Mammootty and Sadhna Venkatesh in ‘Peranbu’. Image Credit: Supplied

Paapa is a teenager and her spastic condition makes her a differently-abled child. Paapa’s story is told by director Ram in upcoming film, ‘Peranbu’, seen through the eyes of her father who raises her single-handedly.

Last year, ‘Peranbu’ screened at the International Rotterdam Film Festival, Shanghai International Film Festival and International Film Festival of India, Goa, and won acclaim for its poignant story.

The film marks Kerala superstar Mammootty’s returns to Tamil cinema. As Paapa’s father, Amudhavan, the South Indian legend, is back after a decade. Director Ram recalled watching Mammootty’s film, ‘Amaram’ as a 12-year-old.

Nature creates everyone differently, but treats everyone equally. This irony of nature intrigued me.

- RAM | Director

The dream of directing Mamootty someday was sowed in his college years when he watched other Mammootty films such as ‘Sukritham,’ and ‘Thaniyavarthanam.’ ‘Peranmbu’ crystallised Ram’s dream.

This is director Ram’s fourth film. While his debut film, ‘Kattradhu Tamizh’, was critically acclaimed, his sophomore, ‘Thangameenkal’, brought home three Indian National Awards.

His last, ‘Taramani’, was a commercial success and much appreciated.

The germ of an idea for ‘Peranbu’ was sowed following a conversation Ram had with a single parent of a spastic child in 2000. “It was an eye-opener for me. Nature creates everyone differently, but treats everyone equally,” said Ram. “This irony of nature intrigued me.”

Mammootty and Sadhna Venkatesh in ‘Peranbu’.

The story grew subsequently following his stint at National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPD) Chennai, where Ram and his team taught photography to children with special needs.

“Our interactions with the parents of these children and their calm as well as compassionate nature with which they approached the hurdles every day gave us a new perspective to look at our lives.

It also reminded us to count our blessings. Most people are unaware that spasticity is a condition and not a disease to be cured.

Cinematographer Theni Easwar has used natural lighting to the maximum while filming in Kodaikanal. For night sequences, torches, lamps and candles were used. Easwar last worked with Ram on ‘Taramani.’

Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music — fresh and melodious — conveys a feeling that is in tune to nature around where the story is set.

Check out the lyrical videos of ‘Anbe Anbin’ and ‘Setthu Pochu Manasu’ online.

Anjali Ameer marks her debut as the first transgender model in Indian cinema in a significant role. Besides, the supporting cast includes actors Anjali and Samuthrakani.

‘Peranbu’, produced by PL Thenappan, releases in the UAE on February 1.

How Sadhna prepped for ‘Peranbu’

Sadhna Venkatesh
Sadhna Venkatesh Image Credit: Supplied

UAE resident Sadhna Venkatesh plays Paapa. Indian National Award-winner as a child and recipient of the Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance, Sadhna Venkatesh’s life has been turned on its head. The class 11 student of Our Own Indian School (Dubai) is overwhelmed and drenched in the rain of love and bouquets following ‘Peranbu’s’ premiere show which took place in Kochi. Stalwarts from the Malayalam industry including Sibi Malayil, Satyan Anthikaad, Kamal and Joshy walked up and lauded her performance. Many from the audience were surprised to see a confident teenager interacting, contrary to the role she played on-screen. The unforgettable moment arrived with Nivin Pauly who left his fan tongue tied. He congratulated Venkatesh on her brilliant performance.

Venkatesh, in an exclusive chat with Gulf News tabloid!, spoke about the experience of playing Paapa.

When Sadhna became Paapa

“I could identify with Chellama (of ‘Thangameenkal’) but could not relate to ‘Paapa,’ said Venkatesh. Paapa is a 13 year-old but behaves like a six year old.

From undergoing a two-month training at the National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMD), Chennai, where she observed the mannerisms and behaviour of special children, Venkatesh has been living with Paapa for the last two-and — half years.

Assisting her on the sets was Maria, a therapist. “I had to be consistent with my body language and reactions. Maria guided me through out,” she said.

Paapa called for rigorous work

Sadhna Venkatesh 2
Sadhna Venkatesh Image Credit: Supplied

The trailer reveals Paapa with her one hand bent at the elbow while the other hangs limp. Paapa’s mouth is twisted, her tongue sticking out. Keeping this posture always was a painful regimen, recalled Sadhna. “Sometimes my lips got locked.”

A bigger challenge awaited her at the dubbing studio.

Venkatesh, explained: “Paapa’s voice changes with her body postures. While enacting the scenes, I got her voice right, but during dubbing, sitting inside the studio, I had to bring out the same sounds. Getting the lip sync to coordinate with the sounds Pappa utters was not easy. I am proud to say that we completed the dubbing in two weeks.”

Paapa’s hangover

Even after filming was over, Paapa’s hangover remains. “My father was concerned one day when he noticed that I was sleeping like Paapa. Sometimes my postures are like hers.”

Mammootty moments

Mammootty and Sadhna Venkatesh in ‘Peranbu’.

When director Ram told Venkatesh that she will be sharing screen space with Mammootty, her first reaction was, ‘“Aiyoo! ‘How will I act in front of the legend?’”

The young actress is a huge fan of his films like ‘Thalapathy’ and ‘Azhagan’. “I was pretty nervous on the first day of our shooting,” she said.

Sadhna was surprised to find Mammootty supportive and without the trappings of a superstar. “We bonded well as father and daughter. His suggestion to keep my performance subtle was valuable. Observing him, I learnt that as an actor one should look at the role through the character’s eyes.”

Second time with director Ram

‘Peranbu’ is Venkatesh’s second film with director Ram — the earlier one being ‘Thangameenkal’, where he played Chellamma’s father.

“Ram uncle is like a father figure to me. His narration helped me in interpreting Paapa and her different emotions. Ram uncle also gave me freedom to explore her in my way too.”

Paapa’s gift to me

Sadhna Venkatesh 3
Sadhna Venkatesh Image Credit: Supplied

“Initially there was the niggling thought about how I will appear on-screen,” remembered Vekatesh. “Once I stepped into the role, I decided not to look at the monitor after every shot. I saw myself on-screen only during the dubbing process.”

Like the title, ‘Peranbu’ (‘Great Love’) made her a compassionate person. Venkatesh has reached out to special children in her school and mentored some.

“I am blessed for this opportunity to represent a differently-able child and make viewers aware of their daily challenges. I am happy.”

Up next

Post release, Venkatesh can’t wait to strap on her bells and get into dancing — her first love. “It’s been a week since I have danced.”

Her dream is to manage her mother’s dancing school someday, Sri Paadham Academy of Dance, Dubai. And, with examinations approaching, she will be knee-deep in books, too.

Don’t miss it!

‘Peranbu’ releases in the UAE on February 1.