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As a child, Shamdat Sainuddin remembers visiting his father during the filming of Thaniyarvathanam, a critically acclaimed starring Mammootty. His father Sainuddin, a stage actor, was doing a supporting role in the film. Mammootty seeing the little boy called him to his side and spoke to him. Little did the boy know then that three decades later he would be directing the star.

At 44, cinematographer Shamdat is ready with his first directorial venture, Street Lights. And in this thriller, Mammootty plays the lead character — James, a crime branch officer.

“The story is about one day’s events occurring in a city,” said Shamdat who has written the story. He clarified that it is not a dark thriller.

It is neither tailored to suit the star’s image but has been made realistically with situations unfolding naturally.

That’s what impressed Mammootty during the narration and he decided to not just act in Street Lights but produce it also — in two languages, Malayalam and Tamil.

Lijomol Jose plays an important role. Well-known stunt choreographer Stunt Silva makes his acting debut as the antagonist.

“I have worked with Silva on a Telugu film and felt he was apt,” added Shamdat. “I have retained his looks and his style for this character.”

The supporting cast differs though. While the Malayalam version has Soubin Shahir and Hareesh Perumana in prominent roles, their Tamil counterparts are Sreeram and Black Pandi.

There is no hero or heroine here, every character is significant, said Shamdat.

Shamdat’s brother Sadat Sainuddin marks his debut as cinematographer. Music is by Adarsh Abraham.

A native of Palakkad, Shamdat dabbled in theatre and mimicry before joining an acting school in Trivandrum. But it was photography that appealed to him. After assisting cinematographers Rajeev Menon and Ravi K Chandran, Shamdat landed his first project in Telugu — Premayanamaha.

Subsequent Malayalam projects brought him to home turf. Shamdat’s dream moment arrived with Kamal Haasan’s Uttama Villain. He is now awaiting the release of his second film with Haasan — Vishwaroopam 2.

Vishwaroopam’s challenges involved underwater fights and heavy action sequences that were risky.

“It was a new experience,” recalled Shamdat.

Haasan also left him in awe with his profound knowledge on every aspect of film-making. The star used to be up early morning assisting Shamdat in setting up the frames.

“He is always doing something — he never sits still. It was comfortable working with Kamal sir — he is crystal clear in his communication.”

Street Lights (Malayalam version) releases in the UAE on January 25.