Vini Vishwa Lal first met Theevandi director Fellini T P during the filming of Dulquer Salmaan's debut film Second Show, on which Fellini served as an associate director. The two had been planning to do something together for a while and circled around several ideas and themes until they decided on Theevandi which, according to Vini, was an attempt to do something fresh.
Both were quite serious about its script, says Vini. "We didn't want to make it just for the sake of making something. We wanted to make some statements about cigarettes and it didn't exactly have to be rocket science. Theevandi is not about smoking but rather the story of a chainsmoker. It's based on some of the things we see around us. It will have something for both smokers and non-smokers to relate to."
Though Tovino plays a chain smoker, the story is not dark, adds Vini.
"It's a political satire. But we don't claim that it's going to be another Sandesham. A lot of funny things happen in our state and the neighbouring states. Today, even a kid who hasn't reached high-school yet is aware of the comedy happening around us (laughs)."
The script was not written with Tovino in mind. "When I sit down to write, it's all about the character. I don't picture a certain actor in that role. When I wrote Second Show, I didn't see Dulquer in that role. All that happened later. I have, however, added new lines when Mohanlal Sir came on board Koothara. For Theevandi, it was only about Binish (Tovino's character)", says Vini.
Was he worried about the anti-smoking disclaimer showing up on screen all the time? "I wasn't particularly worried about it. If the disclaimer shows up repeatedly and nearly stays there throughout, I think viewers can get used to it; but when it shows up once in a while, it can be distracting."
When asked whether he believes cinema can influence society, Vini says, "If that were the case, all the 'good' movies spreading goodness should change society, right? When Drishyam came out, some criticised the film saying it would influence others to follow Georgekutty's example (laughs). Also, how many people stopped drinking after watching Spirit? Theevandi is not preachy even though we touch upon some issues."