Malayalam director Ranjith Sankar, who has directed stirring socially-charged films such as ‘Passenger’ and ‘Varsham’, is not pretentious when it comes to his motives behind making ‘Pretham 2’, Jayasurya-starrer out in the UAE cinemas now.
“This is my 11th film in my career and I have rarely attempted purely commercial films. The objective is to entertain the viewers and ensure that they have fun while watching a horror comedy,” said Sankar in an interview with Gulf News tabloid!. He was in town with actor-producer Jayasurya for the film’s UAE premiere last Wednesday.
‘Pretham 2’, a sequel to the 2016 hit, is a paranormal comedy set against the backdrop of cybercrimes and film piracy unleashed when a bunch of online movie enthusiasts get together to make a short film at a manor.
However, before you venture into the cinemas here are five things you should know about the film.
1. The idea of ‘Pretham 2’ was triggered from an episode in director Sankar’s life.
“‘Pretham 2’ was born when our film ‘Punyalan Private Limited’ was leaked online on its third day of release in the cinemas. At that time [in 2017], it was a rarity in Malayalam cinemas. I was shocked…. Piracy strips you of the happiness that you get from making a film which is your own labour of love. It’s not just about the monetary loss, but it is deeply hurtful to know that your hard work for several months is ruined within 10 minutes. It was hurtful… After that, I spent more than two months looking into the world of online piracy,” said Sankar in Malayalam.
For those wondering, the ‘Punyalan 2’ leak stemmed from a 16-year-old who filmed it secretly and sold it for Rs600 (Dh31.59). “Within minutes, that boy who came from a middle class family obliterated our efforts… ‘Pretham 2’ tackles piracy and cybercrimes in a way that isn’t preachy to the young viewers,” said Sankar.
2. ‘Pretham 2’ is set in the iconic Varikkasseri Mana, a palatial manor in Ottapalam in Kerala. Films such as Mohanlal blockbusters ‘Devasuram’ and ‘Aaram Thampuran’ were filmed there.
“So many Malayalam movies have been shot there. It’s a manor that can trigger nostalgia with its atmospherics and ambience.”
3. Jayasurya who plays a mentalist in ‘Pretham 2’ is petrified of watching horror films.
“I am scared and frankly films like ‘The Conjuring’ shook me to the core. I can never sit through a horror film,” said Jayasurya. But he has no resistance to acting in one.
“‘Pretham 2’ isn’t your run-of-the-mill horror film. It’s couched in layers of humour and witty situations.”
4. Jayasurya and Sankar do not subscribe to the belief that sequels indicate a bankruptcy in creativity or lack originality.
“You never ask the same question to filmmakers of ‘Fast And The Furious’ or ‘Jurrasic Park’ [Hollywood blockbusters that has spawned several instalments]. Nobody has a problem with them. But when you do the same for Malayalam or Hindi films, you term it as lack of creativity. It’s a matter of perspective and signal immaturity on the part of the media,” said Sankar.
Jayasurya agrees. He claims it’s more challenging to make a sequel as the second instalment needs to be unique.
“Only if you have a strong story in the sequel, there’s a possibility of a sequel. Although my film Aadu didn’t do well in the theatres, we were compelled to make its sequel when it created ripples on social media. Sequels require more creativity,” said Jayasurya.
5. ‘Pretham 2’ amassed mixed reviews after its release in India. Both Jayasurya and director Sankar aren’t worried as the box office earnings remain unaffected.
“This is a film that is unlikely to appease critics because it’s a pure entertainer. It will appeal to the masses and truth be told, we cannot make films to curry favour with the critics,” said Sankar. Jayasurya remembers a time when people were disappointed with his film Njan Mary Kutty, in which he played a transsexual, didn’t have enough humour.
“It was an intense film, but they still felt bad. Opinions on films are always subjective.”
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‘Pretham 2’ is out in the UAE now.
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Jayasurya was intent on keeping the focus of the interview on his new film ‘Pretham 2’ rather than answer questions about #MeToo and the scandals rocking the Malayalam film industry.
Fortunately, director Ranjith Sankar was relatively more forthcoming and showed more spunk. When asked if the Malayalam film industry needed a makeover with actors like Mohanlal terming #MeToo as a fad and whether it’s unsafe to be an actress in Malayalam cinema, Sankar said:
“I don’t think so. I think from my experience, this industry is a safe place for anyone to work. Nobody is being forced to do anything here as far as I know,” said Sankar.
He also believed that disparity in pay between actors and actresses was all about economics and their clout at the box office. Gender equality and equal wages logic does not make sense to this director.
“Why do Manju Warrier and Nayanthara get more money — it is not because they are female,” said Sankar, adding that it’s their box office draw that makes them demand a higher acting fee than their colleagues.