A joke by Innocent during Godfather shooting days made way for Tsunami: Lal and son Jean

There have been countless movies in Indian cinema in which father and son acted in the lead roles. The audience has even loved the movies in which the father has directed his actor son and vice-versa. However, Malayalam cinema is now getting the credit for a movie that has been directed by a father – son duo. Tsunami which will hit the screens on March 11, is directed jointly by noted actor – director Lal and his son Lal Junior (Jean Paul). 

Lal and Jean were relaxing at their home at Padamugal near Kakkanad and were in their usual enthusiastic selves while speaking about their movie. Meanwhile, Lal sports a clean shaven look, which the audience isn’t used seeing. The actor is currently essaying a significant role in the Tamil movie Ponniyin Selvan directed by veteran film maker Mani Ratnam. He will be sporting a unique getup with long hair and beard in the film. Every day, fake beard and moustache has to be glued on during makeup. Lal says it is extremely uncomfortable gluing on the fake beard on top of his real beard. That is when he decided to go clean shave so that he would be more comfortable while wearing the makeup and costume. Lal and Jean are excited to speak to Onmanorama about their upcoming movie Tsunami and their future projects too.

Are you thrilled that both of you had directed this movie?

Lal: I had planned to write and direct this movie all by myself. I had blocked the dates of actors Innocent and Mukesh who have essayed major roles in Tsunami, as soon as I had completed the script. However, a handful of really exciting Tamil projects came my way when the filming of Tsunami was scheduled to begin. Besides Ponniyin Selvan, I was committed to Karthi and Dhanush’s movies too. Moreover, I am playing vital roles in all these movies. That is when I asked him (Jean) to direct Tsunami to avoid any inconvenience. Though he was hesitant in the beginning, he was impressed when I narrated the story. But, when we were about to begin filming, he too got many other good offers. He became busy as discussions were underway about the Tamil remake of Driving License. We then scheduled both of our dates and decided to direct Tsunami whenever one of us is free. However, all the other projects got stalled due to various reasons and both of us had enough time at hand. So, we decided to direct the movie together.

 How was the experience of directing Tsunami together?

Lal: There wasn’t any difficulty understanding each other as we have been living together for all these years. We didn’t have any ego. Usually couples may have all these problems, but we didn’t.

Lal Junior: There could be ego even between father and son. But we are too cool for that. 

Lal: He is actually a bit lethargic while I am a workaholic. I would work hard and would be stressed too. But he is someone who enjoys his job and likes to work with a relaxed mind. He would listen to music and stay calm while working.  

Did the son give instructions to father while filming?

Lal: I give everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. In fact, I ask everyone their ideas and opinions. But, he has a temper sometimes. He would chide me asking me why I was asking for everyone’s opinions as I already know everything. Sometimes, you get to know new things from others’ opinions. Not just Jean, my wife expresses her opinions too. But I mostly listen to his opinions as I know that he watches lots of movies.

Lal Junior: It was easy working with papa. Everyone thinks that it is difficult working with him. But I think I feel relaxed when he is with me. He would be doing all the important works. To be honest, I was like a glorified assistant director on the sets. I actually enjoyed that.

What about Tsunami?

Lal: The thread of this movie came from a joke that actor Innocent had said during the filming of Godfather. He presented it as an incident that he had experienced. All those who had heard this story then, had laughed their hearts out. When I told this story at my home, everyone couldn’t stop laughing. My son-in-law, who is also a producer, asked me to make a movie with this story. Moreover, he started pestering me to write the script too. This theme is quite difficult to express through a cinematic medium. I got lots of time to think and write while I was on the sets of a Tamil movie. I began writing and felt confident when most of it was done. When I told this to Innocent, he too was happy. A few days later, Innocent called me and said that Priyadarshan too had wished to make a movie based on the same incident.

What about the lead actors Mukesh and Innocent?

Lal: This movie would be taking the audience back to many humorous scenes of Innocent and Mukesh that have become classics. We have used their ‘humor power’ in all its intensity in this movie. Innocent has done a spectacular job. He had come for the preview show with his family. After watching the movie, his wife said he wasn’t as energetic as he is in the movie, at home. Innocent, meanwhile, in his quintessential style, replied, ‘I will be as energetic at home if you could write me cheques of at least Rs 1 lakh at the end of each day’. 

Did the pandemic induced crisis affect the movie?

Lal: There were only 11 more days of filming left when the first case of Covid 19 was reported in the state. We decided to stop the shooting immediately as we were concerned about Innocent’s health. During the lockdown period, his body began showing signs of cancer again. He called me and asked me to complete the filming as soon as possible so that he could begin treatment. Permission to resume filming, by strictly following the pandemic protocols, was issued on the next day. So, we shifted the sets to a convenient location to complete the shooting by following the protocols.

You have penned the lyrics for a song in this movie while Innocent has sung?

Lal: We had planned a devotional song for Innocent. But he said he didn’t know any such songs. Later, we heard a small song sequence that he had sung and we liked it. We then asked the music directors Yakson Gary Perreira and Neha S Nair whether they could turn it into a fully fledged song. They, meanwhile, promised to turn it into a smashing song. Innocent had sung that song amazingly. The lyrics of the song ‘Aranitharanithanne’ was written by me. 

What are your future projects?

Lal: They are mostly Tamil movies. I have done a positive role in Karthi starrer Sulthan. I have decided not to do too many negative roles anymore. I can’t get beaten up like before. It is in this movie that I had dubbed for the first time in Tamil. I am also essaying a positive character in Dhanush’s Karnan. Besides, I play a police officer in the Tamil movie in which Vikram Prabhu is the hero. I am excited for the character Malayaman in Ponniyin Selvan. The mega budget movie that boasts of a stellar star cast would be released in two parts. I am really hopeful about Malayaman which is a unique character. The second schedule of the movie would be shot in Rajasthan. I am glad that I could be part of a movie like that. Meanwhile, my forthcoming Malayalam movies are Kala in which Tovino stars in the lead role, Nizhal with Kunchacko Boban and Jan E Mann directed by Chidambaram. The filming of the movie helmed by Abrid Shine starring Nivin Pauly in the lead will begin soon.  

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