Veteran film maker Siby Malayil is often touted as one of the pioneers who had introduced a new wave of cinema in the Malayalam film industry. After a hiatus of around six years, the award winning director is all set to entertain the audience with a new project. The veteran director is helming a political thriller titled Kothe written by debutant Hemanth Kumar and with Asif Ali and Nikhila Vimal. In a candid interview, Siby, recalls some incredible memories from his illustrious career and also reveals more about his latest movie.
Your last movie was released in 2015. Isn’t 6 years a long gap?
Yes, it indeed is a long gap. But, I am not someone who makes movies just for the sake of it. I had decided to direct only when a project that excites me come my way. Earlier, I had made bad decisions and was compelled to make movies that didn’t work. That is the reason why many of them weren’t successful. Now, there is no need for that.
Haven’t movies changed now that you have decided to make a comeback?
Cinema keeps changing; in fact, it should change with time. Change is indeed the law of nature. However, the most vital thing is that we too should transform. This is not the first time that the nature of cinema has changed. But, it’s only been a decade since that change has been grandly celebrated. That is when even the term ‘newgen’ was popularized. Cinema has seen significant changes even before that. Film making in the 1990’s was hardly anything like in the previous decades. You cannot stop the change; instead you could definitely move on with it. Changes have happened in all fields of film making. I did Apoorvaragam during the transition period of the new age cinema. You could actually include that movie in the new age genre. Even the theme represented the contemporary times. It showed that I too could gel well with this transition.
Do you think cinema has become more realistic?
It is true that the dramatic elements of the older times aren’t seen in today’s movies. The actors mostly behave in front of the camera. Even their dialogues became more realistic. You can no longer see dramatic conversations in the films. It in fact brings the films closer to the audience. My latest movie Kothu is a realistic film that suits the modern times. The theme aptly represents the current political discourses in Kerala.
Your son Joe has assisted you in this movie. Is he a representative of the new age?
No, he is learning film making from me. Even though movies like Kireedam was released before he was born, such films still influence his generation. The new generation watches these movies in television and admires them. Their outlook towards cinema and film making might be different. But, they are surely inspired by the movies that were directed by my generation of film makers. However, I really value their opinions as they are the representatives of the new age cinema.
In a career spanning three and a half decades, you have seen many people come and go. Some of them who came with you or after you aren’t active in the movies anymore.
Earlier, four or five new directors made their debut in a year. In 1985, when I made my debut, around five movies of debutant directors had released. Some directed two or three films before quitting while some others were in the industry for a few more years. Very few film makers were able to survive. However, now, more than fifty new directors come with their debut movies, in a year. As a representative of the film association, I clearly know the exact number of new directors who make their debut every year. But, the question is, how many of them can survive. As far as a director is concerned, not his first film, but his second movie is significant. His debut movie might be incredible as he had been refining his dream project for years. His real talent shines through when his second film is as good as or even better than the first one.
Do you think new writers do not take the old directors into confidence?
I don’t think so. They are interested in associating with their friends and stay within their comfort zone. That is when they could come up with the best results. People of the same age group can communicate better and it would greatly help the movie. It is not necessary that they enjoy the same with a director of the older generation. That must be the reason why many of them are reluctant to approach us.
Hasn’t friend circles been there in the movies always?
That is something that develops naturally. However, the survival of that friend circle depends on the success of the films. The group that succeeds obviously enjoys popularity. Many of my movies were beautiful associations of writer Lohitadas and the greatly talented actor Mohanlal. Very few new age writers, like Syam Pushkaran, has the potential that could be compared with the likes of Lohitadas. Such a team has been formed by Syam Pushkaran, Dileesh Pothen and Fahadh Faasil. It became successful when their movies were well received by the audience.
Is there still chance for a movie from the Siby Malayil – Mohanlal duo?
There is no room for predictions in cinema. It might or might not happen. Audience expects a certain quality when we come together for a movie. So, such a film would happen only if a project that could satisfy the audience’s expectations comes our way.
Will your new movie have an OTT release?
Only the first schedule has been completed. By the time, the pandemic situation worsened and we had to stop filming. The indoor sequences are completed. We could resume only when we get the permission to shoot outdoors. The decisions about the mode of release would be taken only after that. In my opinion, cinema is something that should be celebrated in the theaters. There, a unique communication happens between the audience and the movie. Meanwhile, when we watch movies at home or on mobile screens, there might be constant interruptions. You would lose the joy of continuity. However, the advantage of it is that the cinema has definitely widened its reach. Malayalam cinema is enjoyed even in other countries and become topics of discussions there. It could help the technicians grab opportunities from movie industries in different parts of the world.
Do you regret anything in your career that spans around 35 years?
Lohitadas’ demise is a great loss. A project where both of us and Mohanlal had planned to join hands was under discussion. It was during that time that Lohi had bid adieu to this world. It indeed was a great loss. Not just for me; but for the Malayalam cinema industry too.