Acclaimed filmmaker Mahesh Narayanan and popular actor and producer Kunchacko Boban are collaborating again on Ariyippu (‘Explanation’), the first Indian film in Locarno International Competition in 17 years.
The Malayalam language film follows Hareesh (Boban) and Reshmi (Divya Prabha), a Kerala immigrant couple who work in a medical glove factory near Delhi and aspire to go abroad for a better life. When an old video resurfaces among factory workers during the COVID-19 lockdowns, it opens a Pandora’s box threatening the couple’s jobs and marriage.
Narayanan got the seeds of the film idea from a newspaper article about a bank teller who had approached the Mumbai High Court to demand a “statement” clarifying that a video that had been circulated in her bank , was a double and not her. This idea stayed with Narayanan for a while until he came across the premise about a migrant couple who worked in a glove factory.
This is Narayanan’s fourth film as director and while seemingly different in subject matter, they are always based on personal struggle.
“Although ‘Take Off’ was viewed as a rescue/survival drama, the story has other layers. It is the story of a divorced nurse who tries to hide her pregnancy from her son from her first marriage. It itself had so many levels to tell where her son himself questions her motherhood. I often try to bring specific contemporary issues about what our country or region is going through. It gives the story more shade and relevance that way,” Narayanan said diversity. ” ‘Malik’ was considered a gangster drama, but if you look closely, it’s about the resistance of marginalized communities fighting for their land. ‘CU Soon’ was again about the work trap that still prevails in our society.”
“Even here in ‘Ariyippu’ there is an issue that is still relevant in these COVID times in the working class. So there is a certain thematic similarity in all of these films,” adds Narayanan. “My form is quite heavily influenced by a style of documentary filmmaking. That can be called a conscious choice as it has more connectivity to people. With “Ariyippu” I tried to move a little further than my normal realm of midstream cinema. While the story is relatable to ordinary people, I didn’t want to corrupt it with regular dramatic twists.”
Narayanan is one of the renaissance men of Indian cinema. In addition to writing and directing, he debuted as a cinematographer with Malayankunju and is also an experienced editor with more than 60 films, many of which starred Boban. Boban played a central role in Narayanan’s directorial debut, Take Off. For “Ariyippu,” Boban also serves as a producer through his Kunchako Boban Productions, the first under the banner. Producers also include Boban’s famed family studio Udaya Pictures, Narayanan’s Moving Narratives and Shebin Backer, who co-produced Take Off.
“Mahesh has happened to edit more films I’ve been in than any other actor, so he was someone who encouraged, supported and persuaded me to try different types of films and characters to keep breaking stereotypes.” said Boban said diversity. “When we decided to produce a film together, we naturally wanted to make a film that would be memorable and make us proud.”
“The character of Hareesh is one of the most intense roles I’ve played in my career. “Ariyippu” is a marital drama that simultaneously addresses the protagonists’ personal issues and a betrayal at their workplace that affects both of them,” adds Boban. “The kind of emotional turmoil these characters go through was so intense that even after the day’s shooting I would return to my room exhausted and drained. It was nothing like some of the cliched characters I could have portrayed in some of my earlier films as Mahesh was keen to show me in a different light. The character of Hareesh has so many shades and layers that it has become one of the most exciting roles of my career in which I’ve been able to reinvent and transform myself to get under the skin of a character as complex as I’ve ever been Had to try before and kudos to Mahesh for making this possible.
“Since much of the film’s narrative plays for my character during some intense days and sleepless nights, I cut my sleep hours to four or fewer and also skipped my exercise regimen to develop a stomach,” says Boban. “I also felt like I carried the vibrant emotions of my character Hareesh with me throughout the entire shooting schedule, whether on or off camera, which made it a truly unforgettable experience for me as an actor.”
Next up for Boban as producer and actor is Nna Thaan Case Kodu (Sue Me), directed by Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval; a political thriller directed by Tinu Pappachan; “Padmini” by Senna Hegde; and a project that will reunite him with his Anjaam Pathiraa director, Midhun Manuel Thomas.
Narayanan has ‘Phantom Hospital’ in development based on Indian journalist Josy Joseph’s research into a medical scam.
“It has always been a goal for me to present my film at a premiere festival before its release. This finally happened in ‘Ariyippu’. I am very happy that the Locarno selection committee chose this film because they understand its relevance and its values,” says Narayanan.
“This is absolutely huge for us. Getting such a launch pad for our film has also resulted in us being invited to many other festivals around the world,” adds Boban. “We are very happy, proud and, to be honest, even relieved that the work that we have done with so much passion and commitment is yielding such good results. It’s overwhelming and so surreal that I’m really grateful for it.”
“Ariyippu” premieres on August 4th.
https://variety.com/2022/film/news/kunchacko-boban-mahesh-narayanan-locarno-ariyippu-1235330457/ Kunchacko Boban, Mahesh Narayanan on Locarno title ‘Ariyippu’