Indian National Award-winning director Anwar Rasheed returns after seven years with a story about the business of religion.
The film is led by Fahadh Faasil and an ensemble cast of accomplished actors, including Gautham Menon, Soubin Shahir and Nazriya Nazim. Faasil in particular has earned rave reviews for his role. With his chameleon ability, Faasil has carried many films on his capable shoulders. His body of work includes diverse roles and he has an ease with which he brings alive his characters, from the arrogant businessman Arjun of ‘Chappa Kurushu’, the playboy Dr Arun of ‘Diamond Necklace’, Cyril of ‘22 Female Kottayam’ to the OCD software geek Harikrishna of ‘North 24 Kaatham’. Faasil won the Indian National Award for his role as a petty thief in ‘Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum’.
‘Trance’ has been receiving appreciation for its bold content, stylish filmmaking and stellar performances.
Here’s everything you need to know about the film.
WRITER VINCENT VADAKKAN MAKES MOVE TO CINEMA
Vincent Vadakkan is clearly on a high. The ad-filmmaker from Bengaluru marks his debut in Malayalam cinema as a writer with ‘Trance’ and spoke to Gulf News tabloid about his new journey.
What is ‘Trance’ about?
This story follows the journey of Viju Prasad, a motivational trainer who is transformed to become Pastor Joshua Carlton by an independent group of people in a Corporate set-up and spirituality is their business. However, ‘Trance’ is also about sibling relationships and psychological elements, and not just the business of religion. It dwells also on the psychological turmoil the protagonist endures — the journey inside his mind.
What sparked this story?
I had seen some of my family members being part of religious groups. Not to forget troll videos of such groups. The format is the same. They claim this is Christianity, but Christianity is beyond all this noise. Post release of ‘Trance’ I have been asked if I am a non-believer. I am a believer of Christ.
‘Trance’ has been in the making for a long time, tell us how it developed.
I quit my career with Oglivy in 2014 to write my story. My first draft was ready by the end of 2015. I narrated it first to Fahad, who liked it and spoke to Anwar about the story. Anwar liked the story and the project was on. It’s a human intense subject and after several discussions and revised drafts, ‘Trance’ was ready. “Anwar has the ability to bring out the best in you. When I felt this was the best I could do, he pushed me to stretch myself further. Filming took two years.
Sketching many characters must have been quite a challenge. Were there moments when you got stuck?
‘Trance’ constitutes many characters that have been played by a team of accomplished actors. There was so much content in the film; the film could run for three to four hours. We had to edit to two hours plus. While sketching, every character had to be given a clear importance keeping in mind the huge star cast.
There were many instances when I got stuck with writer’s block but you do come out of it. In fact when stuck with ‘Trance,’ I went on to write another story.
Is ‘Trance’ inspired from people around?
Not really. One back story of a character was inspired from a real life incident. It is the character Vinayakan plays; he is one of the Pastor’s followers. I read the story in a news report about how things are done in the name of faith.
How did Gautham Menon come on board?
We wanted somebody suave and stylish, a Malayali bred outside Kerala to play Solomon Davis, the brain behind the business venture. Anwar had watched Gautham Menon’s interview and he liked the way he conducted himself. He felt that Gautham was perfect to play the role.
For me, it went beyond my dreams. I never thought Gautham Menon will play the villain in my first script. It was good spending time with him. You can sit the whole day listening to him. We spoke about films and writing. He is too good and has a style.
How did Fahad prepare for his character?
We gave Fahad references to his character. He did not imitate them but came up with his own version of Joshu. It was an intense role for him- there was a lot of screaming loud in scenes, besides pausing on some words and stressing on other words. Fahad got it bang on.
What were the shooting challenges?
Since Anwar Rasheed is the director and producer, we did not have a producer breathing down our necks. The biggest challenge came while filming with a crowd. They had to perform and not merely stand around. And, the performance had to be synchronised. We briefed them on it. For one scene, Anwar told them to think about the problems in their lives and perform. After he said ‘cut’ they continued in that state, so immersed they were in their problems. Assistant directors rushed to wake them up from their stupor. They had got carried away, some were in tears.
For me every shot was amazing — to see my story unfold on-screen. Each frame is a masterpiece. Towards the tail end, we shot with a crowd with smoke around and Fahad in his climax attire. It was almost a heavenly feeling. I got goosebumps.”
What was your Trance moment?
A: Sitting inside the theatre with the audience at the first day’s show, I was eager to know how people will react to some dialogues. Listening to their clapping and watching the reactions was encouraging. I was overwhelmed.
TAMIL DIRECTOR GAUTHAM MENON ON HIS ACTING GIG
“I was surprised to receive a call from Fahadh Faasil who mentioned that director Anwar Rasheed wanted to meet me for a project. Anwar came down to Chennai and offered me the role of Solomon Davis. For me, it was about the director, actor and I had heard so much about Amal Neerad’s crew. I believe everyday is a learning. I wanted to be in the midst of this brilliant team.”
“Solomon Davis believes in business and money — a no-holds-barred man. He is very quiet and scheming, even if he is saying a few things, there is a layer that he does not reveal. He is also someone who gets down to getting things done. With grey shades to him there is a mysterious air about him. Anwar described the character well. I made sure I got the lines right. I enjoyed playing Solomon, except for the last scene-you will understand when you watch the film.”
“There were only four to five shots a day. In between shots I had three to four hours to myself. Working in the Malayalam industry was a nice and learning experience. The crew spend so much time setting up a shot and you understand why — they get it perfect. I loved being directed by Anwar. In ‘Trance’ small roles were taken on big actors. They worked like a family. When shooting we were hanging around and chatting. I enjoyed their company. I am looking forward to being a big part of the Malayalam industry and in talks with actors including Fahad Faasil. I like the way the audience accepts new films.”
On Fahad Faasil
“He is the best actor in India. ‘Trance’ is completely Fahad’s story and journey and he has portrayed it brilliantly.”
OSCAR-WINNER RESUL POOKUTTY ON DESIGNING THE SOUND
“The filming involved huge crowds, as many as two to five thousand people. Fahad had apprehensions and called me up to say ‘When I am doing my voice right, I am not getting the body language right and when my body language is right, I am not getting the voice correct.’ I told him you just go ahead with it. For me every flaw is seen as an advantage. While shooting in sync, it’s not about doing everything right but about being live with it. There are a lot of accidents that happen and these go to make a scene memorable and super-human like-the result is a brilliant performance.
“The director was very pro-sync. No one complained when we asked for retakes or asked for more time, Anwar even pushed the release by a week for me to finish the mix comfortably. We did this film with so much love.
“The protagonist goes through some situations in life that required a series of psychological analysis through sound. Trance is a state of mind. What takes him into that state of mind? We arrived at a soundscape through careful use of sounds to emulate a feeling of trance. Prior to ‘Trance’, I worked on a film, ‘Thaakkol’, based on the Christian tradition. For ‘Thaakkol’, I was analysing sounds of Christianity and went into the deep aspect of this community through sound. The very sound palette used as identification in ‘Thakkol’ was used as subversion in ‘Trance’.
“In the second half, the story moves to another plane where sound is used stylishly and in a very unorthodox way. We had to strike a balance with quiet moments, slow paced moments and not make it a harsh experience. Sound has the ability to sub-consciously affect you and there is a conscious use of the same in Trance.”
Don’t miss it!
‘Trance’ releases in the UAE on February 27.