Malayalam superhero film ‘Minnal Murali’, which was released recently on OTT to a positive response, is a special film not just for the audience but also for the film fraternity across industries. It proves how one can make an ambitious superhero film on a limited budget without compromising on the elements of the story or the quality of spectacle that superhero films generally come up with.
The film’s lead actor Tovino Thomas and director Basil Joseph recently spoke with IANS over the core idea of the film, its journey, the titular character’s progression and the technicalities that went down to sketch the film.
In Tovino and Basil’s shared vision, ‘Minnal Murali’ is a common man, he comes from people and exhibits behavioral patterns of an everyday guy, says Tovino, “‘Minnal Murali’ is more relatable to the common man. Like, what if Tovino Thomas or Basil Joseph got superpowers? We will not be going out to save people the very next day, we are going to take some time to realise that and once you realise that, you are going to enjoy it for some time.”
He adds, “We’ll be using our superpowers for the silliest of the things which make us happy. But there will be one point where you realise ‘with more power, comes more responsibility’. That’s what happens to ‘Minnal Murali’. So, it’s a very gradual graph of the character, his emotional transformation is very gradual as well.”
Basil has a knack for thinking about a film musically, revealing his process of conceiving a film, he says: “That’s a part of the thought process that I have. Music is something that even during the writing phase gets me excited when some music strikes me. So, I tell the writers that we might conceive the sequence in this mood, spacing or rhythm. Music can easily communicate with people.”
Tovino chimes in, “So, we did a movie together ‘Godha’. When he (Basil) came to narrate the script, he brought a small speaker and for every scene, he played the background score from his mobile while he narrated the script. So, that’s the kind of music sense he has got.”
Explaining the essence of the music of ‘Minnal Murali’, Basil says: “If it’s a quirky song, people get to know the kind of humour or drama that sequence is going to have. In the film, there is an Amit Trivedi-style song which Shaan Rehman did and has a folkish essence to it. So, if we listen to that song while writing, you’ll get to know that it’s a quirky song and something humorous.”
Steering a film musically during the production, results in a better synchronisation across departments, as the director adds: “Also, for the technicians, actors or cinematographers, when we narrate, they will also get the mood of the thing along with the art director. The producer will also spend money accordingly. The actors also will be more comfortable with the emotion that they want to communicate. Hence, music is a very essential part of it.”
Basil then gets into the germ of VFX, “For the VFX, we didn’t want it to look funny in the movie and we tried our level best. We know it’s not a big-budget movie in comparison to DC/Marvel superhero movies. It’s a regional movie, after all. But, by the standards of the Malayalam industry, it is big budget.”
Being mindful of the money spent on a film is what separates a good director from an indulgent one and for Basil, with the power of money, also comes a huge responsibility, “The producer is already investing so much money by trusting us. Like, five times the safe budget of our combination (his and Tovino’s combo as director-actor) in the industry. So, there is five times responsibility on us. Instead of depending too much on VFX, we tried to make it as grand as possible with practical effects. So, as an actor, Tovino also made things possible without using VFX.”
Ask Tovino if the practical effects rendered him with a heightened sense of body mechanisms and movements and he quips, “For this movie, I had to push my limits, a lot. That made me realise what all I am capable of. During the shoot, during lockdown and after lockdown, I got enough time to understand my body better.”
He continues: “I understood how important core strength is for an actor and how important it is to know about your body as an actor. We cannot compete in terms of budget or facilities with other industries. But working hard is something that anyone can do, the hard work which we have done, that’s the maximum in any other industry that anyone can do.”
The actor sums up their learnings from the film as he says, “In the course of this journey, we learnt a lot of things about ourselves and also about filmmaking. We realised a lot of things about what we were capable of, we would be even more confident to try something new after this which can go a step further.”
He compliments his director as he signs off, “For Basil, his first movie was ‘Kunjiramayanam’, followed by ‘Godha’ and now ‘Minnal Murali’, over the years, his growth has been exponential, he is a visionary and I trust him and I think great things are going to happen in his life.”
–By Akshay Acharya