One more storytelling duo is making their debut in Malayalam cinema. After collaborating with Bibin George-Vishnu Unnikrishnan on his previous films Amar Akbar Anthony (AAA) and Kattappanyile Ritwik Roshan (KRR), director Nadirshah has teamed up with Dileep Ponnan and Shaani Khader for his third film, Mera Naam Shaji.
Dileep, who has penned the screenplay and dialogues, talks to Express about his long association with Nadirshah and what makes Mera Naam Shaji different from the director’s previous efforts.
“Mera Naam Shaji is about three characters who cross paths but don’t know anything about each other,” says Dileep, who worked in television for over 20 years. “It’s a single story involving the characters of Biju Menon, Asif Ali, and Baiju Santosh. There is a link between them that they’re not aware of — only a fourth character and the viewer can observe it. There is a suspense thriller vibe throughout the film, and there are some fun layers too.”
Writing a script for Nadirshah has been a long-cherished dream for Dileep. “We have been friends for a very long time. He is someone who doesn’t make any compromises when it comes to quality and his successful track record is a testament to that. He thinks about cinema 24/7. I knew years ago that there is a director inside him. Though he entered the industry late, he entered at the right time. He has a firm grasp on the audience’s pulse. He is thorough about everything and makes sure the writer is involved in every step of the process. That’s the secret of his success. He was very thorough even in his mimicry and parody days. When all the actors and technicians have read the entire script, it makes things easier for us.”
Sreenivasan plays an important character in the film, a lawyer named Lawrence. “I first gave the script to him. He loved it. Getting an endorsement from him was a big deal for me,” Dileep recalls.
On the decision to cast Baiju, Dileep says, “He plays the ‘Shaji’ from Thiruvananthapuram, and since Baiju speaks in the authentic Thiruvananthapuram dialect, we felt he was the right fit. No one else does the Thiruvananthapuram sound better than him. We could’ve called someone with a star value —someone on par with Biju and Asif — but we all decided that no one could be more apt for this role than Baiju. He is a very dedicated man and knows how to make a character interesting. He can invoke laughter effortlessly.”
When asked if the film contains any indirect messages like AAA and KRR, Dileep says it does but “not in a preachy manner”.
“It’s all hidden here and there. When you see it, you’ll know. There are situations in this film that make you question what is right or wrong. Some characters are inherently good but they’re perceived as negative by others. There is a reason why each character does what he does. There is an unpredictability to the whole thing,” he concludes.Also starring Nikhila Vimal, the film will be releasing this Friday.