This is how AR Rahman was roped into 'Aaraattu', reveals B Unnikrishnan

B Unnikrishnan-Mohanlal
B Unnikrishnan (L) and Mohanlal

'Aaraattu’ is a comeback of sorts for Mohanlal the superstar. It’s been a while we have seen him twirl his moustache and tie his mundu and take on the villains in a film. It’s been released worldwide on 2700 screens.

“Aaraattu is a mass masala entertainer. There are no weighty issues or melodramatic moments. It’s a film meant as a celebratory experience for Mohanlal fans and ordinary audiences. Though Mohanlal has done so many films like that before, I think it’s been a while since he has done a mass film. Lalettan’s fans haven’t seen him in such a mass avatar for a long time, particularly in theatres. ‘Aaraattu’ is a film which deserves to be seen in a theatre,” says B Unnikrishnan.

How did you come to ‘Aaraattu’?

We (and writer Udayakrishna) have been planning a film with Mohanlal for a long time. When we eventually found a story, we met Mohanlal. We had planned a big-budget film in mind which required to be filmed at several locations. But it was Mohanlal himself who suggested that we should do a film that can be extensively shot in Kerala owing to the Covid constraints. But we gave our word that we will do it on a large canvas and make it an entertainer. That’s when Udayan told us about Neyyattinkara Gopan and resulted in ‘Aaraattu.’

There are scenes that required 1000 artists. There are about 47 principal characters in this film. It was really a struggle to shoot a film with so many people during Covid time. We leased out 20 acres of land at Palakkad Koduvayoor and erected a set there. We literally created a bio bubble by making all the cast and crew do RPTCR Tests.

How did you manage to bring AR Rahman to ‘Aaraattu’?

AR Rahman is an integral part of the film. It wasn’t simply something we included to add publicity to the film. His character is core to the film. He plays himself in the film. But he was sure that he wasn’t interested in appearing on screen. Thanks to actor Rahman who is a common friend, we managed to reach out to AR Rahman. He liked the story and agreed to be part of the film. His scenes were shot in Chennai.

Did you wait for so long to release the film for the theatre experience?

Of course. We never tried for the film’s OTT premier release. Because we knew this was a film that deserved a theatre watch.

Nedumudi Venu was part of the film?

We called him at a time when he wasn’t stepping out of the house fearing Covid. When we told him about the film, he immediately agreed. “It’s been a while since I have talked to people. I would love to spend time with Mohanlal,” he told us. He regaled us with old stories on the sets and we all had a wonderful time. When he reached home, he send me a text saying he had a great time on the sets. He passed away a week later after he finished dubbing for the film. It was such a shock for us. 

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