Saju Thomas had dreamt about making movies even when he was a journalism student. Fifteen years later, as he turns scriptwriter for the upcoming Mohanlal-starrer 'Neerali', his old classmates and colleagues are proud of him. A native of Thopramkudy, a village in Idukki, Saju was always confident that he would make it to the movies. The young screen writer talks about the movie 'Neerali' which hit the theatres on Friday.
Dream script for star
“Whenever I come across a theme, I would think about turning it into a movie script as I was interested in the movies since childhood itself. I would note it down on paper so that it could be developed later. I had imagined Mohanlal, my favourite actor, as the protagonist in all the stories that I have jotted down. It has always been my dream. Even while I was writing the script of ‘Neerali’, I could only perceive Mohanlal as the character named Sunny George,” Saju reveals his admiration for the superstar.
In the recent days, the whole world was anxious the fate of 12 Thailand 12 kids and their football coach who were trapped in a cave. Their incredible survival saga and the daring rescue operation are lauded by everyone. It must be an amazing coincidence that 'Neerali', which reportedly is a survival thriller, hit the theatres when the world heaved a sigh of relief on the successful rescue. Saju says, “'Neerali' is a thrilling movie about survival. A ‘survival movie’ which also has thrill, emotion and romance in it.”
13 not jinxed
“When we announced the release date, many were skeptical saying that 13 is an unlucky number. It was 13 people who got trapped in the cave in Thailand. Didn’t they all survive?” Saju clearly doesn’t believe ‘13’ is doomed.
Hollywood, no model
Saju says that when a story with survival as the main theme came to his mind, he had shared it with director Ajoy Varma. “When Ajoy said ok, I became more confident. We narrated the story to Mohanlal when the script was completed. The project took off when he agreed to do the movie with more enthusiasm than we had. Our aim was not to make a survival movie based on the model of Hollywood films. It is indeed a challenge to make such a movie. It demands more time and effort than making an ordinary film. Maybe that is the reason why there are not many survival-themed movies in Indian cinema,” says Saju.
Saju states that many people were surprised to hear his and director Ajoy’s names associated with the movie which was committed by the screen idol after his much awaited 'Odiyan as both the director and the scriptwriter are debutants in Malayalam cinema. Saju says, “The fact that 'Neerali' did not have the usual formula is what brought Mohanlal on board. This movie has a unique theme, characterisation and lots of twists and suspense. Mohanlal realised its potential when he heard the script. He didn’t know Ajoy and me personally, before we approached him with the script. So it is not right to say that Mohanlal easily gave his dates for this movie. He just readily gave the dates when he heard a unique script.”
Saju vouches that Mohanlal offered great support for the'Neerali' project. The award-winning actor is actively promoting the movie through his social media pages as well. The screen writer confesses that they were greatly relaxed when the movie was shown to the actor after completing all the post-production works. “He remarked the movie is amazing,” Saju reveals.
Trailer is not movie
Ever since the trailer of the movie came out, people have been pointing out similarities between 'Neerali' and the Canadian thriller 'Wrecked' which was released in 2010. Admitting that he has not been able to watch ‘Wrecked’ owing to his busy schedule, Saju notes, “I have to watch that movie. I don’t understand how someone can asses a two-hour long movie by just watching the trailer. I just have one request to all those who raise the allegation. Please reach a final opinion only after watching 'Neerali' as well.”
The crew of 'Neerali' had tried to be discreet about the theme of the movie even before the filming began. Visitors were strictly restricted on the location as there were elements of suspense and thrill in the movie. Saju says that the makers had decided to hire most of the technicians from Bollywood mainly for two reasons. “More than 90% of the movie was shot in Mumbai, so it was feasible to hire Bollywood crew. Another reason is that 'Neerali' demands an amazing technical finesse, especially the visual effects which have great significance in the movie,” says the debutant screen writer.
Mohanlal and Nadhiya
Yesteryear actress Nadhiya Moidu plays the role of Mohanlal’s wife in 'Neerali'. Saju admits the couple was not a deliberate choice. He reveals, “We considered many actresses before finally casting Nadhiya for the role. Though unintentional, we are glad to bring them together again in a Malayalam movie.”
From media to cinema
“Film makers like Martin Prakkat, Abrid Shine and Sajeev, who wrote the screenplay of 'Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum', came from the media and earned a name of their own in the movies. I feel extremely happy when my name too is seen along with theirs. Most of my friends who work in the media are also cinema enthusiasts who nurture good movies in their minds. I wish that they too make it to the movies and become successful,” concludes Saju.