Words pour out in torrents as Bejoy Nambiar talks effortlessly in a distinct Malayalam-accented English. I tell him he speaks really fast. He laughs, “I am sorry. I’ll slow down.” Interestingly, this quickness in pace hasn’t quite translated to his filmography.
The director, who has worked with top actors including Amitabh Bachchan and Mohanlal, is now ready with his Tamil-Malayalam bilingual, Solo, which is his sixth film in the last seven years. Excerpts from the conversation:
This isn’t the first time you’re making a bilingual. Your 2013 film, David was one too.
I don’t know if it should be thought of as a bilingual, as it was half-dubbed and half-shot as a bilingual. Solo, however, is not. I want to emphasise on this fact: we have truly made a bilingual. I’ve shot every scene twice, and in some places, I’ve changed the actors too.
(Pauses) But I’ll never make a bilingual again! It’s so much work, you know. But who knows, I will probably end up making another. (Laughs)
I understand Solo is conceived as an anthology.
I didn’t plan it that way. I wanted to tell an interesting story... that’s all. Moreover, I don’t think Tamil cinema has had many successful anthologies in the past. It isn’t easy to make one.
How do you mean?
Eleven composers and three cinematographers have worked on this film. For David, I had eight music directors. The more, the better, right? I am generally obsessed with music. There are songs in Tamil, English, Hindi, and Malayalam including tracks by artists like Thaikkudam Bridge, Masala Coffee, and Sooraj Kurup.
Are you worried anthologies may not be so easy to get?
Solo is a collection of four different stories on earth, water, fire, and wind, all with a mythical touch. The stories are simple, but with a unique template.
When did you decide to make the film in two languages?
It was Dulquer’s idea. He has a fan following in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. If I could have, I’d have made the film in Hindi also.
What was it like to work with him?
It was fantastic. He’s extremely committed and can effortlessly switch from one character to another. Dulquer Salmaan plays the lead in each of the stories, with one of the roles being that of an army officer.
Despite being a Malayali, you’ve taken a while to make a Malayalam film.
I did a short film in Malayalam with Lalettan (Mohanlal). I also did a 40-minute film in Malayalam that never got released. It’s not like I wanted to focus only on Hindi. As long as I get a chance to tell an engaging story, I don’t mind even doing a film in Gujarati!
Rumour is you completed the bilingual in 50 days.
When you work with like-minded technicians and artistes, everything becomes easy. I hold a Masters degree in Business. It’s all about effective management of resources.
Your Hollywood career didn’t really take off.
I am glad it didn’t. I think I’ll get there eventually.
Given how you’re working across languages, what’s your view of how audiences are evolving?
Audiences have become more receptive towards content-driven films. Joker is a good example of that. Also, Visaaranai. The language isn’t important. The story is.
You’re an erstwhile assistant of Mani Ratnam. Have you shown Solo to him yet?
Not yet, but I will. It was on the sets of Guru that I realised films are my calling. I’m here today because of him, and I learned everything from him. He hates it when I say that. (laughs)
Perhaps that explains why you’ve wanted to remake Agni Natchathiram for the longest time.
I like that film, but I don’t even know if I will be doing a remake. I am focussing on only Solo right now.
Actor par excellence
What puts me off
Recent great films
Angamaly Diaries, Dunkirk, Sairat, Talwar
Would like to work with
Arya, Karthi, Suriya, Vijay