Among the fascinating entries in the Malayalam OTT space lately is a little film called Randu Per, directed by Prem Shankar. Anchored by two authentic performances from Basil Paulose and Santhy Balachandran, the film delivered a unique mood-based, conversation-driven experience rarely attempted in Malayalam cinema. The film was tricky for the team to pull off due to various factors, among which are long takes, lack of prompts inside the car, memorising not only the timing of phone calls but also the dialogues of the person on the other end, and the length of the conversations all while driving the car. “Now combine that with the spectators trying to sneak a peek at what we were doing, and you get the overall picture,” recalls Basil.
The actor was initially not confident about the process but managed to get through it upon the insistence of Prem Shankar. “Since this is a narrative told mostly through dialogues, I was concerned about the engagement factor. I even suggested that Prem pitch the film to someone like Fahadh Faasil.”
Compared to his co-star Santhy, Basil is a relatively unfamiliar face, despite having been in around 20 films so far, one of which happens to be a brief appearance in Anjali Menon’s Koode, an experience dear to him. Basil made his debut in a lead role in the 2012 film Cinema Company. But it’s the lead role in Randu Per that he found most gratifying.
“The impetus to act in Randu Per came from a self-realisation process,” confides the actor, who moonlights as a marketing consultant. “I did big and small roles in multiple films. I’m yet to get paid for some of them. After a particular point, my younger brother made me question my choices. I then sat down to watch all my previous roles, following which I decided that I need to approach the profession more seriously and do more interesting films from thereon. Fortunately, Randu Per was exactly the kind of film I was seeking. I loved its craft. I felt that everything I did before this film was unwatchable,” he laughs.
Following its IFFK screening in 2017, the film endured a four-year-long wait, during which the makers couldn’t find a way to get Randu Per into theatres considering its avant-garde nature. It finally found a home recently on the OTT platforms Neestream, Cave, Saina Play, and Koode. However, the team didn’t envision Randu Per as an “OTT film”.
“For us, the film was more apt for big-screen than home viewing. Some would find the latter experience boring as it’s the kind of film viewed in one sitting, sans distractions. We designed the film with a special emphasis on sound. We also gave the first 10-15 mins a relaxed pace, keeping in mind the people who arrive late to theatres. If we were making it for OTT, we would have to ensure that the audience is hooked in the first five minutes whereas, in the theatre, people take time to settle down after buying food and drinks,” says the Wayanad native who currently resides in Bengaluru.
Randu Per gave Basil the highest appreciation of his career, and one can easily see why. The film reveals an actor with untapped potential. It makes you wonder why this man isn’t playing lead roles more often. Filmmaker Nithin Lukose, who designed the sound of Randu Per, must have asked the same question before casting him in his directorial debut, Paka: The River of Blood, on which Anurag Kashyap and Raj R are co-producers. The film would have its premiere at the latest edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Billed as a tale of a family feud, Paka has Nithin George, Vinitha Koshy and Abhilash as Basil’s co-actors. The latter plays a jeep driver in the film. “It’s a rustic character modelled on people we had come across before,” reveals Basil. “The character’s physicality was not much of a challenge, but the emotional side needed a lot of work. Nithin and I sat through detailed discussions to define an emotional arc for the character before starting the film. Every actor, aside from the principal actors, hails from the locality of the story. It’s got a strong visual and aural appeal in addition to a strong local flavour.”