Not a remake, but a tribute to the original: Tovino Thomas on ‘Neelavelicham’

Neelavelicham movie
And 59 years later, a new version of 'Bhargavi Nilayam' titled 'Neelavelicham' is all set to release on the big screen. Photo: Instagram/Tovino Thomas

'Bhargavi Nilayam' introduced the horror genre to Malayalam cinema. And 59 years later, a new version of 'Bhargavi Nilayam' titled 'Neelavelicham' is all set to release on the big screen. Tovino Thomas, who plays the lead role, talks about his character in Aashiq Abu's 'Neelavelicham'.

From 'Bhargavi Nilayam' to 'Neelavelicham'
'Bhargavi Nilayam' was made using all the available technology of that time. 'Neelavelicham' is not a straight remake of 'Bhargavi Nilayam.' We have omitted certain elements from the original and added a few new ones to the film. We have taken references from other works of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer and incorporated them into our film. It has been made keeping in mind the present era. We are hopeful that 'Neelavelicham' will be a fine tribute to 'Bhargavi Nilayam'.

To some extent, 'Bhargavi Nilayam' was the first out-and-out horror film in Malayalam. Are you apprehensive about how the new generation will receive it considering the changes that have happened to that genre over the years?
'Neelavelicham' cannot be contained in the horror genre alone. It has romance, revenge, and thriller elements. More than scary horror, the horror in 'Neelavelicham' is more fascinating. 'Romanchan', which smartly dabbled with horror, was a huge hit. So I think there is very little chance of a horror film being ignored by the audience now.

'Neelavelicham' is being labelled as a remake...
Personally, I am not interested in being part of remakes. 'Neelavelicham' is not a remake, and you do not need to compare it with 'Bhargavi Nilayam.'

Most of the time, there is only a single actor in the frame, like in a one-act play. What were the preparations?
That was a completely new experience for me. This was the first time that I was in a frame alone without anyone giving me a dialogue cue or someone to share my energy with. To prepare for this role, I stayed all alone at a beach resort for a single night. Within a 5–6-kilometre radius, there was no one in sight.

You are reprising the role of Madhu...
According to how that era of cinema demanded, Madhu sir has done complete justice to that role. But if I try to approach that character in the same way, today's audience might not be able to accept it. So I have done my version of the character according to how I interpreted him.

When you are trying different scripts…
As always I don’t want to repeat myself. When I do a new film, I am always interested in trying something new. I don’t want my films to be predictable. And I am aware that not every film can satisfy all kinds of audiences. Having said that I would like to believe that I have the freedom to do different kinds of cinema.

You started as an assistant director. Are you interested in directing a film?
For the time being, let it remain as a wish. I don’t think I have yet gained the expertise or maturity to direct a film. I am still learning to act. Similarly, there are so many such areas in filmmaking that you need to learn. If I am able to learn all that and gain enough confidence, I might think of direction.

Do you think the audience is getting tired of realistic cinema?
I think the audience's tastes keep changing. There was a time when mass masala films were a huge draw in theatres. But gradually, the audience shifted to realistic cinema. Now audiences seem to be interested in films that give them a good theatre experience. We all make films with the hope that the audience will like them. Ultimately it is the content and how the film deals with the subject that decides a film’s fate.

What are your upcoming films?
Soon after 'Neelavelicham' there is '2018'. 'Ajayante Randam Moshanam' is under production. 'Vazhakku', and 'Adrishya Jalakangal' are the other films that will soon be released.

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