Speaking to filmmaker Kiran Prabhakaran is like going through a mini-library of books, covering a multitude of topics from cinema to performing arts to philosophy to linguistics, in a short time.
Before turning filmmaker, Kiran enjoyed a 13-year stint as an academician, having taught at various institutions such as the Madras Christian College and Kollam’s Fatima College, in addition to working briefly in television.
A natural-born raconteur, Kiran talks to us about his maiden directorial Thakkol, a psychological mystery drama revolving around two priests played by Murali Gopy and Indrajith. It is his second writing venture after 2010’s Elektra, which he co-wrote with director Shyamaprasad and featured Nayanthara, Manisha Koirala, Prakash Raj and Biju Menon.
The production of Thakkol took over a year to complete owing to the complex nature of the script. Ace filmmaker Shaji Kailas is involved as a producer. Shaji’s youngest son Rushin is essaying the childhood of Indrajith’s character, Ambrose Vaas. The supporting cast comprises Sudev Nair, Renji Panicker, Meera Vasudevan, Nedumudi Venu and Gilu Joseph among others.
Before turning it into a script, Kiran had narrated the idea of Thakkol to several veteran directors, who found it appealing but didn’t think it could be turned into a feature-length film. “They felt it can only be envisioned as a novel, citing the challenges in bringing the characters’ thoughts and ruminations to the screen,” says Kiran, who was resolute in his ambition to make a film out of it no matter what. “Not only did I wanted to write it, but also direct.”
Trained in Kathakali as a child, Kiran has immense respect for performers. So it’s only natural that he wanted the best in the industry to play the two principal leads. He picked Indrajith and Murali as he needed two actors with a level of intellect necessary for the material. “Some of the producers I approached were willing to invest more money if I went with relatively more popular faces. I wasn’t interested in that. I only wanted Murali and Indrajith. I couldn’t imagine my film without them,” he says.
Elaborating on the nature of the story, Kiran tells us it’s more about the human condition than individuals. “There are no heroes and villains in it. It’s all about the characters’ circumstances and how fate is the actual villain. The film’s early portions have minimal dialogues and it’s mostly about the reactions of Ambrose to the situations he is thrown into. Since it is about the aberrations that occur in an individual when another individual exerts his power over him, we needed an actor like Indrajith who can become a sea of reactions. It was simply amazing to watch.”
Kiran describes Murali’s character Mankunnath Paili as a powerfully assertive individual who is a foodie but at the same time a perfectionist when it comes to his eating habits. “There is also a bit of childishness to Paili, which had to be conveyed subtly—and who better than Murali to play such a man?”
As the film takes place in two different periods, it occasionally switches back and forth. With the help of cinematographer Alby, Kiran used enhanced colours for the past portions. “These characters have very colourful memories and we created the effects in the camera itself. We didn’t make any alterations to the locations. The film’s fictional setting was created by juxtaposing locations from Kerala and Goa,” he explains.
The film’s sound was designed by Oscar winner Resul Pookutty, a former batchmate of Kiran’s. The latter had narrated the script to Resul much before anyone else and feels blessed to have worked with him.