a friend of Arun's. "When the picture of a small-town bakery came to mind, my mind immediately went to my friend's bakery. And when I told Aju the title, he instantly loved it. When people hear 'bakery', they associate it with fond and delightful memories and imagery. The bakery, for me, has always been a hangout place during my much younger days. It's relatable for others too," shares Arun.
To create the film's Saajan Bakery, Arun found a particular junction in Ranni where they combined two bakeries to form one. "We shot the film without interrupting their daily business. As the smells of the snacks spread around, the authenticity of the ambience happened organically. Some of us, especially Aju, were so tempted. The smell was irresistible. All dieting went out the window," he laughs.
The filmmaker also recalls how the shoot enlivened the otherwise quiet location. To capture the atmosphere and little nuances of the place, hitherto unexplored in Malayalam cinema, the team encouraged the participation of the locals.
"This film was a good opportunity to reconnect with my roots," says Arun, who sought Prasanth Pillai for the music. Cinematography is by Guru Prasad, with editing by Aravind Manmadhan.
Saajan Bakery is produced by Funtastic Films and M-Star Entertainments.