Filmmaker Ranjith and Mohanlal share a special bond which surely isn’t dramatic, though the spectators may feel that they are acting likewise after an elaborate rehearsal. With just a glance, the duo would share a thousand thoughts. Those who watch them work together are amazed by this incredible chemistry. Once late actor Cochin Haneefa asked Ranjith what was the secret behind the special relationship that he shared with Mohanlal. Ranjith, borrowing a popular dialogue from legendary filmmaker Padmarajan’s Kariyilakattupole said, “It is a silent communication which happens when blood realises blood.”
Their latest movie 'Drama', which the filmmaker says has “less dramatic features despite the title,” is now in the theatres.
What are your expectations with a small movie like 'Drama' when big-budget movies rule the screens these days?
'Drama' is a small movie like 'Nandanam', 'Pranchiyettan and the Saint' and 'Indian Rupee'. I have tried to present the small incidents that happen in life without making it much complex. This is not a movie which would keep you on the edge of the seat; instead you will be able to enjoy it in a rather relaxed mood. The fact that Mohanlal is playing a humorous role throughout is the significant feature of this movie.
Take another instance: ‘96’ is the latest film of (Tamil) actor Vijay Sethupathi; he is also the hero in the action thriller called ‘Vikram Vedha’. While the former conquer the hearts in a mellowed tone, the latter thrills with its pace and action. The same person played the lead roles in both the movies and they became superhits as well. This has happened in Mohanlal’s career earlier too. ‘Gandhinagar 2nd Street’ became a huge hit in the same year (1986) hen ‘Raajavinte Makan’ was a blockbuster. If one narrated the tale of a gangster, the other depicted the struggles of a young man who is desperately searching for a job.
Not just ‘Titanic’, small films like ‘Home Alone’ too can create ripples in the world.
Is this what Mohanlal’s fans expect from Ranjith?
When the filming of ‘Drishyam’ was progressing in Thodupuzha, I called up Antony Perumbavoor on his phone. I sensed something amiss as soon as he picked up the phone. Antony is speaking to me as he walked away from the location. I asked him what was wrong. This is what he said in a tearful voice, “Shajon is hitting Lal sir by locking him in a room. I can’t bear to see it.” It must be noted that Antony was the producer of that movie. But more than that, he is a great fan of Mohanlal. If this kind of admiration is felt and expressed by Jeethu Joseph, then a movie like 'Drishyam' wouldn’t have happened. Directors are the ones who should challenge the actors by creating characters; they can’t afford to become fans of their actors. I think that the Malayalam cinema hasn’t been able to challenge Mammootty or Mohanlal until now. The directors and writers can really create wonders if they try hard. Not just them, but the actors who follow too can achieve greater heights.
Mohanlal’s conversational style is unique. The dialogues written by Ranjith totally suit that style. Does that happen because of your close ties with him?
That is not at all intentional. It just turns out like that when I decide that my hero is Mohanlal. I write the dialogues by saying it in my mind. I clearly can perceive how that dialogue would sound if Mohanlal says it. That is how those dialogues fit into that rhythm. Besides, it is usually me who reads the dialogues to my actors before canning a shot. This would help them to imbibe the essence of those dialogues. The friendship and love that we have been sharing for so long too may have influenced it. I don’t think I can write with so much precision for an actor belonging to the current generation.
It is, however, known that both of you would have issues on the sets.
Lal decides to act in a movie because he loves that movie. If he begins to love a film, he would do anything for the sake of that character. But there is always a small child within him, who is extremely sensitive. May be I too have such a child inside me. So, like two children who would fight, we would sometimes fight with each other.
Even on the sets of 'Drama' in London, we have sat apart without talking to each other. Usually Lal calls me ‘Anna’ (brother), and I would call him ‘Annachi’. But when we are fighting and not talking he would address me by my name and I call him ‘Lal sir’. Lal calls me Ranji when he feels immense love for me, and that doesn’t happen always. I call him Lalu, in private, when I too feel so much love.
Actress Arundhati Nag has portrayed a prominent role in 'Drama'. Was she cast as there weren’t any other artistes who matched the role?
Not at all. This character had Arundhati Nag’s face ever since I imagined it. She is undoubtedly one of the best theatre artistes in India. She has donned amazing roles in Hindi and Kannada movies. She has impeccably played her role in 'Drama'. It was actress Muthumani’s mother Sherly Somasundaram who dubbed for Arundhati Nag in the movie. She too is a theatre artist. We were surprised to note the similarity in both of their sounds and the ways in which they deliver dialogues.
Haven’t four filmmakers acted in your movie?
Renji Panicker and Dileesh Pothen have already earned a name as excellent actors. Syama Prasad and Johny Antony are the two others. I offered them roles as I wanted to cast someone whose faces weren’t familiar as characters.
After ‘96’ Vijay Sethupathi returned to action films. Will Ranjith return with a thriller which would create a stir in the theatres?
I haven’t promised anyone that I wouldn’t direct such a movie anymore. However, I can say that I am not presently thinking about making one.