It’s been six months since the world cinema has been stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Barring a few movies shot by strictly following the protocols, Malayalam cinema too hasn’t moved at all. The theaters were shut a few days before the scheduled release of the much anticipated Fahadh Faasil movie Maalik directed by Mahesh Narayanan. Like most people working in the movies, Mahesh and Fahadh too were startled in the beginning. But they didn’t let the pandemic get the better of them. During the lockdown period, Fahadh reminded Mahesh about a story that the latter had told him a few years ago.
He even encouraged the director to think about making it into a feature film. Mahesh, who was upset about the lockdown situation and uncertainty about Maalik’s release, felt a new surge of enthusiasm in him. Movie ‘C U Soon’ which the duo planned as an experimental project during the lockdown has now released on a popular OTT platform as a full-fledged feature film. Fahadh opens up to Manorama Online about the movie and how they have used art as a symbol of resistance and perseverance.
During the promotion of Trance, you had said that Maalik would be your next release. However, C U Soon has unexpectedly made an entry. What do you think about the uncertainties that the pandemic has caused?
Most people have experienced severe changes in their lives than this. Compared to that, the changes that have happened in my life seem trivial. Cinema has indeed changed but the lives of people have been drastically affected. This movie is actually mine and Mahesh’s ‘work from home’ project. We had been contemplating about indulging in some sort of an academic exercise. That is how we decided to do it. But, I can assure that it is a novel and unique experiment.
Mahesh Narayanan says this movie happened only because you had taken the initiative?
He said that to excuse himself just before the release (laughs). This movie wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t someone like Mahesh in the team. All the movies in his career are the result of his hard work. He is so passionate about cinema. But, these movies aren’t what portray Mahesh’s real talent. He is capable and talented to do movies that are amazing than these. I am glad that I could work with him in this film.
How did you find the courage and presence of mind to do such a film, especially after Maalik got stalled due to lockdown?
I am not facing this pandemic alone. We are fighting it as a community and as a nation. I didn’t feel as if I was lonely or weak. Cinema and what we are facing right now are two different realities. We would have done C U Soon in this format, even if there wasn’t a lockdown. The audience would see the same movie and there wouldn’t be any changes. More than the techniques, the story is significant here. I did C U Soon because its story excited me and I felt the urge to do it now.
Was it a challenge to act without seeing the actor who acts alongside you?
It is only after we began filming that we understood that this movie couldn’t be shot just like the regular ones. Though we acted, in most scenes, by looking into a screen, the video of the fellow actor would be played on it or the actor who is supposed to be in that scene would mouth the dialogues without appearing in the frame. We had tried many techniques in the process of making this movie. It was really a trial and error process. But, we understood that a story could be conveyed in this manner as well.
You began this film as an experiment, when did it become a reality?
It became a reality when Amazon Prime approached us and offered to buy it. The running time of this movie is 1 hour and 35 minutes. We had realized that a theatrical release wasn’t possible. Moreover, we didn’t conceive it to suit a big screen in a theater but for home viewing.
Mahesh said that you had already paid the actors and other crew even before the release was announced. What made you so fearless?
I haven’t paid Mahesh yet. I have indeed settled the remunerations of everyone else except Mahesh. I ran out of money when the filming got over. That is why I haven’t paid him. But money is not the most important factor here. It is indeed amazing that many artists have come together to work in this movie. I am happy that I became the reason for it.
You have worked with 100 crew members and also with 20 people. Do you think movies could also be made like this?
This movie made me realize that there is no need for too many people to shoot. But, in movies like Trance, there are scenes in which more than 100 junior artists appear. So, those scenes require people. But, it was when I did C U Soon that I understood that you only need a few people who really work to make a movie.
Do you plan more such experimental movies?
We didn’t do this movie thinking that we should do something during the lockdown. We did it out of excitement. The next project could be something else, if it can excite me.
You didn’t take remuneration for Trance. Besides, you spent money to make a movie, especially during trying times like this. When other actors are busy announcing future projects, you say you have no idea about what lay ahead of you. Are you trying to tread a different path?
This is the only path I know. I am walking through the path that I know. I have no idea what awaits me at the other end of it. But since I know only this one, I am treading it.