The long wait to see Fahadh Faasil’s third collaboration with director Mahesh Narayanan is finally coming to an end. While the news of a massive film going straight to OTT—it arrives July 15 on Amazon Prime Video—will be disappointing for some and pleasing for others, the makers can finally breathe a sigh of relief considering, in Mahesh’s own words, the “expiry date” of the narrative. “The content will prevail, but the narrative has to hold,” says Mahesh, who patiently sought an ideal time to release a project which is so dear to him.
“We waited close to two years,” adds Fahadh, who feels that they wouldn’t be able to move on unless audiences see the film. “I think we always had that block within ourselves, even when we tried doing other films. We took a year to make this film. In total, we have been involved with the film for three years now. So I think this is the right time and space to do it.”
Mahesh, we heard this is your version of a mass entertainer. You have also talked about being influenced by the films of the IV Sasi-T Damodaran combo.
Mahesh: I’ve always been a fan of the multi-genre films they made, like, for example, Ee Naadu. They created these wonderful multi-layered characters. I wanted to try something that shifted from one genre to another. Malik is my attempt in that regard. Whether I succeeded or not is for the audience to decide. For me, this is the kind of commercial cinema I admire and wanted to make.
Fahadh, you have done before a few characters with a small degree of heroism in them. Is it safe to call Malik your first full-fledged mass character?
Fahadh: I see Malik as a big film, not a mass entertainer. It’s as subtle as all my films—at least from my end. To me, it’s an honest film. We explore 30 years of a character’s life. Dealing with all the timelines was a challenging thing. But then I was too excited to do it, right from when he (Mahesh) narrated it to me. When you are excited about something, you don’t really recall the process, but you know that you had lots of fun.
Did you guys shoot it in the order of the script?
Mahesh: No, we couldn’t do it because of the logistic issues. We had a huge set to create, and for technical reasons and budget constraints, we had to build the set for the current period and go back, which was convenient for the art department. So, ideally, I didn’t do justice to actors like Fahadh (laughs). I couldn’t do things in a way that they would’ve wanted.
After Take Off, you are doing a fictional film based on, presumably, actual incidents. What steps did you take to ensure that you not only did justice to the essence of those events but creating something that lends itself well to cinematic storytelling?
Mahesh: Malik takes place entirely in a fictional setting. Its inspiration is not any particular event but multiple events. It has to do with something that hits us regularly—even now, this issue prevails. I believe I’ve done justice to it. I’m not a biased storyteller. I try to see something from all perspectives and write my script accordingly. So any film based on life will have an essence of what we had recollected, or what our heart is closer to. I’ve tried to tell this story honestly in a fictional manner, and I believe I have done justice to all the characters. And writing a film with a lot of characters—a first for me—is extremely difficult.
Any lesson you learned from Take Off that you applied in Malik?
Mahesh: Every day in filmmaking is a lesson. I would say the commercial success of Take Off enabled me to make a film like Malik. That’s it.
Fahadh, you have been doing those limited-scale, contained films in succession in the last year. Do you now feel that you need to move on to something more expansive in its storytelling and scope?
Fahadh: I know that I need to move on, but I’m yet to explore different formats; we are still waiting to see how the world changes after all this—once everything settles down. I see a change that’s going to happen. I need to wait and see the impact that’s going to make on everything.
Mahesh, you are working with cinematographer Sanu John Varghese again. Did you guys bring anything new to Malik that you hadn’t tried before?
Mahesh: Sanu is very versatile because his style differs from film to film. Our sensibilities always match—we both see things through the same lens. One of the biggest things we got to do in Malik is that we managed to establish the geography so well. We wanted it to be a character too. That’s why we shot it in a larger format, with an 8K lens and all that. But, ultimately, it was all driven by the story. Sanu is someone who never goes against the story; he always follows it.
Any plans to release it on the big screen after all this?
Mahesh: Well, we are not ruling anything out. There are chances. What everyone who worked on the film wanted right now is for the producer to get his investment back. It was a collective decision.