Maya will be released by Ondraga Entertainment on their YouTube channel on June 11. The teaser will be out on Sunday.
The 11-minute-long film which is written, directed, and edited by Ani, is produced by the banner I We Productions. Ani had previously helmed the romantic comedy feature film Ninnila Ninnila, which released earlier this year.
Speaking to Silverscreen India, Ani said, “Maya was made in 2017 and I had mainly sent it to film festivals. This short film was used as a pitch for producers since this has four of my feature film ideas in it. I want people to get a taste of how the films could be through this film. The reason why I am releasing Maya now is that I wanted at least one feature film of mine to be out, before releasing this.”
Ani said Maya was his “first professional” directorial, although he had worked on a few short films as a student of visual communication at Chennai’s Loyola College from 2007 to 2010. He said that the short film was planned as his final project for his college course.
“The film was earlier called Ink. The story follows a writer and at that time I could not do it since I wanted a higher budget, lighting requirements, and venues. The film is about a writer, who has made one film, what he figures to write for his next film and what he goes through. Again, like Ninnila Ninnila, it has no major action, but it is a feel, and flow of things, probably bringing a smile to your face after watching it.”
He said that the scripting for the short film started in 2010 and that production was delayed due to budget constraints and availability of cast and crew members.
— Ani Sasi (@AniSasiOnO) May 31, 2021
Ani said that the film slightly “mirrors him” and the protagonist “is a lot like him” since he had also wanted to make films after doing a few in college. “I used to work with Priyadarshan as his assistant after college, from 2010 to 2017. After that, I started to make my own films and wrote the screenplay for Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham,” he said.
Significantly, Ashok plays the lead role in both Maya and Ninnila Ninnila. The filmmaker said that his feature film and short film have more similarities. While Nithya Menen plays the role of Maya in the 2021 film, Priya Anand plays the title role in Maya.
“Both the Mayas are very similar and they are linked. A part of Ninnila Ninnila comes from this short film. While in that film, it is a paranormal character, Maya is more of a living character in this film. What she was as a person, how she influences him, and what she does to him, are what this film will be showing. You can say that both the films are in the same universe. Just like an index for the book, these characters serve as an index for the films. Maya will have elements of magical realism,” Ani said.
Ani, in one of his social media posts, commented that Maya was a “culmination of four of his feature film stories put together”. Elaborating on that, he said, “The other films are yet to be done. That is why I waited for at least one film to come out, to release this film. All the four films have been written before and the other three are yet to come out soon. Some roots and elements from all four films are embedded in Maya. You will see Dev, Tara, Maya [Ninnila Ninnila characters] in this film. All the characters are like mirror images in the feature film and Maya can be called a prequel.”
Maya is told from the perspective of Ashok’s character, added Ani. He said that the other three films are yet to start production.
Speaking about casting Ashok, Ani said, “We studied together in college and used to do street theatre. When I write scripts, he is the first face that comes to my mind. We have collaborated more often in my older short films.”
Asked about casting Anand, he said, “When I was shooting, Priya and Ashok were doing Kootathil Oruthan (2017), and it was easier to get in touch with her. We could not shoot due to the pro-Jallikattu protests back then. I worked with Priya earlier in Rangrezz (2013) too. I had requested her to act and she agreed. We wanted to show the difference between both the Mayas too, so we got onboard another actor.”
The filmmaker said that the film’s short running time was apt and did not hinder the creative process of the film. “There are only two people in the cast and Priya’s screen time is lesser. It was a hassle-free shoot and we completed in the post-production within a month with music also,” he said.
The film was shot in one day in 2017, from 9 am to 6 pm, in a house in Nungambakkam, Chennai.
Maya was screened at several film festivals, including Chicago South Asian Film Festival 2017, New Delhi Short Film Festival 2017, All Lights India International Film Festival Hyderabad 2017, and Calcutta International Cult Film Festival 2017, out of which it won awards in the first two festivals.
“I remember the day we won the award at the Chicago festival and they had sent it via courier while we were on holiday. My father, IV Sasi, got the courier and was very proud of it. He ate after that and passed away on the same day. After that, I did not send it to the film festivals because I felt complete,” Ani said.