The mother of invention
Appani Sarath on making his directorial debut with the YouTube web series Monica
A couple of days back, I heard about actor Appani Sarath turning director with a web series for YouTube. Titled Monica, the series will constitute episodes of 10-min duration each. When I called him up, he told me a small story that I found quite admirable and inspiring. As I listened to him tell me about the impetus behind the whole idea, I realised that it was a perfect embodiment of the proverb, 'Necessity is the mother of invention'. The 'invention' in question is Appani's new role as a filmmaker, necessitated simply by an urge to... survive.
It all happened after the actor encountered one roadblock after another. He had earlier announced a film, Charam, written by himself, which got delayed to various circumstances. Moreover, the first and second lockdown stalled some of his projects. For an actor who has been able to keep himself quite busy before the pandemic, the general uncertainty was a bit too much for him to bear. "I asked myself if I would have to go back to my theatre days. That's when my wife Reshma came up with the idea of undertaking a project of our own creation," says Sarath.
The couple found inspiration in other creative husband and wife teams who have explored similar terrain before. Sarath wasn't sure at first, though. "I wondered if a YouTube channel would become pointless once the film industry returned to normalcy. But then I started discussing this idea with some friends. Long story short, I not only decided to do it but also do it well — with good production value and everything."
Sarath brought on board some of the friends he made before and after getting into cinema as he felt the series would provide opportunities to "wonderful talents" he knew. Reshma is also a cast member. The set? His residence in Kakkanad. "The whole team worked as a regular family would, working throughout the night and sleeping during the day after food," he shares.
Asked about his maiden filmmaking experience, Sarath calls directing a "long-cherished desire", but he would've ideally waited a little longer to get into it had things been different. "I would've preferred to take on more acting assignments and learn the craft thoroughly from my collaborators before directing something. But the situation has gotten so bad that I didn't think it wise to wait," he says, adding that he made use of the knowledge acquired until now, which includes his experience of directing plays before he forayed into cinema.
A fan of Charlie Chaplin, the Angamaly Diaries-actor describes Monica as a performance-oriented comedy in the vein of the early slapstick entertainers of Priyadarshan such as Aram + Aram = Kinnaram, Boeing Boeing, and Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu.
Sarath is currently in the post-production phase. "I can't claim to have done something great, but I'm pleased with the results. I think it's going to entertain a lot of people," he says, with excitement in his voice.
Monica has script and dialogues by Manu S Plavila, based on a story by Sarath. Sibi Joseph Wisson Paramel and Jayaprakash are the directors of photography. Francies Louis worked on the editing and DI. Arunraj wrote the music and background score to Malayalam lyrics by Sarath and English lyrics by Divya Vishnu.
Vishnu is backing the series through his Canada-based production company Canteloop Media.