Nivin Pauly was my original choice for ‘Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum’: Akhil Sathyan

Akhil's film revolves around a Mumbai-based Malayali played by Fahadh. Photo: Facebook

Akhil Sathyan, whose directorial debut ‘Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum’ is drawing good responses from the audience, revealed that Nivin Pauly was his original choice to play Pachu (Prasanth), the role essayed by Fahadh Faasil in the film.

Speaking to Onmanorama, the director said he had originally written the script keeping Nivin Pauly in mind.

“However, Nivin Pauly could not take up the film since he was busy with ‘Thuramukham’. I had never planned to approach Fahadh for the film knowing his busy schedule. However, one day, Shaanu (Fahadh) and I chanced to have a conversation about the film. After hearing the plot line, Fahadh asked me if he could do the project. Since discussions with Nivin were still going on, I told him about Fahadh's interest. Nivin okayed immediately and we went ahead with the project,” said Akhil.

Akhil added that he rewrote the script for Fahadh since both the actors are essentially different. “In my original draft, Pachu was a foodie. There were several such changes I brought to Pachu’s character,” he said.

So what is working for the film in the theatre?
I think content matters a lot. Also, it’s important to keep the audience intrigued by ensuring the movie doesn’t become predictable in any way. As a filmmaker, I keep asking myself, What next and why? You need to break the comfort zone throughout the movie. We did this even in our climax scene, to avoid that predictability. I also believe commercial films need a good blend of humour, comedy, action and romance. These four ingredients work in theatres every time. Also, if you notice, I kept changing the combination scenes. Pachu kept having different combination scenes with all the characters, including Althaf in Mumbai, Hamsadhwani in Goa, Riyas (Vineeth), his father (Mukesh), Riyas’s mother and the little boy. All these people have different character arcs, so the interactions are different.

Did you make any conscious decision to break the Sathyan Anthikad tag?
I think people have a prejudice that my films will always have the Sathyan Anthikad flavour since I am his son. Even before the film’s release, some people said ‘Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum’ is the same old Sathyan Anthikad film. I wanted to prove them wrong and introduce my flavour into the film. That said and done, I think people have been unfair to my father, condescending to him on social media for making ‘prakrithi’ films for the last 10 years. He is someone who has made several interesting movies, including 'Kalikkalam' and 'Pingami'.

Akhil Sathyan with the lead cast, including Fahadh Faasil, Viji Venkatesh and Vineeth. Photo: Facebook | Viji Venkatesh

Your decision to cast Innocent, Mukesh and Indrans in your first movie?
Innocent uncle was the only person I knew in the industry, so he was a sure part of my movie. I wrote some scenes exclusively for him. It made me happy to see people laughing in theatres, laughing at whatever he was saying. It was like everyone was giving him a proper send-off and that was special. When I wrote Mukesh’s character in the film, it was very flat. However, he elevated those scenes onscreen. Indrans and Vineeth were part of my script right from the start. I believe people have a misconception about him and I am glad that he stood out in the film. Overall, he is a great human being.

It was delightful to watch Fahadh in a comedy role...
Fahadh is someone who thoroughly enjoys humour. Unfortunately, nobody has used Fahadh's penchant for comedy elaborately. If you examine his filmography in the past 10 years, except for one or two films, including my father’s Njan Prakashan', his characters are either complex or with elements of psycho-humour. I had the edge to explore this boy-next-door humour element in him.

Tell us a little about the making of the film…
I was determined to introduce some new visuals through my film. If you have noticed, I have avoided the scenic side of Goa and focused on the slum area in Vasco. That has never been shown by any filmmaker in Malayalam before. Also, we spent nearly Rs 1 crore to shoot the train scene (one train and two stations). So, essentially, it was not a low-budget film. Except for the Director of Photography and myself, the rest of the technicians were based outside Kerala. I brought Bollywood actor Vicky Kaushal’s father and veteran stunt choreographer Sham Kaushal to direct a one-minute-long action scene inside the slum. I told him that the street fight should look very realistic. I was very satisfied with the result. Also, we did everything in sync sound, which was not easy.

You assisted your father before you became an independent director. How did that help?
I believe that every director should have an editing sense. That is one of the biggest lessons I learnt from my father as he belonged to a time when they couldn’t afford to waste film reels for several shots. From day one, I was very clear about how the shots were to be taken. This saved a lot of time on the editing table. I recently heard that a film was brought down from five hours to three hours on the editing table. Imagine the money and creative energy that got wasted because of one person’s lack of planning. That is almost criminal. A filmmaker always should have clarity, about the scenes and the making. He should also be able to summarise his plotline within 30 to 40 seconds.

Why was there no pre-release promotion for ‘Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum’?
Beyond a point, good content is what will drive people to theatres. This year’s blockbuster ‘Romancham’ didn’t have many pre-release promotions. Content is important. Though we remember Shine Tom Chacko and Dhyan Sreenivasan’s interviews, do we remember the films they are promoting? Meanwhile, I feel ‘Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum’ is following the same pattern in theatres as ‘Achuvinte Amma’. The Meera Jasmine-Urvashi starrer had a slow start in theatres in the first week. By the third and fourth week, all the theatres were housefull.

Your future projects?
I’m planning a female-centric movie. Three writers are involved in the project. It will be a desi version of the female Sherlock Holmes. It will have several elements, including humour, action and romance and also has a fresh approach. We are still deciding on the film’s cast.

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