Fulfilling the dream of directing Mammootty: Interview with Ratheena

Ratheena vouches that Mammootty has never reprised a role like the one he has done in Puzhu.

Years ago a young woman would hang around the sets of Mammootty films. She was a die-hard fan of the actor. When Mammootty noticed the frequency of her visits, he called her over. “I want to make a film with you,” --she came straight to the point. Her name was PT Ratheena. A decade later, not only is Mammootty headlining her debut directorial but is also producing her film. This is the second time a woman is directing a film headlined by the Megastar (the first was Tamil film ‘Vishwathulasi’ directed by Sumathi Ram). She also vouches that Mammootty has never done a role like this before. Ratheena talks about ‘Puzhu’ and how she managed to convince her favourite actor to be part of the film.

‘Puzhu’ wasn’t apparently the first story she told Mammootty. But he liked that story and asked her to start writing the script. Since she had a toddler at home, it wasn’t really possible to focus her energies on writing a script then. After a few days, he invited her on the sets of ‘Unda’ and introduced her to writer Harshad. When they sat down to write, it became a big project. But due to Covid restrictions this project wasn’t feasible then. That’s when Harshad narrated another story and Mammootty liked it. That’s how ‘Puzhu’ originated. Soon Sharfu and Suhas came onboard. Till the final script, there were many evening scripting conversations with Mammootty which they all enjoyed.

The plan called Mammukka

It was during Plus two that I started getting interested in films. During that time, I used to write many scripts, visualizing Mammootty as the hero. Before ‘Puzhu’ I have never been able to work with Mammootty. It was through constant efforts that I was able to reach out to him and also get access to his friends' circle. When I got a story suited for him, things just fell into place.

Puzhu’ is already getting discussed even before the release of the film.

Even before the release, I am getting recognised as ‘Puzhu’s director. I consider myself lucky that way. Am hopeful of getting good projects in the future. I have only cinema in my mind. So I am only thinking about direction and production.

The first film is directly releasing on OTT.

Of course like any other director I too wanted to watch my first film in the theatre. But I think we have to accept the changing trends in the market. During covid time, OTT platforms were a blessing. That’s why cinema was there with us even during those trying times. I like to think that every change is for the good. Whether a film releases on OTT or theatre, what is important is that it should reach the audience.

Tell us more about your background.

I have always received big support to pursue my cinema dreams from my family, including my father. I am someone who has often left many of my courses midway. I have taken a course in editing and graphics. Even my first film was after marriage. I am not denying that when some of my initial attempts didn’t really work, a lot of people tried to discourage me.

What’s your take on the delay in the Justice Hema Commission report being published?

There are so many women working in cinema in various fields. It was because they feel unsafe that such a commission was appointed and so many women confided about the harassment they faced in cinema. So the report should come out. The women in cinema as well as the women outside cinema have every right to see that it gets published.

How does it feel being a woman in a space ruled by men?

It is of course an uphill task to create a mark in a field dominated by men. During the initial days, I have struggled. By the time it came to ‘Puzhu’ I was surrounded by people who had faith in my abilities. I had the support of Mammootty, Parvathy and the crew, so it went smoothly. But then there is no guarantee that going forward things will be the same. I am sure I will be required to constantly keep proving myself every time. Just because I directed one film, it won’t be a bed of roses for me in the future. Anyway, I managed till now. I am sure I can do it. 

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