'Vellam shows a different dimension of Jayasurya'
...says director Prajesh Sen as he talks about making the film which hits theatres on January 22
Vellam will be the first Malayalam film to open in theatres post-Covid. It goes without saying it’s a bold move from the makers, especially given that the film is not a ‘mass’ entertainer and the footfall in theatres for it may not be as strong as for, say, a big superstar-driven venture.
“Just because people went to see a ‘mass’ film doesn’t necessarily mean the same would happen for a relatively smaller film. Also, since cinema is not considered an essential or urgent thing by some, there is naturally the worry about footfall,” says director Prajesh Sen.
However, despite this, he is confident of the film they have made and hopes that, if the initial response is positive, the word-of-mouth will help the film. “We have healthy expectations. As people were deprived of the theatrical experience for many months, we hope to see a certain percentage showing up. There is still a section of audiences that watch a film on the first day. This is a film that we all felt should be watched in the theatres, because it’s the story of — and made for — the common man,” he says.
In Vellam, Jayasurya plays an alcoholic character based on a real-life individual who is still alive. Asked how he would evaluate the actor’s growth from Captain (Prajesh’s debut film) to Vellam, the journalist-turned-filmmaker says, “In Captain, it was a challenge for Jayasurya to play a legend. But I felt it’s more challenging to portray someone who is still alive. The main reason is that Vellam is about the events in an alcoholic’s life, and if we hadn’t handled the emotional bits properly, it would’ve turned comical. But Jayasurya was well-equipped for this role. I would say he has become a dangerous actor. His career has seen an extraordinary transformation. In the three years since Captain, he has grown into a much different actor. In Vellam, he attained a different dimension.”
Elaborating further on the protagonist’s characterisation and how the film treats alcoholism, Prajesh adds that he was careful not to be judgemental and wanted to treat the subject empathetically. “This is a character who is at the lowest point in his life. He is severely humiliated. He invites shame from his family and society. He doesn’t even know which grade his child is studying in. There are fathers like that. For some, alcoholism goes beyond the obvious high and turns into a disease. I was so particular from the beginning about not showing a character enjoying a drink. For me, it was about the before and after. We wanted to show how to treat an alcoholic.”
Prajesh clarifies that Vellam is not the biopic of an alcoholic, but rather a film about “someone who represents many alcoholics,” with elements drawn from the lives of others too. As for the physical appearance and costumes, Prajesh opted for a very pared-down look for Jayasurya. Prajesh also shares that Jayasurya didn’t need much make-up to achieve his look in the film.
To maintain the authenticity of the emotions, Prajesh opted for sync sound. “Be it Jayasurya, Samyuktha Menon, or any other actor — everyone used their own voice. We used sync sound because certain sounds and emotions cannot be reproduced by the actors in the dubbing stage, especially when unrestrained performances are involved,” explains Prajesh.
After Vellam, which is releasing on January 22, coming up next for the director is The Secret of Women, a small-scale experimental film led by Niranjana Anoop. Prajesh has already shot most of the female-centric film. “It’s a story of two women. Besides Niranjana, there is one more female actor whose name will be revealed later. I worked on the story 8-9 years back while working as a journalist.”