Getting to work with a well-known and acclaimed actor on your debut film is a dream of many aspiring filmmakers, a dream that not many are fortunate enough to accomplish. For documentary filmmaker Akhil Kavungal, getting Hareesh Perady to play the lead in his debut film, Paayal Kunjunni, is definitely a dream-come-true.
The director says the inspiration for the Kunjunni character came from his own surroundings. "I come from a place where development had happened overnight. One fine day, when I went back, I saw that the lush green fields were replaced by tall apartment buildings. Most people, after selling their land, moved to other areas, and new faces started arriving. But then there were few who stayed behind -- people who couldn't stand the thought of leaving their hometown. They couldn't adapt themselves to all the change that was happening around them. Kunjunni is one of them."
Describing the character in detail, Akhil says Kunjunni is an extremely introverted character: "This is a man who has been a loner all his life.He is unmarried, and one day, his biological needs start acting up. Now, this is something we cannot deny, no matter how much we try to resist it. Kunjunni yearns for a life partner. But being who he is, Kunjunni can't open up to anyone around him. He would get enough opportunities to satisfy all his needs if he moves to some other place, but he doesn't have the will to do that.He becomes a 'paayal' (waste) to the people around him. The irony is he becomes an outsider to those who actually came from outside."
Akhil was looking for a more popular, middle-aged actor to play the part and the thought of casting Hareesh Peradi didn't occur to him at first. "Everyone sees Hareesh as this serious, reserved man who is difficult to approach, and it has to do with the fact that he has been playing mostly serious or stereotypical villainous characters. But when I started going through some of the stuff he had done in the past -- radio plays, interviews, singing, etc. -- I began to see a softer, unexplored side of him. I realised he has a flexible personality. And when I finally got the opportunity to meet him, I found him warm and friendly. I pitched him my story idea and he immediately liked it. He gave me suggestions on to how the character should look, move and behave. He acted it out and I liked what I saw."
Work on the film has already begun and preparations are underway to release a song teaser soon, as Akhil thinks this would give audiences an idea of the general tone of the film: "I want to break the preconceptions people have about Hareesh. It's actually a family-friendly entertainer.But I've not made any attempts to cram the story with unnecessary comedy. You could call it a serio-comedy: Kunjunni's situation looks pathetic to himself, but kind of funny for those looking at him from the outside."