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Biju Menon in 'Padayottam'.
Conversing with director Rafeek Ibrahim can be a hugely motivating experience. As someone who has been in the film industry for around five years, Rafeek is a living example of a filmmaker who firmly held on to his passion and did not let go off it until he reached his desired destination.
Before making his debut with Padayottam, which is one of the year's eagerly anticipated releases, Rafeek worked on films like Captain, Anuraga Karikkin Vellam, and Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu in various capacities. Though his initial days were a struggle, his determination to make a mark kept him going.
The script of Padayottam was brought to him while working on Anuraga Karikkin Vellam. It was decided that Biju Menon would be an apt choice for the role of Chengal Reghu, an intimidating thug. As the actor was part of Anuraga..., it made things easier. "Biju Menon is a brand, and he is not someone who is easy to convince. But he gave us our time. Actors like him are looking for characters that are different from what they have done previously. He has not done something like this before," says Rafeek.
A gangster-comedy, Padayottam revolves around a group of men who take a road trip from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargode to pay back the guy who hit one of their friends. On the way, they collect thugs from different states, including Kochi, Thrissur, and Kasargode. Angamaly Diaries director Lijo Jose Pellissery plays a thug from Thrissur. Rafeek is delighted to tell us that Lijo plays an amusing character called Britto.
Rafeek's brief description of Biju Menon's character itself is laugh-inducing, so one can already imagine how much fun the on-screen experience is going to be. "Though he is a thug, he is someone who is involved in the activities of his temple committee. He also has a soft corner for women, especially mothers. So these guys take advantage of that weakness to get him on board their plan," explains Rafeek.
Though there is an ample amount of humour in the film, it's not an out-and-out comedy, clarifies Rafeek. "In the beginning, everyone assumed this was a dark film. It's not. At the same time, we did not include humour just for the sake of it. There are serious situations including fights. But everything else, from make-up to costumes, are all realistic. But you can't help but laugh when unexpected things pop up."
One of the specialties of the film is a wedding song done in a single take. It was a complicated shot to pull off, says Rafeek. "It begins from the front gate of a house, goes around the house and by the time it gets back to the gate, there is a visible change in activity. A small mistake can upset the rhythm of this sequence and we'll have to do the whole thing again from the beginning. It was a challenge but I had the help of an incredibly talented team. Satheesh Kurup (cinematographer) has done a fabulous job."
Rafeek had the backing of producer Sophia Paul who saw in him a confident filmmaker. Sophia says she knew from day one that she was working with a wonderful team. "This is a project that I confirmed in one day itself because I really enjoyed reading the script. I was laughing the entire time I read it. I could see a lot of potential in it. I knew this would work with a family audience. And when I saw the final result, it didn't look like something made by a newcomer."
Sophia's first production was Anjali Menon's Bangalore Days. The hit film was jointly produced by her production company Weekend Blockbusters and director Anwar Rasheed's company Anwar Rasheed Entertainments. She also produced last year's Mohanlal-starrer Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol and a small-budget independent film Kaadu Pokkunna Neram directed by Dr Biju.
Though she watches and encourages all kinds of cinema, when it comes to producing, she gravitates more towards scripts that entertain. "Most of us don't go to the theatre to cry for two hours, right? We prefer something very fun and entertaining. As an audience member, I prefer something that can put me in a good mood.
That doesn't mean I'm against arthouse cinema. I make it a point to watch them on Netflix and other online platforms whenever I'm in the mood. I backed Kaadu Pookkunna... out of passion. But getting people to watch such films on the big screen is not easy. I want everyone to come and watch my films. That's why I prefer taking on projects that I know will guarantee maximum audience participation," says Sophia. Padayottam also stars Saiju Kurup, Dileesh Pothan, Lijo Jose Pellisserry, Anu Sithara, and Hareesh Kanaran among others. The film, penned by Arun AR and Ajai Rahul, comes out on Friday.