Express press service
When interacting with an avid movie buff, I prefer the conversation to be as uninterrupted and unbalanced as possible. Unfortunately, the weather in Chennai played the spoilsport when my phone interaction with Ani IV Sasi was interrupted not once but four times due to network issues. But being the gracious and patient man that he is, Ani is forced to push on, despite minor annoyances.
Many would have expected the son of the beloved and legendary IV Sasi to make his directorial debut in Malayalam. But Ani chose a different path, a decision that ultimately proved rewarding for him. Ninnila Ninnila, a Telugu-language film starring Ashok Selvan, Ritu Varma and Nithya Menen, featured a filmmaker whose sensibility differed from that of his father. A food-based film that also doubled as a heartwarming romance/ghost story, Ninnila Ninnila was originally meant to be made in Malayalam, but due to some hurdles in Ani’s path, doing it in Telugu seemed like a decision. wiser at the time.
He does, however, want to make his first film in Malayalam, but we will have to wait a little longer for that.
However, he had the opportunity to participate in the creation of one, a huge one more. Marakkar: Arabikkadalinte Simham, touted as Malayalam cinema’s most expensive endeavor to date, saw Ani involved as co-writer and assistant director to director Priyadarshan. Marakkar happened before Ninnila Ninnila, and Ani observes that working on the former gave him much-needed momentum before embarking on the latter.
“Marakkar was a great learning experience for me,” he says, adding that the film required a minimum of 500-600 members, including junior artists, to participate every day. “You know, one of my dreams is to do a mythological epic, but before joining Marakkar, I was quite worried about shooting fight sequences. Marakkar allayed all those fears. Watching what was happening on set, I was like, ‘Hey, it’s really not that bad.’ When we finished filming in March 2019, I was so excited. I felt like I could handle anything at that time. I was so looking forward to doing Ninnila Ninnila, which started filming in December 2019.”
It was Ani who first expressed interest in being Priyadarshan’s collaborator on Marakkar. He wasn’t even sure he wanted co-writer credit. He just wanted to be part of it because he was impressed with the things Priyadarshan told him about the project. “After I finished my work with him on Oppam, I told him that I wanted to do something on my own. At that time, I was presenting a lot of scripts here and there. One day, while he was visiting to Priyan sir – his office and house are like second homes to me – he told me about this great movie he wanted to make.
The main character is Kunjali Marakkar, a pirate who later became a naval commander. I found it exciting and wanted to be part of it. And despite so many films, Priyan sir has no airs or graces. He is very accommodating and open to good suggestions. When he asked me to be a co-writer, I asked him: ‘Are you sure?’ and he said he was,” says Ani, who assisted Priyadarshan on ten films, starting with Aakrosh.
The search for Marakkar, Ani recalls, was overwhelming and considerably risky given that Kunjali Marakkar was portrayed differently in every historical account they could get their hands on. The film was originally to be co-written by another veteran, T Damodaran, who gave Priyadarshan plenty of material on Kunjali Marakkar. Marakkar was supposed to be the duo’s next big project after Kaalapani. “But even in these documents, the information was limited,” observes Ani.
“We had to deal with contrasting points of view. The Portuguese account was different from that of Malabar. While we encountered contrasting incidents in some areas, the “facts” in others baffled us. For this reason, we took creative liberties to make it suitable for cinematic interpretation. There’s a disclaimer at the opening of the film that says it’s a fictional take.
On why the 4th Marakkar, tried by Mohanlal, was considered a valid subject instead of the three that preceded it, Ani remarks that his story was the most interesting. “It’s because it all ended with him. Comparatively, we knew more about him than the others. He was the one who brought a lot of strategies and all that. And it was he who was most betrayed.
Ani sees Priyadarshan as an unhinged visionary. “He loves creating new worlds. It goes with the flow,” adds Ani, who was careful not to have too many visual descriptions or shots in the script. “With Priyan sir, you only have to worry about the characters, their dynamics and their dialogue. As far as the visuals go, he’s someone who can conjure up anything on set. You see , only he can do it because he has the experience. I can’t. I need every little detail in my scripts. If I did that with Priyan sir, I might obstruct his vision,” he laughs. .
Given the huge scale of the film, I asked Ani if they managed to give each character a deserved place in the middle of the whole show. “Well, I hope all the characters stand out. But ultimately, it’s Marakkar’s story more than anyone else, so we didn’t want to risk losing focus on anyone. the viewer is supposed to connect more to him and his point of view.
Like many of us who were concerned about Marakkar being broadcast on an OTT platform, Ani also had similar concerns. He’s relieved that it’s finally hitting the big screen on December 2. I can’t imagine watching a movie of this magnitude on a small screen. Marakkar has a complex audiovisual design. You need an ATMOS – or at least a 5.1 or 7.1 system – and a bright projector to experience something like this. Sitting in the electrifying atmosphere with lots of people…you can’t replicate that experience at home even if you’re with your whole family.
Marakkar managed to win three Kerala state awards and three national awards even before its release. While Ani finds these accolades encouraging, he thinks it’s the public reception that
matters above all. “I hope it will live up to their expectations,” he concludes.