Rajisha Vijayan with Sarjano Khalid in 'June'. Image Credit: Supplied

Debutant director Ahammad Khabeer opens his career with a woman-centric tale that is led by Kerala State Award-winner Rajisha Vijayan

Ahammad Khabeer could not have asked for a better birthday gift. The debutant Malayalam filmmaker celebrated his 29th birthday recently with the success of his first film, ‘June’.

Khabeer owes it to producer Vijay Babu, who decided to go ahead with a film that is pivoted around a young woman called June. ‘June’ features Rajisha Vijayan, of ‘Anuraga Karikkin Vellam’ fame, in the titular role.

Gulf News tabloid! spoke to the team of ‘June.’ Here are excerpts of the conversation and the five key things we learnt:

1. Debutant director Khabeer knocked on the doors of 17 producers before arriving at Friday Film House, Vijay Babu’s production company.

“This is a story pivoted around a young woman, June,” said Khabeer, an MBA graduate. After making shorts he worked for a year at Mazhavil Manorama, an entertainment channel, as assistant programme producer. His love for cinema goes back to his teenage years when an older cousin took him to the movies every Friday.

‘June’ is jointly scripted by Khabeer, Libin Varghese and Jeevan Baby Mathew.

“While most producers liked the story they were not keen on taking a risk with a woman-centric story. ‘June’ follows the life of June from school days to college and then to the wedding altar.

It is a story of friendships, love and many moments that women can connect with, added Khabeer.

2. Producer Vijay Babu returns with his tenth film, ‘June’. He last produced ‘Angamaly Diaries’ and ‘Aadu 2.’ Babu, who is also an actor, won the Special Jury Award for his role in ‘Philips and the Monkey Pen.’ He said that he looks for innovative subjects and Khabeer’s narration drew him into making ‘June’.

“‘June’ is a story about the emotions of a young woman — her first crush, her aspirations and the gender bias she goes through. It is something women can relate to,” said Babu.

Babu’s smart marketing techniques made to reach out to women — his primary audience — has been praised. From stopping readers in their tracks with the first poster, ‘This year June arrives in Feb’; to pictures of Vijayan in a school uniform, ponytails and braces, which piqued curiosity; and eventually launching the trailer on social media, ‘June’ was eagerly awaited.

3. Vijayan, who won the Kerala state Award for ‘Anuraga Karikkin Vellam’, dedicated a year to the role. For the physical transformation of June, she lost around 9kg. With great reluctance, she let go off her long hair that was trimmed short to be tied into a ponytail. And she was fixed with braces too. Vijayan’s challenge lay in getting into the mind of a teenager.

“I kept feeding myself with tiny details about June so that I understood her well — her gait, mannerisms and her favourite things,” said Vijayan, who completely followed the director and writers instructions.

“It was a team effort. Acting is a result of our co-actors reactions and they were brilliant,” she said.

While Joju George plays June’s father, Aswathy Menon is June’s mother, an overprotective parent. Look out for Arjun Ashokan in an interesting role.

4 Sarjano Khalid is the new kid on the block

“It feels unreal,” said the 20-year-old actor who is on cloud nine.

Watching the first day first show with the audience, listening to the cheers and claps, Khalid was least prepared for the love that awaited him when he stepped out of the hall. The young actor is living his dream — the seed of which was sowed in school days when he first performed on stage.

“My teachers have always encouraged me, but I was not sure if I could act. ‘June’ reassures me that I can act and do better too,” said Khalid.

In ‘June’ he plays Noel, with whom the titular character is infatuated at school.

“Noel was someone I could connect with. He is a boy from Mumbai who comes to Kerala for his high school education and joins June’s class. Like Noel, photography is my hobby too,” said Khalid.

Heis grateful to director Khabeer who was open to suggestions and gave the team freedom to improvise. Rajisha Vijayan was a supportive actor whom he now counts as a good friend.

Khalid’s challenging scene was where Noel and June have an argument inside a car. “I had to deliver my lines as well as navigate through the traffic, it was not easy.”

Khalid now looks forward to the release of a web series in Tamil directed by Gautham Menon, where he plays a part. An, he has signed on the dotted line for a Malayalam film in the lead role.

5 ‘June’ launched the dreams of many

Sixteen actors were selected through auditions and today they are living their dreams. Indian National Award-winning actor-director Siddhartha Siva conducted a workshop for the new entrants. Debutant cinematographer Jithin Stanislaus and new music composer Ifthi begin their cinematic journey with ‘June.’

Don’t miss it

‘June’ releases in UAE on February 21.