Prithviraj suggested that I make 'Kaduva' in the 1990s style: Shaji Kailas

Shaji Kailas
Shaji says he does not compete with the new generation filmmakers. Photo: Manorama

Veteran filmmaker Shaji Kailas doesn’t have any qualms in admitting that he has discarded the regular formula that were seen in his earlier films to cater to needs and likes of the modern moviegoers. His films were known for larger-than-life heroes who courageously took on the baddies. However, in his latest film ‘Hunt’, there is no male protagonist. Bhavana and Atidi Ravi essay the lead roles in the film.

Shaji’s blockbuster movies like ‘Commissioner’, ‘The King’, ‘Narasimham’ and ‘Aaraam Thampuram’ and the quintessential male heroes in them have gained cult status in the Malayalam cinema industry. However, after some time, the audience got bored of the same formula. Shaji then disappeared from the limelight for around six years. But, he was not someone who would concede defeat. In his spectacular second innings, the director helmed four back-to-back movies. The films ‘Kaduva’, ‘Kaapa’, ‘Alone’ and ‘Hunt’ deals with unique themes that are different from his earlier movies. Shaji says that the decision to direct movies that had completely different themes was a conscious one.

Was ‘Kaduva’ an attempt to bring back the old ‘super’ hero?

Some people had been complaining that Shaji Kailas hasn’t changed according to the modern era and still follows the old formula. The same generation that had applauded my old films in the theatres had criticised like this. But, now, the youngsters mostly go to the theatres to watch movies. They have seen my old movies only in the television and mobile phones. They really enjoyed ‘Kaduva’ in the theatres; and the movie became a super hit. It was Prithviraj who suggested that ‘Kaduva’ should be made in the nineties style. However, I decided to make ‘Kaapa’ in a unique style as soon as I read the script. Thiruvananthapuram plays major roles in most of my old political thrillers. It is my hometown. I have tried to portray the city that I see everyday in a different way. The fact that I had changed my style wasn’t even realised by many actors including Prithviraj. Seeing the different style, he kept asking me whether it was enough as soon as we began filming. I explained that I was following a unique pattern. In ‘Kaapa’, there is not even a single shot that reflects my old style. After the premiere, Prithviraj was impressed and told me that the change was quite evident.


What did the audience say?

Some criticised that it wasn’t as thrilling as ‘Kaduva’. But, people would soon get bored if I go back to the old formula. There are many like Kotta Madhu, the character played by Prithviraj, in Thiruvananthapuram. I had gone to all the theatres in which the movie was released. My new style has been accepted by everyone including the fans of Prithviraj. ‘Hunt’ was supposed to happen before ‘Kaduva’. However, neither I nor the producer had any market then. We were sure that the movie wouldn’t do any business if both of us took a film together. We decided to make that movie only after making two successful movies. Now, the filming of ‘Hunt’ is progressing. ‘Hunt’ is a movie that takes place in the campus of a medical college. It has elements of crime investigation as well as horror. Bhavana and Aditi are performing amazingly. There is no male protagonist in this movie. Meanwhile, ‘Alone’ starring Mohanlal in the lead role is a different film. Mohanlal is the sole character in the film that was shot during the pandemic times. It was meant to be released on OTT. It’s been two years since we wrapped up ‘Alone’. It will hit the theatres on 26 January.


Are you competing with the young generation of filmmakers?

I came into the movies when Joshiy and IV Shashi were the hitmakers. I got noticed as I made movies without imitating them. New film makers take films quite naturally and effortlessly. I am not competing with them. I add a bit of artificiality in my movies. So, I have decided to change. I had hired different cameramen in the four movies that I did recently. Their perceptions too could be seen in the films. Besides, these films were edited by different people. I associate with various script writers. All these factors give unique identities to the movies.

The changes could be seen even in the songs. Now, I prefer rhythmic folk songs in my films. I used to avoid songs in some of my action films as I thought that it would disrupt the tension created by the thrilling sequences. However, now, I try to add songs in all my films. I have decided only to take movies that are different even if I have to sit jobless at home.

Have you decided not to do big movies anymore?

I will surely do big movies. The screenplay of the movie bankrolled by Aashirvaad Cinemas, starring Mohanlal in the lead role, is being prepared. Mammootty now prefers movies in a specific pattern. So, I will rope him in if I get a subject that suits him. As I have taken two back to back movies with Prithviraj, I wouldn’t be associating with him any time soon. I have decided that I would reunite with him only at least after a year. I do not do a lot of homework before taking a film. I am someone who is willing to adjust with another location if the one I had wished isn’t available. So, it is easy for me to adapt; or else, I would not have a job.  

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