2007 April 13. A 12-year-old had come for a swim at the Periyar Valley canal during the summer vacations. Two guys (workers at a Marble construction nearby) were already swimming there. They were discussing heatedly about that day's matinee show. Unknown to them this lad was listening to that discussion. When he heard them excitedly discussing the slow-motion scenes, he couldn’t hide his curiosity anymore and asked them—“Which movie, brother?
“Ikka’s film, bro. 'Big B'.”
“How is it?” he asked them.
“Awesome. Full-on slow-motion scenes,” they told him.
He nodded his head and went back to swim. He also heard a name for the first time—Amal Neerad.
Back to the present.
15 years have gone by. On March 3, 2022, Amal Neerad’s Mammootty film ‘Bheeshma Parvam’ got released in theatres. There is another chap who is part of this film. That same lad who was swimming in that canal that day. His name is Devadath Shaji, and he is the co-writer of ‘Bheeshma Parvam’.
Even as the film is getting rave reception at the box office, Devadath looks calm, an innocent smile lit on his face. This 26-year-old talks about his journey that led him to 'Bheeshma Parvam' in an interview with Manorama online.
Was cinema already there in your mind back then?
That would sound like an exaggeration. Cinema or writing was never in my dreams. My house is somewhere in the middle of Perumbavoor and Kothamangalam. I would watch a film with my parents based on popular opinion. At times I would go with my cousins. Otherwise, I had no such dreams.
When did you start writing?
I started writing short stories when I reached 10th grade. In 2013, when I was studying for plus two, I had come out with a compilation of short stories, Kaalam Ennodu Paranjathu. Later I joined Kothamangalam Mar Athanasius College for Civil Engineering. It was during that time that my second book of short stories, ‘Guruvayoor Passenger’ was released. There were ten stories each in both books.
How did you enter this field?
During every Engineering semester break, I would do one short film each. So eight semester breaks resulted in eight short stories. Out of this, I haven’t shown 6 or 7 of them to anyone.
I had shared a short story link on Facebook which was spotted by Dileesh Pothan and managed to meet him. I started as Madhu C Narayanan's assistant in 'Kumbalangi Nights' which was co-produced by Dileesh Pothan. It was Dileesh sir who introduced me to Amal Neerad.
How was the Amal Neerad film school?
Actually, I was supposed to be part of Amal’s Bilal but due to Covid, that film was postponed. That’s when Amal sir started thinking of a new project.
About writing 'Bheeshma Parvam.'
It was Amal’s big dream to make Mammootty play Mahabharata’s Bheeshma Pitamah. He shared that story with us. That was the lead for 'Bheeshma Parvam'. We have been working on this story for two years.
Covid had created such a panic situation. The film had a huge star cast. We had to make sure everyone was safe from Covid. These are big actors who had also other projects to do. We started shooting taking all those factors into consideration. The film is a result of a huge collaboration of hardworking people. So the film’s success is such a celebration for us.
How did you feel when you saw Michael, played by Megastar Mammootty on screen?
This was something so many people asked me after I came out of the theatre. I can't even explain how I feel. No words will be enough to explain that euphoria. I think that is the most precious moment in my life. Amal Neerad and Dileesh Pothan have given me the chance of a lifetime.
This is also the swansong of KPAC Lalitha and Nedumudi Venu. What are your memories around them?
I consider it my fortune to write for such legends as KPAC Lalith and Nedumudi Venu. When they were ill, a lot of people asked us if we should look for a replacement. We were wondering if it was fair to trouble them during this time. But they surprised us with their enthusiasm despite being so ill. They had 2-3 days shoot. All of us were very upset by their demise.
My parents are running a house construction business called Home Tek Builders. Though I learnt Civil Engineering, funny thing is that I have never worked in that field. My dad, Shaji Sariga also owns a Drama booking Agency. My mother’s name is Subi Shaji. I also have a brother Indrajith who is interested in Guitar and music.