Nothing works like a tinge of nostalgia.
A remastered version of Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha, the all-time Malayalam classic starring Mammootty, has been released online, evoking instant 'likes' and myriad emotions. Last counted, the digitally restored version had garnered nearly five lakh views and that is going only by the initial reception. So who is behind the re-mastering, and why now?
To cut a long story short, three women, in fact three sisters, are behind the idea – Shenuga, Shegna and Sherga, the daughters of PV Gangadharan (Grihalakshmi Productions) who produced Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha (OVV) in 1989. Written by MT Vasudevan Nair and directed by Hariharan, the film then won a clutch of state and national awards, besides joining the annals of history as one of the best Malayalam films ever made.
Interestingly, when getting into production themselves, the sisters did not want to use the revered old name of Grihalakshmi Productions and floated a new venture called SCube Films last year, for their award-winning Uyare, written by the Bobby-Sanjay duo.
So what triggered the idea now to remaster OVV and have it uploaded on YouTube? The sisters believe a film like OVV in particular should be made available free “so that anybody who is interested can watch the film even on a cellphone”.
“The idea is to make the film accessible for as many people as we can. It’s a film that has been lapped up by at least two generations. It can be a reference tool for many aspiring writers, film-makers and technicians as well. To think that a film like OVV was made with such finesse in an era with no VFX or associated technology is just incredible,” says Sherga, the youngest of the three sisters.
There was another reason too: poor quality of prints floating on the Net (sometimes pirated, copied stuff from TV feed), which still found wide acceptance. “That’s when we decided the film deserved better treatment and exposure,” says Sherga, who lives in Kochi now. Shenuga too lives in Kochi while Shegna is in Chennai.
In fact, Sherga says, Mammootty has been pushing their father for long to convert OVV into 4K resolution so that the film will have greater reach through new platforms. But then there was a problem which was not easy to tackle: there was no print of OVV available anywhere in Kerala.
“To our shock, we realized that no print of OVV was available with anybody we know. After months of research, we found the Pune Film Institute has a copy and we have written to them in this regard. The response has been heartening and the print is likely to reach us early next month. We are all keenly waiting to get that print. Since it is a film like no other, we might even go for an 8K print, not just for us, but for posterity,” says Sherga.
In fact, for Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha, arguably the best and the most profitable film in their oeuvre, the sisters have bigger plans. "Once we survive the pandemic and things get back to normal, we would love to have a theatre release of OVV, preferably an 8K version. Our entire family is keen to see that wish come true," says Sherga.
Under the SCube banner, they have remastered and released three more films online – Kochu Kochu Santoshangal, Ekalavyan and Advaitham. And more are in the offing.
So which film comes next? “Veendum Chila Veetukaryangal. In fact, we have done an online poll asking film buffs which film they are keen to watch next,” she said.
According to the sisters, they have been approached by many OTT platforms that want to acquire their films, but they plan to release them on YouTube one by one, that too for free. For the record, Grihalakshmi Productions made 22 films between 1980 (Sujatha) and 2006 (Notebook).
“Our first priority is to get quality prints and remaster them. We have plans to make every print in 4K or even 8K and then maybe we can think about OTT platforms. As of now, we are really overwhelmed by the response on social media and YouTube. In fact, when we started it, we were not so kicked about the whole idea, but when we saw those messages, we knew we could not take a step back,” says Sherga.
What’s their favourite film among those 22 films of Grihalakshmi? For all three of them, Vadakkan Veeragadha is an all-time favourite. If you leave that out, for Shenuga, the eldest of the three, it’s Sibi Malayil’s Kanakinavu. For Shegna, it’s Bharathan’s Kattathe Kilikkoodu and for Sherga, the youngest, it’s Sathyan Anthikkad’s Achuvinte Amma.
There are also plans to release songs and snippets of popular dialogues/moments as per demand.
What’s the funda behind their unique names, Shenuga, Shegna and Sherga?
“The names have been derived from our parents’ names Sherin and PV Gangadharan. It’s our mother’s idea actually. Everywhere we go, the names evoke curious responses. In fact, Bobby (script-writer) keeps making fun of us, saying our names itself need sub-titles.”
It was “out of reverence” that the three decided to take up a new name (SCube) for the production house, not the legendary one. “We were really scared that we might end up spoiling what our father has painstakingly achieved over the years. Of course, we are being careful in selecting films; still, we don’t want to take a chance.”
Legacy comes for a reason and the trio knows why, and how.