Before its release in theatres last month, the Malayalam movie ‘Jan.E.Man’ was promoted as a story without twists. However, a viewer would witness a twist almost every minute in the film. Moreover, there is enough humour in ‘Jan.E.Man’ for the audience to laugh long after they had left theatres. In short, the movie has succeeded in not only attracting viewers to theatres after an extended interval but also in producing comedy that works.
Incidentally, ‘Jan.E.Man’ was created by two siblings, Ganapathi and Chidambaram. Ganapathi is a familiar face in Malayalam films, beginning his career as a child actor. The movie is the first directorial venture of Chidambaram, while Ganapathi has essayed a major character in ‘Jan.E.Man’ and also assisted in preparing the script.
With ‘Jan.E.Man’ getting a good reception in theatres, ‘Manorama’ engaged in an elaborate discussion with the brothers in Kochi before their departure to Dubai for the promotion of the movie in the GCC region.
According to Chidambaram and Ganapathi, they were pleased with the response of the people who watched ‘Jan.E.Man’. “All these people either wrote at least a couple of lines on social media in praise of the movie or told others good words about it. Some people called us and said that ‘Jan.E.Man’ helped them overcome the gloom that had descended during the times of the global pandemic. While we should thank the viewers for making the film a success, they are in fact expressing their gratitude to us for giving them a pleasant experience,” said the brothers.
Moreover, theatre owners also thanked the duo for creating a popular film. “Even though the audience response was dull during the initial days of the release, it soon picked up thanks to mouth publicity for which we have to thank the viewers,” the twosome added.
Excerpts from the interview:
Both of you are part of ‘Jan.E.Man’. Before starting work on the film, did you decide that Ganapathi would have a role in it?
Ganapathi: We have earlier worked together in ‘Kammattipaadam.’ While Chidambaram assisted director Rajeev Ravi, I had a small role. Acting in a movie directed by Chidambaram was my dream. During the last few years, Chidambaram wrote several scripts to make this dream a reality and we discussed many of those stories. It was finally ‘Jan.E.Man’ that worked and the project was realised rather unexpectedly.
Chidambaram: Not only Ganapathi, but also Basil Joseph, Balu Varghese and Arjun Ashokan were part of my plans when the scriptwriting began. Basil has turned out exceptional performances in all his recent films. His simplicity and body language suited the character of Joymon in ‘Jan.E.Man’ entirely. I felt that the audience would have no difficulty in identifying Basil as Joymon.
As siblings, how did you cooperate during the scriptwriting process?
Ganapathi: Both of us had a good idea about the story and while preparing the script, Spanesh Varachal joined us. We also read out the script to a friendly audience comprising the actors in the movie to gauge whether the comedy would click. We also heard everyone’s opinion and accepted the best ones. All this worked in favour of the movie.
Chidambaram: We needed such a joint effort for ‘Jan.E.Man’. However, for another film in future it may not be suitable.
A scene in ‘Jan.E.Man’ showing a nun clasping her brother to comfort him has drawn much applause. Your comments?
Chidambaram: It is among the most emotional scenes in ‘Jan.E.Man’. In real life, nuns never display such an emotion even when their own parents die. In fact, a similar scene has never appeared in any Malayalam movie so far. But, in ‘Jan.E.Man’, a hug becomes relevant when words fail. The scene proves once again that blood is thicker than water even when differences persist.
Viewers have commented that they continued laughing even after the film ended. What is your reaction?
Chidambaram: We were particular that our first film should be an entertainer and made big efforts to avoid stale situations and introduce freshness in the humour. In fact, many comedy films lag or become weak towards the end. Being aware of this fact, we tried to prepare a seamless script. As the first and last 10 minutes of any movie are crucial and remembered clearly by the audience, we dedicated much attention to these periods. From the response of the audience, we realise that our plan worked. The final 10 minutes of ‘Jan.E.Man’ are packed with comedy!
There is much social satire in ‘Jan.E.Man’. Was it deliberate?
Chidambaram: A filmmaker should never underestimate viewers and believe that hollow jokes would satisfy them. We, therefore, presented a serious issue laced with humour similar to a child being given a sugar-coated pill.
Ganapathi: Depression caused by loneliness is a grave problem. But if the issue is treated in a serious manner, the audience may not like the film. In ‘Jan.E.Man’, two persons from different strata of society and belonging to different communities are facing the same problem. However, they don’t realise it even when they speak to each other. All these facts are presented in a humorous manner in the movie. Moreover, the futility of caste and religion and the struggle of a common man to eke out a living are presented in a simple way.
‘Jan.E.Man’ opens in Canada during a severe winter. What were the interesting experiences during shooting?
Ganapathi: The shooting took place during adverse weather as the mercury dipped to even minus 17 degrees Centigrade. On some days, even the lens of our movie camera was frozen. Considering the weather, shooting could be carried out only between 11 am and 3 pm. Basil, who was witnessing snow for the first time, initially was exuberant and literally jumped on it. However, subsequently, he was very reluctant to shoot outdoors. We had to coax and force him to act in the snow and shoot the first scenes of ‘Jan.E.Man’. It was hard even to walk on the knee-deep snow. Meanwhile, a surprising event took place during the shooting which I do not wish to reveal at present.
Is Chidambaram now planning a superstar movie?
Ganapathi: What’s the need for that? Chidambaram can make a film with actors like me and turn us into superstars!
Chidambaram: There are indeed big dreams! All directors wish to direct superstars such as Rajinikant, Kamal Hassan, Mammootty and Mohanlal. Such plans could be realised with a suitable script and when the right situation evolves.
While you were kids, did you dream about entering films?
Ganapathi: I started dubbing for movies from Class 4. When I acted in ‘Vinodayathra’, I had no idea what I was doing. I became serious about cinema only after doing several films.
Chidambaram: As a child, I too dubbed for some movies and acted in several television serials. But, I soon stopped acting.
Can we expect Chidambaram to act in any upcoming film?
Chidambaram: Not immediately, as I have chosen to focus on direction at present.
Ganapathi: Chidambaram is in no way going to act as I won’t let him!