'1001 Nunakal', which premiered directly on a major OTT platform, has opened to a positive response. The film, featuring a couple of newcomers and directed by debutant Thamar K V, revolves around a group of friends who indulge in a supposedly harmless game that soon threatens to shatter relationships. Thamar, the brain behind the film, reveals what prompted him to make ‘1001 Nunakal’ with a couple of newcomers, his take on the film's similarity to Jeethu Joseph's '12th Man', and whether there will be a sequel to the movie.
Q. The film is receiving rave reviews. Had you anticipated this reception?
A. '1001 Nunakal' first premiered at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) last year. To be honest, we were worried about the reception of the film at the festival since we had conceived the film differently. But the response there boosted our confidence. Ever since its OTT release, the movie has been receiving a lot of love. Several people from the film industry, including Jeo Baby, Jayasurya, and Asif Ali, congratulated us. Even Siddique sir shared a long voice note with me, appreciating the film. He spoke at length about various aspects of the film he loved.
Q. '1001 Nunakal' is based on a bunch of stories. It surely would have been challenging to create stories that would keep the audience engaged. Could you talk about the process?
A. I stumbled upon a true story of a couple who were divorced because of a lie. That was the thread for the story. Once I had a storyline ready, Hashim Sulaiman, the film's co-scriptwriter, and I sat down and started working on the stories that could work for the film. We wanted the first two stories to be simple and light. It started getting heavier with the third story. All these incidents were based on stories of people around us, in one way or another. Even two of the characters in the film, Elvin and Soumya, were the names of our friends.
Q. You might have written a couple of stories for the film you didn't use.
A. Plenty! How hard is it to create a lie? We wrote many stories but decided to go ahead with the ones we told.
Q. In that case, we can anticipate a sequel...
A. Haha. No. We have not thought about it that way. We could do a spin-off with the characters, but again, it's not something we would do unless there's a compelling reason.
Q. You might have noticed there were comparisons of your film with Jeethu Joseph's 12th Man. Would you like to address it?
A. If you are talking about the film’s setting, during Covid it had become quite the norm to have single-setting films. I wrote the '1001 Nunakal' storyline in 2016. When I discussed it with A V Anup and C V Sarath of E4Entertainment, they told me it bore a resemblance to the Italian web series 'Perfect Strangers'. That perplexed me as I did not want to copy any film. However, I soon understood that the plots were different. I sat with the storyline for a long time, but with the encouragement of industry peers like Khalid Rahman and Zakariya, I began the project. During that period, I had a conversation with a Drishyam actor who alerted me about Jeethu Joseph’s latest project and how it resembled my film’s storyline. To clear the air, I contacted the filmmaker and spoke in depth about our plots. We realized the plot and nature of our films were very different.
Q. The ‘Vakeel’ in your story stood out. Was there any particular reason to cast a character like him?
A. We wanted someone like him in the film as ‘1001 Nunakal’ is based on a mind game. Initially, we decided it would be a psychologist but later created a divorce lawyer.
Q. Do you agree with people's take that today’s Malayalam films are too realistic?
A. People started labelling films as realistic when ‘Kantara’ and ‘KGF’ entered the scene. I think we need diverse movies and not just mass movies either. We need films that portray various emotions and romance, among others. I conceived my movie with several elements.
Q. Why did you decide to do films with newcomers?
A. Except for a few popular faces like Remya Suresh, the film mostly had newcomers. I had wanted the entire cast to be new faces, just like 'Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam'. It was that film that gave me the confidence to make a movie with newcomers. 2,000 people auditioned for the movie, but we could pick only nine new faces then. We came to Kochi to recruit the rest of the cast, and that's how we chose Vidhya Vijayakumar, Zhinz Shan, and Vishnu Agasthya, who had experience working in films. We wanted someone like Remya Suresh to play the domestic help role but were not able to find that kind of person during our auditions. When we approached Remya, she was a little worried since she felt she was being typecast. However, now she is happy with the film’s response and also glad she got enough space to emote in the movie, despite the limited dialogue.
Q. What are the highlight moments of the film?
A. To be very honest, we had decided not to include the pazhampori scene in the film involving Shinz and Remya since we felt it was unnecessary. Remya was persistent that we keep the scene because she liked it. I am happy we decided to retain it since it is receiving a lot of appreciation on social media now.
Q. Was there any particular reason why you decided to set the film in Dubai?
I had studied mass communication with the hope of becoming a film director. However, I had to shift to Dubai due to family responsibilities. I was working as a creative director in the advertising industry when I conceived the idea for the film. I decided to go ahead with the project here.