A self-taught filmmaker, Ashraf Hamza has not assisted anyone nor studied a course in direction. Yet his debut Malayalam film ‘Thamaasha’, a remake of the Kannada film ‘Ondu Motteya Kathe’ directed by Raj B Shetty, is winning him accolades.
“‘Thamaasha’ is not a scene-by-scene remake,” said Hamza, whose love for films is rooted in his childhood, when he spent weekends and summer holidays inside his father’s cinema at Ponnani in Kerala. He recalls being spellbound by the dialogues more than the visuals.
After a two-year stint in a UAE bank, he returned to Kerala and made a few short films. His documentary about Ponnani pushed him to make his first feature.
While scripting ‘Thamaasha’, a story about a balding man and a plus-sized woman finding love together, Hamza said that he had to keep in mind the roles of veteran Malayalam actor Vinay Forrt, who plays Sreenivasan.
“Since he has essayed characters of men with an inferiority complex, I had to ensure that my hero did not repeat anything similar,” he said.
Hamza has modified the Kannada story, especially with the characterisation of two female characters, as well as the second portion of the film.
Divya Prabha, who plays Babita in ‘Thamaasha’, has been lauded for her performance as a Malayali teacher.
“It did not require much preparation,” said Prabha, who was last seen in ‘Take Off.’ “I looked back on my favourite teachers from school and college to get into her skin.”
Appreciating Forrt’s work, she said that he was Sreenivasan on the sets. “His wonderful acting enabled me to give the right reactions,” she said.
Grace Antony of ‘Kumbalangi Nights’ agrees. After viewers sat up and noticed her in the hit film, it also went on to open new doors for her in her career, having bagged the role of Safiya in ‘Thamaasha.’
“Unlike Simmy of ‘Kumabalangi Nights’ playing Safiya was more easy. Simmy carried a maturity which was challenging,” said this trained dancer and native of Kalady.
Her Safiya is bringing home bouquets and she credits it to the team and Forrt.
“Vinay gives ample space to his co-actors,” she said.
Many have reached out to me [after Tamaaasha]. Receiving messages from strangers is new and so unreal.
The breakthrough star of the film, though, remains Chinnu Chandini, who is the toast of the town with her portrayal of Chinnu in ‘Thamaasha’.
“Many have reached out to me. Receiving messages from strangers is new and so unreal,” said Chinnu, who played supporting roles in ‘Anuraga Karikkin Vellam’ and ‘Cappucino.’ This is her first lead role.
The Trivandrum native with a Masters in Philosophy in theatre had no inkling of the enormity of her role when she attended the auditions.
On the day of the release of ‘Thamaasha’, she was nervous while watching the show with the audience. And, like her director had reassured her, Malayalis have fallen in love with Chinnu and the feedback left her in tears.
Crediting her producers and director for handling the script with great sensitivity, she added that off the sets too they were amazing in their respect for women and people.
Having fought bullying and body shaming in her late teens and early 20s, Chinnu often brushed off remarks with a laugh.
“Sometimes I used self-deprecating humour but gradually have learnt to ignore and not react,” added Chinnu, who works in Mumbai with a creative media agency.
Praising Forrt saying: “With his acting he elevated my performance and guided me with tips on improving.”
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‘Thamaasha’ is out now in the UAE.