There is no hero or villain in Kaanekkaane: Manu Asokan

Kaanekkaane directed by Manu Ashokan and written by successful duo Bobby-Sanjay after the super hit movie Uyare is one of the most anticipated movies of the year. The trailer of the movie has been receiving amazing response from all corners and the early reports suggests that the film is an emotional ride. In a candid chat with Manorama Online, young filmmaker Manu Ashokan, opens up about the scope of the theme and the challenges faced by him while making his second movie after his critically and commercially successful debut film.

Is Kaanekkaane a thriller movie?

No, Kaanekkaane is not a thriller. There is only an element of thriller in it. This is a family drama which takes us into ourselves. This movie makes us introspect about our relationships.

Why did you choose this title?

The title suits the theme of the movie. Meanwhile, the tagline is ‘As You Watch it’. A relationship evolves or transforms as subtly as a flower blooms, as you watch. The title signifies this evolution that happens right in front of you.

Bobby – Sanjay has written the screenplay for this movie too. How did the association happen?

There is a friendship between us that is beyond the screenplay and the movie. Three of us are really close friends. We talk a lot about things other than movies. In fact, we don’t speak much about cinema. I had been thinking about my next project after Uyare’s release. We had discussed lots of stories and themes. Finally, we reached the theme of Kaanekkane through these discussions. I had planned to do another subject. However, I took up this project as the other one couldn’t take shape due to the pandemic. It wasn’t decided that Bobby – Sanjay would be the ones who would write my second film too. We speak at least five or six times every day. All of this had happened from that friendship.

We had decided, while we were discussing the subjects, that this wouldn’t be a film that takes place during the COVID times. So, the present social situation where Covid exists isn’t shown in the movie. Besides, we dismissed the idea that the movie should take place only indoors. Moreover, we were very particular that this shouldn’t be a Covid movie in the creative sense too. However, the filming was done by strictly adhering to the pandemic protocols.

Will Suraj Venjaramoodu surprise the audience with his performance?

Suraj is an unquestionable actor. We had decided that he suits the role even when we were discussing about it. He said ok as soon as he heard the plot. When we said, over the phone, that his character is aged, he was a bit hesitant as he had just done Android Kunjappan. But, he really liked it when we narrated the entire plot. His character in this movie isn’t as old as the one he had played in Android kunjappan. If you ask me why Suraj was chosen for this role, then I would say that he is nothing like what we had seen in his earlier movies. The real actor within him is coming out. With Kaanekkaane, his graph as an actor would definitely go up. The character was very safe in the hands of Suraj.

Are the characters in this movie beyond the stock hero – villain binary?

Definitely yes. There is no hero or villain in this film. People change depending upon the situations. The movie too shows the same. There is no one hero and a villain who challenges him. This movie speaks about the emotional journeys of human beings and the transitions that happen in their relationships.

Were you stressed while doing another movie after the overwhelming success of Uyare?

Veteran director Priyadarshan once told me that it is not the first movie but the second one that is the most challenging for a filmmaker. At some point, I too had gone through that stress. I was confused about my second movie. Uyare had happened and people loved it. We didn’t work thinking that the next movie should be better than the first. We just wanted to narrate a story in the most believable way. A story that I wanted to direct and they wished to write! As a filmmaker I really wanted this film to be a step ahead of Uyare. However, it has never scared me or become a liability. I enjoyed my job and now it is up to the audience to judge it. I wish it to be better than Uyare as everyone desires growth.

What were the challenges that you faced while filming?

The number of crew members was limited due to the pandemic. Getting them tested and arranging proper quarantine facilities were indeed a challenge. These are all things that would create financial burden for the producer. However, the support that we got from producer Shansudeen was incredible. Besides, as a filmmaker, I too had to prepare a lot as changes couldn’t be made later on the sets. But all those preparations have actually helped the film.

What about the technicians of Kaanekkaane?

Alby has wielded the camera for Kaanekkaane. This movie is a bit realistic and a bit cinematic too. Alby has given an output that perfectly suits the nature of the movie. I have been friends with editor Abilash since a long time. We had worked together with Rajesh Pillai. He is someone who clearly knows what I want. So, there was a comfort zone while working. My wife Shreya Aravind has done the costumes for this movie. We had met through movies as we had worked together in a few films. The songs are composed by Ranjin. We synced well as soon as we met each other.

There is only one song in the movie and it is sung by Sithara Krishnakumar. Another version of it, rendered by G Venugopal, too has been included in the movie. Sound design is an important aspect of this movie. Vishnu Govind and Sree Sankar have done the sound designing perfectly. They were all part of Uyare too. More than just technicians, I like to call them friends.

How did you cast Tovino, Suraj, Aiswarya Lakshmi and Sruthy Ramachandran?

We have cast actors who suit the roles. That is how all of them have become part of this movie. They had faith in the story of this film. As far as we were concerned, performance is what matters. In Kaanekkaane, there aren’t many elements that would support the actors. There aren’t any dialogues or cinematic elements that could help the actors in their performance. Instead, they had a grave task to feel the real emotion and emote it back for the camera. It was something intense and internal. They had done exactly what I have desired. Now, I am eagerly waiting to see how the audience would feel it.

Was it a difficult decision to release the movie on an OTT platform?

This movie has been made for the OTT. However, towards the last stage of filming, we really wanted to release it in theaters. But, that wouldn’t happen now. In a way, this decision had given me certain freedom. The audience would feel it when they watch the movie. Moreover, it is amazing that Sony LIV would be debuting in Malayalam with Kaanekkaane.

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