Santosh Sivan, Venu, Rajeev Ravi, Sujith Vassudev....and now another name can be added to the list of cinematographers from the Malayalam film industry who has made the shift to direction. Lukka Chuppi cinematographer Binu Bhaskar's directorial debut, titled Kottayam, has been a year in the making.
An offbeat film revolving around a female cop's rape-murder and the subsequent investigation, the film is currently doing the rounds on the festival circuit. Binu's aim was to do a psychological thriller akin to the ones made in Korean cinema. He doesn't think the general audiences will warm up to this sort of filmmaking approach.
"I wanted to try an unconventional investigation narrative -- a "ripped from the headlines" story that holds a mirror to society and makes them reflect on many things," says Binu.
The story and screenplay, written by Binu and his co-writer Sajith Narayanan (who is also one of the producers), told from different viewpoints, is slightly reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, says Binu. "Though there is an investigation at the centre of the story, we have made an attempt to explore several themes and characters, including the experiences of migrant workers and land-related issues," adds Binu.
Binu hopes the film will create an awareness about some of the issues plaguing our society. "These days when you see an incident, like for instance a rape, it is sensationalised and stays in the news for a few days and then it's forgotten after a week or so. Then people move on to something else. Also, we are not sure what we are getting is the truth. The actual story could be something else but we will be getting a different version of it. Even the motive behind a crime may not exactly be what we had imagined," observes Binu.
The film's crew is made up of mostly newcomers with no prior experience. Binu says this allowed them to work more freely. "The advantage of working with newcomers is that there is the freedom to experiment: you can come up with fresh, innovative ideas which may not have been possible if it were an experienced crew."
When asked about audiences' general aversion to "award" films and whether he has any concerns with regard to the same, Binu says, "I think a disconnect happens between a film and the viewers when that film is not visually and aurally strong, regardless of its pace. I've put more emphasis on the film's sound and visual language. I don't believe in alienating audiences. Though the approach is different, we didn't feel like we were involved in an experiment."
Kottayam stars director Sangeeth Sivan (his acting debut), Aneesh G Menon, Ravi Mathew, Annapoorni Devaraja, Nimmy Raphel, Nzabeni Kitan, Shafeeq, Praveen Premanth, and Sreenath K Janardhanan. Binu is pondering a theatrical release once the festival screenings are done.