Aattam, the upcoming Malayalam film directed by debutant Anand Ekarshi, is a suspense drama led by actors Vinay Forrt, Zarin, and Kalabavan Shajohn as well as artistes from the Lokadharmi theatre group.
Produced by Dr Ajith Joy under the Joy Movie Production banner, the film went on floors on April 4 and was wrapped up on April 28. It is currently in post-production.
Speaking to Silverscreen India about the film, Anand says, “Aattam is a slow-burn suspense drama. The core essence of the film is human tension.”
He adds that the initiative to make Aattam came from Vinay. The filmmaker and actor have been friends for years, and are both part of the Lokadharmi theatre group. “As Vinay is an established actor in the film industry, he wanted to do something for his theatre friends, who are great actors but have not got opportunities in cinema,” says Anand.
“Last year, in April, we went on a trip and at that time, Vinay suggested we make a film with our friends from the theatre group. We talked further about this plan and he asked me to come up with an idea. I pitched a story to him and he liked it. That’s how Aattam took off,” he adds.
The debutant director reveals that the theatre actors play themselves on screen, with some of their names retained as well. However, he clarifies that the film does not revolve around the theatre art form. “Only the base of the film is the theatre and the characters in the film are theatre artistes. Aattam delves into the human mind, and for that, I thought the theatre background would work well.”
Anand took almost four months to write the script, and then he created a small pilot by shooting one scene from the film. He tells us that he shot the pilot scene live to show the producer that the debut artists were great actors. The producer liked the pilot and agreed to back the film.
“We did rehearsals for 50 days before we began shooting. We met every three days and had whole-day workshops. We also rehearsed for about eight days on location. This was very crucial because the film is completely character-driven and performance-oriented,” Anand adds. “Since all of them have theatre backgrounds, the workshops aided them in exploring a different zone of performance that films usually demand. It was an enriching experience to direct all of them.”
Having worked in both mediums, the filmmaker feels the theatre and cinema are ‘diametrically opposite’ even though they seem to be closely related. He adds that acting, conceiving a script and showcasing it are all completely different in the two mediums. “In theatre, a performance needs to reach even the last row of people in the hall, whereas acting for films requires a sense of subtlety. In Aattam, I have opted for a more realistic approach.”
Anand mentions that he was very particular about employing synchronised sound recording and not dubbing, as the latter can dilute the essence of a live performance. “There are many dialogues and performances in the film, which wouldn’t work as well when reproduced in dubbing. So, we went with live recording. Jikku Joshi was the sound recordist, and the sound design was done by Renganaath Ravee.”
Aattam was shot by cinematographer Anirudh Aneesh, while the film is edited by Mahesh Bhuvanend. Aneez Nadodi is the film’s art director.
Anand has previously assisted director Imtiaz Ali on the 2015 Hindi film Tamasha. Aside from that, he has also acted in various plays. “I have always wanted to become a filmmaker. Iranian films have been my inspiration. In Aattam, I have attempted to bring a more rooted, realistic perspective to Kerala’s culture.”