‘Aviyal is not a typical coming-of-age drama’

Screenwriter Shanil Muhammed on his independent directorial debut about the transitioning phases of a young musician

Published: 30th March 2022 08:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th March 2022 08:20 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Another coming-of-age drama is on the way. Shanil Muhammed, who co-directed Philips and the Monkey Pen (based on his story), marks his independent directorial debut with Aviyal. Newcomer Siraj essays the protagonist, with Joju George, Anaswara Rajan, Anjali Nair, and Athmiya also in the cast as significant players. The trailer presents a tableau of the life of a young musician beginning from his teens through his twenties, with the various emotions he experiences in titles. 

Shanil describes the main character as a young man whose perspectives on women change as the years progress. “The story has a female-friendly core. It’s not a typical coming-of-age drama. I envisioned it as something that would work for a family audience,” says Shanil, adding that unlike a film like Arjun Reddy (a vibe some may have picked up from the trailer), they have opted for a “more sensible, realistic approach” which viewers “will understand once they’ve seen the film.”

We also saw in the trailer characters mentioning elements that one usually would associate with Kannur. Shanil, a Kannur native himself, assures us that he has dialled down the dialect to avoid confusion. “The story begins in Kannur, but then it migrates to other places as per the changes in the story. We shot in Thalassery, Goa, and Kodaikanal too.”    

Aside from the main character, who appears in different get-ups throughout the film, Aviyal also parallelly explores the lives of characters played by Joju George, Anaswara Rajan, Ketaki Narayan and Athmiya. The film also features a couple of newcomers.

On casting Siraj, Shanil explains that the role demanded someone who could devote a lot of time to a film that required intense physical transformations. “It would be a challenge to bring an already established actor and make him go through all that,” says Shanil. 

The actor was picked through auditions, and Shanil expresses his delight over what Siraj has accomplished in the film. “When we started, we shot for 15 days, took a three-month break for his body transformation, and repeated the cycle through multiple schedules. Sometimes it got extended to six months, especially after the pandemic broke out. Fixing these schedules was very challenging.”  

As for casting Joju, Shanil did something interesting. He shot the entire film without the portions requiring Joju’s involvement and showed it to the actor, who agreed to come on board after seeing the  footage. “Joju’s schedule was shot last.

What we basically did was, in the first schedule, we shot it like a small film with newcomers; after editing it, we went to the principal actors to give them a sense of the overall mood and format. The film gradually expanded after all the other actors came in.”  Aviyal is slated for an April 7 release in theatres.


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