Ever since it went into production last year, film buffs have been eagerly looking forward to hearing tidbits about Mamangam, currently being touted as the biggest-ever epic attempted in Malayalam cinema. And given the presence of Mammootty, who has played historical warriors twice before, it goes without saying that the film has been on everyone’s radar for a while.
Mamangam, which began as the baby of debutant Sajeev Pillai (the result of a 12 year-long research), has now grown into a different film if the words of its producer Venu Kunnappilly are anything to go by. As they were venturing into unchartered territory for the first time, their creative differences led to Sajeev being replaced by a relatively experienced director in the form of Joseph-fame M Padmakumar. It was at the beginning of the year that outsiders learned of the tensions brewing on the film’s sets. Upon learning that Sajeev’s version ran close to five hours, and an outcome much different from what was initially discussed, Venu decided to step in and salvage it irrespective of the expenses. “It was not a matter of chopping just 10-15 minutes, but numerous scenes,” says Venu. “We realised we couldn’t go ahead with that version and we decided it would be better to bring in a different director, someone with a lot of films under his belt. Mammukka understood what we were trying to do and stood with us.”
It was during the film’s second schedule that Venu noticed the first signs of trouble. It was also decided to bring in a different writer and reshoot the entire film. This means the characters’ appearances also had to be changed. “If I’m spending Rs.1 crore on a film, I know what the limitations are going to be. But the higher the budget, the higher the expectations. I ended up in this field unexpectedly, and now that I’m here, I want to do whatever I’m doing well,” says Venu, who felt the initial version was not ideal for presenting to a wide audience. “My name depends on this picture, you see. If I had dropped the project midway, it would seriously affect my reputation. The risk I have taken now is bigger than the previous one. Now I have to prove that my decision was right.”
Though Mamangam is a mega-budget venture, Venu is not keen on revealing the actual figures to the public. “The talk of a budget puts an undue amount of pressure on everyone. It’s only necessary that we know how much we have spent. In the future, people won’t judge a movie by its budget. The ticket rates are the same, no matter what the budget is. It’s the experience you get that counts.”
The comparisons to Baahubali on social media, he says, is infuriating. “It’s true that no other Malayalam film has shown mass fight sequences like this before. There are major portions featuring lots of junior artistes, animals, and so on. But the battle sequences will be realistic and believable. We don’t have any scenes where a single arrow multiplies into 10,000. There are a few portions where certain things are slightly enhanced but there is nothing over the top. And, unlike in Baahubali, 75 percent of our sets are real,” reveals Venu.
Mammootty, who plays a chaver warrior, will be appearing in three get-ups through two different time periods. The rest of the cast comprises Siddique, Prachi Tehlan, Unni Mukundan, Master Achuthan, Anu Sithara, Kaniha, Tarun Arora, Sudev Nair, Manikandan, and Iniya. Venu tells us the film gives as much priority to the emotions as it does the war sequences. “Normally, people expect a lot of action in films of this sort. Mamangam is not just about the wars but also about a chaver’s journey, their preparations, separation from their families, and also the factors that dissuade them from their goal. If you look at the history of the chavers, they’ve always encountered setbacks.”
Mamangam will be released in Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu. Venu shares that Peranbu director Ram is supervising the dubbing of the Tamil version. The film has visual effects by Kamalakannan (Baahubali 2, Saaho), music by Sanchit Balhara (Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat), and stunt choreography by Sham Kaushal (Dangal, Om Shanti Om).
Though he is hoping to get the film released by October 31, Venu feels that there is a chance of pushing the release by a week or two due to last-minute VFX work.The first teaser can be expected in a week and the second one before September 20. The trailer will be out two-three weeks before the film’s release.