At a time when Malayalam movies are receiving a great reception at film festivals across the globe, with the likes of Sanal Kumar Sadidharan’s Chola, Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikettu and Geetu Mohandas’s Moothon, the latest Malayalam cinema to join the bandwagon is the Thiruvananthapuram-based Actor Maanav starer Irumbu.
The movie has bagged the best Director award at the New York Movie Awards in the US recently. Also, Maanav won best actor Gold Award Winner in Virgin Spring Cinefest International Film Festival India, Kalaburagi International Film Festival Karnataka and The Scene Film festival, the US.
Irumbu is an offbeat Malayalam movie, which is not a commercial film at the strictest sense, nevertheless, the film film explores the socially relevant topic of rape and victimisation of an affected of a father and mother, which appeals a cross section of movie buffs. As Irumbu being an exception to the run-of-the-mill genre movies, what makes it different from other genres is the fact that the treatment of the subject is completely different from the ones that the Malayali audience is used to.
The Malayalam movie is as raw and as real as it can get, taking you on a ride that is sure to leave lasting impression. Irumbu is a hard-hitting film, which has been made with the sole intention of sending a wake-up call for the atrocities against women and how the father of the victim is taking on the might of the system. The movie is aptly titled Irumbu, signifying the toughness of the father who fights against the injustice meted out to his daughter with an iron fist.
Irumbu is the first directorial venture of Pradeesh Unnikrishnan. Nithin Narayanan has written the story highlighting what is the right degree and form of punishment for a crime like rape. Anand Krishna has handled the DoP, Rupesh is sthe Art Director and Jisha has handled the Costumes. Midhun Murali has composed music for Irumbi for the lyrics of Mahi Krishna, while the editing is by Sreejith Kalaiarasu, Sanu Pinnacle handling the still photography. The cast of Irumbu includes Sreesha Venugopal, Rupesh, Ravi Vazhayil, Parvathi Sriya, Smitha, Mahi and Aji. SK Nair has produced Irumbu under the banner of the Gateway Films Group.
The film has bagged both domestic as well as international awards. Maanav, who is notable among the rising young stars in Malayalam film industry is in the lead role. It is a matter of pride for Kerala that Maanav was selected as the Best Actor at the Scene Festival held in the US. He has also bagged the Best Actor Award at the Virgin Spring Festival and the Kalaburagi International Film Festival. In addition to these festivals, the New York festival has also chosen Irumbu as the Best Film. It is a matter of pride that a Malayalam film gets more than six recognition from international film festivals. It is also commendable that Irumbu has made it to the last three of the eleven selected International Film Festival venues. The big picture is that the line-up claims that this baby is waiting for about 80 festival results.
Newcomer Sreesha Venugopal is the heroine of this film. The film not only reveals the hardships of life experienced by an ordinary family in the society and also tells the story of the resilience of a group of young people who are thirsty for change. Irumbu is a boomerang directed towards the society which pretends asleep. The posters of the film have been widely discussed on social media since its inception. PMANS has handled the design. The teaser of the film was seen by more than 50,000 people on the first day alone. Irumbu also introduces eight-year-old Abhiram as the youngest assistant director in the history of Malayalam cinema. Apart from Abhiram, Mahi and Anandu are also assistants.
In a free-wheeling chat with Jayashankar Menon, Editor of The Indian News, Maanav speaks about his international acclaim and more. Excerpts:
TIN: What was your reaction, when the information trickled in that you have won the Best Actor Award internationally?
Manav: Actually, when the news came in, I couldn’t believe it. Coming to think of the fact that the award comes from the destination of Hollywood, the US and that too from a renowned film entity, I was literally thrilled and in cloud nine. There were umpteen number of films competing in this Scene Festival. I heard the news when I expected the least. I am extremely happy because I see this recognition as the result of my hard work over many years. As a team, we pooled in limited resources and worked real hard to complete this movie. The filming was done from a remote village in Kasarkode and most of the shooting was happening in the nights.
TIN: Manav is and upcoming actor in the Malayalam film industry. Can you talk about the journey so far?
Manav: I had extreme desire to become a successful film actor. Although, I had attended many auditions and approached my film directors, I got only small roles in the beginning stages. Maharaja Talkies was my first film, where I got a small role to act. Then Dr. Innocent was the my second movie and there too I had a mediocre role to play. Step by step, I got few small roles, nevertheless, I was able to build an excellent friendship network in the film industry. All of them gave me opportunities, although small roles and that kept be busy. In Mr. Bean, I got a supporting role as the friend of the protagonist and that was a good break. Then I got yet another break as a villain the movie, Kanthari. So far, I have acted in about ten movies.
TIN: How did you get a break in Irumbu?
Maanav: I got a break in acting in a bilingual (Hindi and Malayalam) movie, titled: An Idiot and a Liar and I was able to get introduced to the Art Director of that movie, Pradeesh Unnikrishnan. Before that we did a film by name Therottam. Ever since, we became good friends. Back then, Pradheesh was telling me, if he is able to do an independent movie, he is interested to rope me in. That was the time I did a movie called Latchumi. In that film, where the deceased actor Ratheesh’s daughter Parvathy was the female lead (her earlier movie is Madhuranaaranga). I had met the script writer of Irumbu, Nithin Narayan in that sets. Nithin has worked in several films both small and big flicks as Assistant Director and Associate Director and as a Script Writer. With his experience, this movie became a reality.
TIN: Can you elaborate on the international recognition you had received along with your movie, Irumbu?
Maanav: I received Best Actor Award at the Virgin Spring International Film Festival, which was held in Kolkatta. Also, I received another award at the Kalaburagi International Film Festival, held in Karnataka. There too we received Best Actor and Best Film awards. This is the most prestigious film festivals behind held in Karnataka. We see these recognition as the result of our hard work. This is certainly an inspiration for us to do more films like this. Be it Nithin or Pradeesh, they are a confident lot to take up bold and innovative subjects. We are very confident having realised from our experience in Irumbu, we will be able to make more movies where we can scale more heights.
TIN: What are the kind of genres you would love to do, going forward?
Maanav: I will not restrict myself to offbeat films. Whatever roles I get, I want to do it with absolute perfection. The bilingual movie I did is a commercial genre with a romantic subject. The movie is also music oriented. Another specialty of this film is that Asha Boshale is rendering a Malayalam song after so many years. The Shaan has also rendered a song. Chinmayi has rendered two songs. Najeem Arshad and Madhu Balakrishnan have also rendered one song each. So, the movie is replete with excellent songs. Sajee Mangalath has composed music for this film.
TIN: What are the other language movies you have done so far?
Maanav: I have acted in a Tamil movie, Moondram Mugam. Karthik is the director of the movie. I have already acted in a Hindi movie (bilingual). In addition to that, I have also committed to three other movies. One is a Tamil film directed by Sundar in the horror genre. The second project is yet another Malayalam cinema from the same Irumbu team and the discussion is going on. The third movie also is Tamil. Talks are going on and once we firm up things, an announcement will be made soon.
TIN: What are the experiences that gave you in Irumbu?
Maanav: Irumbu, in fact, gave me great experience. The awards I received were not the only achievement I had from this movie. Irumbu has bagged Best Film awards too from various film festivals. Similarly, we worked as a cohesive team. Kasarkode is a wonderful locale. The native people are so nice and they only had arranged our accommodation. Since filming was never done in their village, the people were so excited and they gave us lot of respect and cooperation. We received grand reception in Kasarkode. Our unit was like a family and we contributed our best for the film.
TIN: Do you think the OTT platform is here to stay?
Maanav: Yes. The OTT platform is doing a world of a good for both producers and and the artists, especially during the COVID-19 Lockdown. We are also getting financial support through the OTT platforms. Having said that, we cannot expect the enjoyment and thrill of watching the movie in a big screen sitting with hundreds of film buffs, when we watch the movie at home, either on the television screen monitor or the smartphone. Distractions galore, especially, when you are watching a movie on your mobile phone, when suddenly you receive a call, your streaming is disrupted. At home, our minds will always be distracted. At the same time, when we watch a movie from the theatre, we know for sure that we are going to spend a specified time focusing on only the movie. As the saying goes, Old habits die hard, we have been habituated watching movies from theatres, certainly the enjoyment level is way different. Yet, given the Lockdown, even people are a bit bored by staying indoors for innumerable days without any hope of getting to see the movies from the theatres, the best bet is OTT platforms. In that sense, till the theatres are restored, the only alternative is OTT and these platforms are doing well. That way, OTT is going to stay.