Shankar Ramakrishnan wears several hats.
Beginning his career as a screenwriter of the critically-acclaimed period film ‘Urumi’ in 2011, he went on to reveal his hidden actor the following year in Mohanlal’s film, ‘Spirit.’
His sophomore script was the romantic comedy ‘Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla’.
Though he had earlier written and directed a segment for ‘Kerala Cafe’, a film anthology which releases in 2009, Ramakrishnan donned the director’s hat again for his first full-length feature film, ‘Pathinettam Padi’ (Eighteenth Step).
‘Pathinettam Padi’, which he also scripted, is pivoted around two gangs belonging to two schools, one a government boys school, the other an elite school.
The ensemble star cast includes Mammootty, Prithviraj, Arya, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Unni Mukundan, Priyamani, Ahaana Krishna and Manoj K Jayan. Besides, 65 newcomers make their acting debut.
Ramakrishnan talked to Gulf News tabloid! on the making of ‘Pathinettam Padi.’
Q: What was the starting point for scripting ‘Pathinettam Padi’? How did the story grow?
A: Teenage years had always inspired me. That’s an age when boys and girls start to explore a domain out of their comfort zones. It’s also an age where you are put to test to prove ‘academically’ to get onto that success path. The body and mind fills up with adrenalin rush as you walk through the portals of games, affairs and friendships. Pathinettam Padi is a drop in a sea of million stories that I want to make about that age.
The script started off from a simple idea of survival-What if you are put in the most testing of situations at that age-like being put among people who hate you. Will you be able to survive and make a mark?
The story developed as I began collecting tales from the past, recollections, images and names which brought in me a sense of belonging.
Q: Who are the key players in this story?
A: While Ashwin and Ayyappan are the significant characters put against each other in action of competition and mutual hatred, the pivotal character which binds the plot is John Abraham Palackal played by Mammukka. Palackal is a Stanford Professor who is drawn back to his hometown due to some unexpected reasons and overcomes the tragedy through his involvement with the local student’s gang. He helps them attain what they stood for and makes them responsible in life.
Q: While scripting characters did you rely on memories of your school days?
A: It’s an absolute work of fiction. I have used certain names out of memory, but what they do and behave contribute to the forward flow of the story and graphs the scale to reach our core message. Yes, I have relied on my subconscious to amalgamate certain character traits that I have closely watched but not even one character is carved out to denote someone living or dead.
Q: How hard was it working with such a large crew?
A: Producer Shaji Nadesan had a grand vision with regard to its production. Our crew consisted of new comers both in front of camera and behind the lens. They underwent training through workshops.
The challenges were not about film making but schedule breaks due to academic schedules of the student actors which escalated the budget. We also had to wait for the key commercial actors’ dates and arrange logistics of schedule according to their convenience.
The major stumbling block was that Generation X actors need quick results. They were easily depressed due to peer competition or a delay in completion. Most of them were not sure about the outcome of their roles. The challenge was to keep the interest levels up and get going. Most of the members in the girls group dropped out owing to academic reasons. I found out that the key to completion was patience and not arrogance.
Q: Why the title ‘Pathinettam Padi?
A: ‘Pathinettam Padi’ is a familiar concept in South India because of its association with the shrine atop [Hindu temple] Sabarimala. Metaphorically, the uphill walk to a sanctum and the eighteen steps has always fascinated the child in me. That is one place where in the true sense I learnt about the confluence of religions and the concept of oneness.
Drawing parallel is the journey to school with a bag and in collective groups. Climbing up the ladder of age and class, one finally steps up the pathinettam padi. Eighteen also denotes the legal age of maturity-as an adult. Do you make your realisation of self worth at that point? If so what or who guides you into that realm of oneness?-the line of thought led to the film’s title.
Don’t miss it
‘Pathinettam Padi’ is out now in the UAE.