Shine Tom Chacko and Vinayakan in 'Panthrand'
Shine Tom Chacko and Vinayakan in 'Panthrand' Image Credit: Supplied

South Indian director Leo Thaddeus is acutely aware that his latest star-shorn Malayalam film ‘Panthrand’ is a classic underdog release during a festive weekend like Eid, where at least 19 film from across the globe are jostling for attention at the UAE cinemas.

From Malayalam cinema alone, he’s up against glossy Prithviraj-starrer ‘Kaduva’. But Thaddeus is confident that his film about a bunch of reformed rakes will shine, despite those limitations.

“We believe in our film entirely. The situation is difficult for us since we are small film in a sea of big films, but we are confident that people who love cinema will watch our film,” said Thaddeus in an interview with Gulf News.

The cast and crew of 'Panthrand' Image Credit: Supplied

‘Panthrand’ (meaning ‘Twelve’), which features an eclectic bunch of characters actors including Shine Tom Chacko, Lal, Dev Mohan, and Vinayakan, is set in a coastal village in Kerala and chronicles the gang wars and the shifting dynamics among its violence-prone mates.

“‘Panthrand’ has a biblical context and belongs to the mystical action drama. It’s not your run-of-the-mill thriller. The title is emblematic of 12 main characters that feature in this film,” said Thaddeus.

This director, whose credits include ‘Oru cinemakkaran’ starring Vineeth and ‘Lonappente Mamodisa’ featuring Jayaram, claims that he chose his actors based on how they fit his characters.

But wouldn’t it have been easier if he had chosen at least one bankable A-lister from Malayalam to spearhead this feature?

“My main focus was to find actors who fit those parts and the audience will also feel that they are the perfect fit. If I cast our so-called heroes, perhaps the focus would have been lost. The story is the main focus and my narrative structure is different,” said Thaddeus.

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Shine Tom Chacko Image Credit: Instagram/Shinetomchacko

He claims he knew character actor Vinayakan for more than two decades since their theatre days together. Both Vinayakan and Chacko are often Malayalam cinema’s go-to actors for warped and wicked roles. Apparently, the stereotype of playing grey characters with dark souls helped him get a good start.

‘Panthrandu’ will transport you into a world filled with morally bankrupt characters who are hired contract henchmen. Two siblings who belong to a gang find themselves at crossroads when one of the brothers wants to leave the life of crime and grime behind.

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Vinayakan Image Credit: Instagram/Vinayakan

“When you watch this film, you will realise that it’s not just about stunts or gang wars. There’s a soulful subtext even if there’s violence … You see character embark on a bit of soul searching,” said Thaddeus.

Produced by Victor Abraham of Skypass Entertainment, this wasn’t an easy film to make. Their first schedule of filming in Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu was halted due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We couldn’t even take one shot even though the entire crew had reached Nargercoil. A person died just a day before our shoot began from COVID-19 and that meant we had to hold back this film for nearly three months. We shot this film under some very trying circumstances,” said Thaddeus.

Malayalam films are legendary for making films in modest budgets without the usual gloss that’s attributed to Bollywood musicals. There are no elaborate sets erected to tell their stories steeped among the reality of a Keralite or lavish budgets bestowed on films, but that’s also their biggest strength. The story takes precedence over star power and razzle-dazzle.

“This movie is thought provoking and will leave you with questions. The other day, I had a viewer who had watched this film four times and had called me to discuss the layers,” said Thaddeus.

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Director Leo Thaddeus Image Credit: Supplied

While the reviews for his film, which released in Kerala last week, have been mixed, the director doesn’t take the scathing ones to heart.

“Everyone should have the freedom to express their thought. But it isn’t deal if somebody enters a rose garden expecting sun flowers to bloom around there. Judge a film based on its merit alone and ideally by someone who knows about all the garden varieties of roses,” said Thaddeus with a laugh. Apart from swatting some polarising remarks about his feature, he’s also battling the scourge of piracy.

“We have set up cyber teams to squash sites that are circulating our film. But I really hope everyone’s conscience comes to life before they view it illegally. We have made this film with a lot of heart, grit, and difficulties,” said Thaddeus.

Don’t miss it!

‘Panthrand’ is out in UAE cinemas on July 7.