When Mammootty asked her whether acting was what she was aiming for when she joined film production, Lakshmi Warrier had a quick answer. She neither wanted to be an actor nor a director. Movie production was what she wanted to do. This answer pleased the Megastar. He wasn’t to know that she was still reeling under the presence of the Megastar whom she grew up watching on screen. Lakshmi who is also the first woman production Manager to be inducted into the Malayalam Cinema association talks about her journey to Malayala Manorama.
Everything started with that question
She hails from Kodakara, a village in Thrissur. Her father Nandakumar, who was also a lecturer, runs a parallel college in town, and her mom, Ambika was a homemaker. She was their only child. After studying the Travel and Tourism course she joined Kingfisher and was there for the longest time—11 months. If you look at my job profile, it is clear that I haven’t stuck to any job for more than a year. The reason is pretty simple—I don’t like to work under anyone.
She got married to Kannur-based Harilal who was working at the Cyber security branch at the Deutsche Bank. He was extremely supportive of my endeavors, and I started a travel company called Season 4 Holidays. It ran well for a year. It was while watching the title card of a film that had a travel partner credited to a company that we realised the potential of collaborating our company with cinema. That’s when we spoke to Lijo Jose Pellisery who was my father’s friend. He knew me from childhood.
He was the one who advised us against pursuing a travel company and said all we will gain are a lot of bounced cheques. He suggested that if I was interested in coordination, there is a position called production controller in Malayalam cinema. There are posts called Production Manager and Assistant Manager under the Production controller. Why don’t you try one of those? That question from Lijo really set me thinking. In fact, that’s the first time I even understood what the job profile means.
Thankfully for a membership
I wasn’t aware that this field was completely dominated by men. There were no women production controllers in Malayalam cinema. Lijo introduced me to Producer Sandra Thomas. Then she didn’t have any projects. My first job as a production controller (or rather a part of the team) was in the Telugu film Sahasam. Zachariahyude Garbinikal was my first Malayalam film. I also worked as a production Manager in Monkey Pen, Baskar The Rascal, Silence, Praise the Lord, Cousins, Happy Journey, Njan Maryada Raman, and Acha Din. The Production Manager is the assistant of the Production Controller. Initially, I didn’t have a membership.
But thankfully I got it the minute I applied for one. But I think perhaps a lot of people felt I didn’t really deserve it as so many have expressed their displeasure. That’s how I first got into cinema as a Production Manager. Interestingly it was only in cinema that there were no women in the field of production control. In ads, you can see many women doing the same. Our job includes taking care of the finances, coordinating other aspects during shooting, arranging call sheets, and bringing the actors together.
When we heard Vikruthi’s story we initially thought of taking care of Line production. Due to certain circumstances, we were forced to produce it. We had started a production company called Cheers Entertain in association with Ganesh Menon and Mammootty’s Manager George. Initially, we conducted a few events under this production. When George quit the production, AD Sreekumar joined the team. Vikruthi was produced by Cut Create Pictures. Since it was the first production, we had some funding issues.
Me and Ganesh Menon produced Jan.E.Man under the banner of Cut Create Pictures. In fact, Jan.E.Man was the first film that was produced under the Cut Create Pictures banner. I have worked in the production houses of Siddique and Anto Joseph. It was while working with Siddique sir that we shifted into line production. Since I have worked in Delhi, Bangalore, and Chennai, I am proficient in Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, and English. Whenever other language actors join our cinema, I often play the part of a translator.
Jan.E.Man is the result of teamwork
We agreed to produce Jan.E.Man the minute we heard the one-liner. Pre-production work and scripting were done in the same manner and at the same time. A lot of discussions went into the scripting and pre-production work. We had a good team in Chidambaram and co. Since it was Covid time, we had some funding issues. There were no caravans, everyone was put up at a rented house nearby.
That camaraderie really helped the film. We released the film without any promotions and during the first two days, we were really tense. Though we were confident that the film will be loved by the audience, we weren’t really sure about the box office results. Jan.E.Man is proof that there is always an audience for good cinema.
Since I was the first woman production controller in Malayalam cinema, Mammootty was really impressed and would refer me to several people. “It’s always great to have women in the administrative board in cinema,” he would say.
At first, there was reluctance
I started this journey 9 years ago at the age of 26. I had to go through a lot of obstacles. But it’s unfortunate that no other woman has really entered this field since the time I joined. But now I can see a few women keen on joining. Men in this industry had a problem taking orders from a woman. I have had bad experiences with men from all walks of life. But when I started putting my foot down, I am seeing a change in their attitude.
Though my parents were skeptical about my choice of profession, I had no such doubts. More women should enter this field. We are discussing various projects right now.