Aelay, a dream realised
Team Aelay talks to us about the making of this film, a decade-long dream of director Halitha Shameem
Aelay is the decade-long dream of director Halitha Shameem, a film that finally managed to reach the audience last week through a direct TV premiere. Samuthirakani, who plays the lead, Muthu Kutty, in the film, is all praise for the director. “I remember when it rained heavily before a shot that we had planned for a long time. While we were all running for shelter, Halitha stood looking at the skies, asking for it to stop. Almost magically, it stopped instantly in that area, while it continued to pour in other areas. I think when a creator puts their heart and soul into art, nature will work in favour of them.” Halitha shares that she wasn't willing to let this realisation of her decade-long dream be hindered by even nature. “I wrote the script in 2009 and pitched it to Kani sir back then. Even though he was fairly young for the father character, I knew he would do justice to the role. The film got dropped twice over the years and got stalled once. This time, I didn't want to leave any stone unturned.”
Filmmakers Pushkar and Gayathri, the creative producers of Aelay, reveal that they wanted the film to be their first production even before they launched their banner. “I saw a spark in Halitha's eyes even when she was working as our assistant. We knew she would reach places. When she pitched us this film, we were impressed and decided to produce it when we got ready. We did not have the resources then, but we trusted her script,” says Gayathri.
As preparation for this shoot, Halitha and her team went to Manjanayakkanpatti, the village in which the film was shot, and spent a few months with the locals. “So involved were they in our work that they were pointing out even continuity issues,” says Samuthirakani, laughing. “We worked through the day and did not have fixed schedules. In fact, the entire village worked along with us, enabling us to complete what we thought would be an 80-day-schedule, in half the time.”
One of the creative producers of the film, Pushkar, explains that his job is to understand the requirement of the director and match it with the demands of the market. “While producers take care of the business aspect of films and the directors see it as an art, we work as a bridge between both,” he says. Gayathri adds that redirecting the money that is spent on travel and accommodation, towards elements that add value onscreen, is their prime focus. “We try to finish two days’ worth of work in a single day and use the saved budget to buy equipment for the shoot. There are a lot of investors now in the field, unlike in the 90s. However, only those producers who can efficiently translate this capital into a good film will survive in the industry.”
Asked if she designed her lead, Muthu Kutty, based on her personal experiences, Halitha says, “The character is a summary of many men from my village. The seeed of the script is the idea of a father and son who refuse to talk to each other despite staying in the same house. I was overjoyed to see Kani sir give life to this character and my crew members all feel that this is his most loveable character till date.” Samuthirakani believes he owes it all to his directors. “I come with a clean mind to the sets of every film. I request each director to act out the character for me and I begin learning from them. Over the years, I have also realised that the filmmaker in me has to shut up, so the actor in me can grow.” He adds that the directors he works with have the power to transform him completely. “Sometimes, I almost feel like I’m physically doubling in size when I play villain characters. In fact, I felt like a giant while shooting for films like Vada Chennai and Krack. God has given me this gift and I am grateful for it.” The filmmaker-actor who had taken a break from directing for almost a year, will resume duties for a direct-ZEE5 film and will begin shooting from April 25 to May 25.