Anna Ben's involvement helped us a lot: Mathukutty Xavier
The filmmaker talks his directorial debut Helen, casting Anna Ben as the lead and maintaining a semi-realistic tone
Another film backed by Vineet Sreenivasan is gearing up for release—Helen, starring Kumbalangi Nights fame Anna Ben. In the film, she plays the titular character, with Lal playing her father and Noble Babu Thomas her boyfriend. The latter is also one of the film’s three writers alongside director Mathukutty Xavier and Alfred Kurian Joseph.
Xavier, who is making his directorial debut, tells us the film is a relationship drama that’s partly a survival thriller. “It mostly revolves around—and is driven by—family emotions. It is about the dynamics between Helen, her father, and her boyfriend and the tension generated when she suddenly goes missing. I think we have managed to convey the overall tone in the trailer,” he says.
Elaborating on Helen and Anna’s portrayal, Xavier says, “Helen is not someone who is too complicated. She is just a simple girl-next-door who is independent and has her own dreams and aspirations. We can see girls like that in our homes. But that doesn’t mean she was an easy character to write. The details took time. We asked Anna to play her as this ordinary character and yet impart her own subtlety to her. The good thing about Anna is that she is subtle and realistic in even the most dramatic of situations. Her involvement helped us a lot, especially in the dialogue-heavy portions.”
Mathukutty adds that the writers didn’t have a face in mind while writing the character and that it was Lal who suggested Anna’s name. “Usually, the writers have someone in mind for their characters but we felt that if we had done that, it might create problems in case we didn’t get a particular actor. So we kept things open and, once we finished writing, we were wondering who would be apt for playing Helen. We already had decided that Lal was perfect for the father. It was when we were narrating the script to him that he suggested Anna’s name. And when we thought about it more, we realised that she is much closer to the character than anyone else.”
Speaking about the tone, the filmmaker reveals that they have adopted a semi-realistic tone as they found it to be the most sensible way to approach their material. “People like realism but they also like seeing cinematic elements in a film. We felt that too many cinematic elements or too much realism can be a problem. Achieving that balance is tricky but we were very cautious. Let’s see how people respond to it when the film comes out,” he signs off.
Helen is expected to release in the second week of November.