Martin Prakkat likes to think that he is still living a dream, a dream he has been nurturing since his theatre days at Changanassery SB College. Every year he was invariably crowned ‘best actor’ at the annual college drama fest. And nearly a decade later, when Prakkat wielded the megaphone for his debut directorial venture, ‘Best Actor’, starring Mammootty , there is still a sense of illusion- “I am still in a dream. It took me so long to make this a reality that I am scared to come out of it,” recalls Prakkat who is keeping his fingers crossed just a day prior to the film’s release. His excitement is palpable as he recounts the reality of finally making his film ambitions come true. “You know, in college I have been in awe of meeting Mammootty and Mohanlal and now I am actually directing Mammookka in my first film,” he gushes.
For Prakkat, his connection with the film fraternity didn’t happen overnight. After graduation, he took up the next best thing that could link himself to the film world- photography. His 10- year-old stint with Malayala Manorama’s sister publication, ‘Vanitha’, helped him create a bond with his favourite actors. Even when he was framing candid shots of Mammootty and Mohanlal, he was mentally writing film scripts. “I am not a trained photographer. For me it was always a means to get in to films. After 10 years, I took the plunge and started writing my first script with the help of my collegemate, Byju Chandran. Two-and-half years back I had given a one-liner to Mammootty and he showed interest and that was a big boost for me,” he admits.
In Malayalam cinema the belief is that Mammootty has an uncanny knack to spot talents. In that respect Prakkat is already in good company considering the actor has been giving career breaks for some of the most promising directors of today. Did the superstar interfere or, to put it more politely, give suggestions at any stage? “In Malayalam cinema, if you are a new director or scriptwriter and you believe in your craft, there is no better person to approach than Mammookka. Once he is convinced about your honesty and integrity, he is like an eager pupil and will give you a free hand,” notes the 35-year-old, adding that the actor, after reading the script, told him that “he was reliving instances from his own days of struggle.”
The film’s promo is already garnering interest, thanks to some great piece of cinematography by Ajayan Vincent. He dismisses the old theory of photographers-turned-directors paying more detail to visuals than storyline. “I am more concerned about the story and script and there are no conscious efforts from my part to make my frames more stunning. I am a director first, then a photographer.” The only preparation he had, prior to making ‘Best actor’, was in assisting directors Rafi-Mecartin for ‘Love in Singapore’, that too at the behest of Mammootty.
Though initially planned as a Ramzan release, ‘Best Actor’ is finally being publicised as Mammootty’s only Christmas release. He admits the movie which was made in two schedules was stretched a bit as he was adamant about “getting the actors he had in mind while scripting.” So the movie has an impressive line up of actors like Nedumudi Venu, Lal, Salim Kumar and Suraj Venjaaramood.
He shies away from naming his favourite directors saying, “There is no one in particular. More than directors, it is the cinema that has fascinated me. Who can forget Padmarajan’s ‘Arappatta kettiya gramathil’, ‘Yavanika’ and some of Mani Ratnam’s films?” Though he is clear about making more films in the future, he isn’t prepared to let go of photography as yet. Why? “It was during one such photographic assignment that ‘Best Actor’ cropped in my mind. I am sure more will follow during such journeys. So why let it go?” Sure!