Kalki director Praveen Prabharam isn’t too fond of the phrase ‘mass film’—currently being used by many to describe the upcoming Tovino Thomas actioner.
“It’s been overused and carries a negative connotation, as far as I’m concerned,” he says. But since he’s heard it too often, he doesn’t really mind it now.
“Today, whenever someone mentions ‘mass film’, the mind immediately conjures up the image of a typical, gimmicky Tamil or Telugu masala film. Kalki is not one of those,” assures the filmmaker, who is not one to make lofty claims.
“We have basically given a fresh spin on familiar ideas, and in doing so have tried to avoid most of the cliches typically associated with this genre,” he continues.
“I think it’s quite obvious from the teaser that we are going for a more subtle approach. I believe we have made an action film with good content, and I hope the audiences will see it that way too.”
Praveen has been nursing the dream to direct for a long time, but it was now that everything fell into place. He has been in the industry for a while—at one point, he was involved with an unreleased Rajkummar Rao film. His formal launch in Malayalam cinema happened through Dulquer Salmaan’s debut film, Second Show, as its associate director. The film, directed by his film school buddy Srinath Rajendran, also had in its team another budding filmmaker—Fellini TP—who debuted last year through Theevandi, starring Tovino.
It’s been a while since Malayali audiences have been treated to a wholesome action thriller with a police officer as the hero. Praveen is aware of the sky-high expectations, but he is not too worried. Though Tovino has donned the khaki twice before—first in the horror thriller, Ezra, and later in the dark comedy, Tharangam—Kalki is the first where the actor gets to flex his muscles too.
Praveen calls Kalki “a badass cop with a devil-may-care attitude”. “He is also a bit unpredictable because sometimes he says and does things that one doesn’t expect him to.” When asked if it’s a character with grey shades, Praveen says, “Well, he is actually a good-hearted guy who isn’t above an occasional dose of cruelty when dealing with his opponents. He is not crooked or anything though.”
Speaking of the opponents, Shivajith Padnamabhan plays the main baddie, Amarnath—the man who runs Nanjankotta, the place where Kalki is newly appointed. “The film will be engaging only if there is a formidable villain, and Amarnath is powerful and intimidating enough to lock horns with Kalki,” says Praveen, who felt that Shivajith has the right personality to carry off such a character. “I find him to be a very underutilised actor. He is so passionate and has worked really hard for this character.”
Praveen also reveals that the film doesn’t have a heroine. The film’s only prominent female character, Dr. Sangeetha (played by Samyuktha Menon), happens to be a negative character. “We had initially written a female character but then later dropped the idea as it felt unnecessary. There was no space for a love interest in the script,” he explains.
The film was shot in Pollachi, Palakkad, Tenkasi, and Kollam. Praveen chose to shoot mostly in the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, as he didn’t want to attract much public attention. Moreover, he was particular about showing a mixed culture, with both Malayalam and Tamil-speaking characters. “We shot some of the interior portions in Pollachi and the exteriors in Tenkasi because we didn’t want the locales to seem too dry.”
Kalki, written by Praveen and Sujin Sujathan, has been shot by Gautham Sankar and edited by Renjith Kuzhur. It has music by Jakes Bejoy. Produced by Prasobh Krishna and Suvin K Varkey, the film has been scheduled to release on August 8.