KOCHI: On the first day of the shoot of ‘Oppam’, (Together), a story of a blind lift attendant, at Kochi, in March, superstar Mohanlal told director Priyadarshan that he would not act like an usual blind man.
“That meant Mohanlal would not blink and look upwards,” says Priyadarshan. “He wanted to act like a normal person.”
The director was not surprised. When the duo did research, in Chennai, at a blind school, they observed children, playing and running between the benches, as if they could see. “Those who are born blind are very smart,” says Priyadarshan. “Their sense of sound and direction are very good.”
He recalled a blind telephone operator, at the Marriot Hotel, in Chennai, who could remember 10,000 voices. “He walked like a normal man,” says Priyadarshan. “Those who blink and search for things are people who became blind at a later stage in life.”
Priyadarshan decided to make the film, when Mohanlal told him the gist of a story written by newcomer Govindan Vijayan. “What intrigued me was this premise: a blind man sees a murder,” says Priyadarshan. The script has been written by him, but the theme, the crime-thriller, is a first for him.
Asked why he was embarking on a different genre, after 90 films, over 35 years, Priyadarshan says, “In the past I have made mistakes by trying to repeat what I have done before. People would tell me we need a film like ‘Poochakkoru Mookkuthi’ or ‘Kilukkam’. But when I tried to do that, it did not do well. Also, in my career, I have done period films like ‘Kaala Pani’, art films like ‘Kanchivaram’ (Tamil), and numerous romantic and slapstick comedies. So I thought, ‘Why not try something new?’”
When asked about the new trends in Mollywood today, Priyadarshan says, “There are no trends. It has always been the same human emotions: love, hate, joy, sorrow and anxiety. The only thing that has changed is the way a film is made, because of technology. Also, life has become faster, and attitudes have changed. This change is being reflected in the films. Otherwise, it is the same old wine put in a new bottle.”
A skilled screenplay writer, he knows exactly what a good script needs.
“Every scene should make the audience feel anxious to know what happens next,” says Priyadarshan. “Secondly, finish telling all the background information about the characters in the first reel itself. Never repeat things that you have shown once. Lastly, once you introduce a hook in the first scene, you should maintain it till the end.”
Incidentally, ‘Oppam’, which stars Mohanlal, Samuthirakani, Vimala Raman, Anusree, Nedumudi Venu and Mamukkoya, is slated to be released on September 8. Unlike most film-makers, Priyadarshan no longer feels an anxiety about the film’s fate at the box office.
“During my first 50 films, I would have this intense worry,” he says. “But it is no longer there. People say that ‘Midhunam’ is one of my best films. But when it was released it became a flop. A rejection by the audience does not mean that the film is not a good one. I try to go with my gut feeling and make the best film possible. And then hope for the best.”
Finally, when asked to give tips to youngsters about the way to have a long career, Priyadarshan is honest enough to say, “I have no advice. When I look back at my career, I just think how lucky I have been to survive for so long. Many of my contemporaries are no longer on the scene. So, God has been very kind to me.”