'Otta' based on real-life incident, says film's director Resul Pookutty

Rasul Pookutty
Rasul Pookutty (L) on the sets of 'Otta'.

A film shoot is progressing at an old Nalukettu at Paravoor Kannankulangara. Though it’s noontime, it is still morning in the room where the shooting set has been erected. The crew are busy beautifying the room. When the director calls for action, the camera focuses on an old box left open in the room. In the background, you can hear P Jayachandran’s sweet voice. Meanwhile, the director is focused on the monitor before him—Meet Resul Pookutty. The Oscar-winning sound designer talks about his first directorial to Manorama online.

How did you reach ‘Otta’?

Once I was the chief guest at a function in Vashi. That programme witnessed the children who had run away from home being handed back to their parents. So many mothers from all parts of India and it was such an emotional moment. There was this guy, who was running around in the middle of this mayhem—Hariharan. I felt like I wanted to know more about that guy. I found out that he had also run away from home thrice.

When I asked him why he ran away from the security of his home he said he wanted freedom. The one who ran away from home at the age of eight soon became the rescuer of several such children. I found his story fascinating. ‘Otta’ is the story of Hariharan who started a rehabilitation centre called Samathol for such kids as well as the founder of Children Reunited LLP. Also the story of many who have been abandoned in life. He is also the co-producer of the film.

Why did his story move you so much?

Though for studies, I am also someone who has stayed away from my parents from a very young age. Even now I am required to stay away from home for a long period of time. I have lived a major portion of my life inside hotel rooms and studios. So I know the feeling of being alone. The concept of home has so much importance in life. It is to our home and parents, that we will all come back to despite travelling the world. Such journeys are all about going back to our roots. This film also talks about the concept of home.

Why did you want to make your debut directorial in Malayalam?

I have been lucky to be part of various Indian language films and foreign language films so far. When I wanted to direct, there were many offers in front of me. And that includes a British film and two Hindi films. But then I have grown up watching Malayalam films and they made me love cinema. Even now, I give top priority to Malayalam films, over other language films. Of course, as a Malayalee, it is natural that I would want to make my first film in Malayalam.

Looks like there is going to be an ensemble of actors in the film…

Asif Ali, Arjun Ashok, Sathyaraj, Rohini, Shobana, Shyamaprasad, Renji Panicker, Indrans, Adil Hussain and Divya Dutta are the actors. My brother Baiju Pookutty is also playing a key role.

Shobana is back in a Malayalam film?

As a child, I remember feeling tense while watching ‘Yathra.’ The actors I saw in awe back then became my friends. Shobana is one such friend who agreed immediately when I told her the story.

Jalaja’s daughter is also part of the film?

There is a story behind it. I first saw a film shooting when I was a child. Near my house, they were shooting a song sequence. Back then shirts were considered a luxury for children. We went to watch the shoot wearing khaki trousers. Jalaja and Sukumaran were the main actors. Jalaja was supposed to walk down mountainous terrain. I remember watching that scene in amazement. After I won my Oscar, I remember meeting Jalaja in Bahrain and narrating this incident to her. She promptly remembered the name of the film. Jalaja’s daughter Devi is doing an important role in this film. It is just a coincidence that my first shot as a director was framing her in a song sequence and my first memory of a film shoot was watching Jalaja enacting a song sequence.

Would it require you to take a break from sound designing?

I have taken a break from sound designing till the first schedule of ‘Otta’. By May mid I will go back to some work that requires my immediate attention. Two British films, 1 Bollywood film, ‘Pushpa 2’ and ‘Aadujeevitham’ are currently being filmed simultaneously. Since they are all friends, they won't mind my short breaks from work. ‘Otta’s main schedule is in October. I am planning to finish the work of my other major films by then.

Why is Malayalam cinema not making such big-budget films as you see in other languages?

Of course, they will. There is a film like that in mind. Am not at liberty to disclose more information on this. More than big-budget films we should focus on making films that get universal recognition. I am hoping that ‘Otta’ will be one such film. 

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