After his critically acclaimed debut film Kismath, director Shanavas K Bavakutty is getting ready to bring out his second feature, Thottappan. The film, which revolves around a father-daughter bond, has Vinayakan, Roshan Mathew, and newcomer Priyamvada playing the principal characters.
As Shanavas is currently in the middle of post-production work — the film is currently scheduled as an Eid release — PS Rafeeque, who scripted the film, talks to Express about how the script, which is based on Francis Noronha’s short story, was shaped. Rafeeque also plays a character in the film.
Surprisingly, the Amen-writer reveals that he didn’t find the overall book exciting. But he found the story powerful and compelling enough to warrant a film. Rafeeque is of the opinion that Noronha has written far superior stories. It’s a statement that brings to mind an old interview of filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, in which he said that he tried to breathe new life to the Bengali novel Devdas by coming up with a different take on it, through Dev D. Rafeeque shares the same philosophy.
“Thottappan happened when I was planning another project with Shanavas. When he and I discussed it, he told me about a different way to approach the story, which I thought was very interesting,” says Rafeeque, who, along with Shanavas, figured out a way to create a ‘better screenplay’ out of the story. “Since Shanavas had a clear idea about what he wanted out from the material, it made things much easier for me.”
Rafeeque and Shanavas proceeded with the idea only after ensuring that Noronha was okay with it. “We had discussed everything openly with him. There’s no denying the power of his story, and though we may not have been able to follow the story exactly as it is on the screen, we have kept its soul intact,” adds Rafeeque.
On his writing process, Rafeeque says that though he approaches every script as he would a work of literature, he manages to make it more screenplay-friendly. “My writing is much more descriptive, which is different from the narrative style of films being made today. It’s all about visual storytelling in cinema and one has to maintain proper communication with the director to have a strong grasp on how to go about the elements in the narrative. Whose perspective is the story told from? Which character should be the priority? Things like that.”
Rafeeque, who is also an accomplished lyricist — he has written songs for films like Angamaly Diaries and Amen — wrote a song in Thottappan. The process of writing lyrics, he says, doesn’t happen while the script is being developed. “When I’m writing the script, I’m not thinking about anything else. The addition of other elements in it depends on the director. If he is planning to include songs, then the songs are written later.
There have been a few instances in the past where I pondered the necessity of adding songs in some of the films I’d written.”Rafeeque tells us that he is involved throughout the production process of all his films. “I’m involved in the dubbing, music, mixing... everything. I’m not someone who writes a script and then leave the rest to the director.”