Mili, the Hindi remake of the National Award-winning Malayalam film Helen, was wrapped up recently. Starring Janhvi Kapoor in the titular role, the film is produced by Boney Kapoor and directed by Mathukutty Xavier, who also co-wrote and directed Helen.
In conversation with Silverscreen India, Mathukutty speaks about how he got on board for Mili and his experience filming the Hindi adaptation.
“The remake talks started around the end of 2020. Initially, I got an offer to helm the Tamil remake. However, I did not take it up as I found it difficult to make the structural changes expected by the concerned producers. Later, another production house from Bollywood reached out to me to check if I was interested, and I turned down that offer as well. Then, Boney obtained the remake rights and got in touch with me. I was a bit concerned about whether he would ask me to make any changes. But Boney told me to treat the film the same way we did in Malayalam. He gave us that freedom and from there, the project took off,” Mathukutty recalls.
“When I asked Boney why he wanted to remake this film, he told me that only a small percentage of the Hindi audience would have watched the Malayalam film. He said there would be a huge population who would want to watch it when it was made in Hindi,” he adds.
The filmmaker believes Helen’s script is one that can be conveniently adapted to any language and setting. This is because the story is not rooted in a particular region and is one that could happen anywhere, he explains. “I think that paves the way for remakes in other languages.”
Scenarist Ritesh Shah, who wrote Pink (2016), has written the script for Mili.
Asked if they made any changes at all to the script when adapting it to Hindi, the director reveals that there are no structural changes. However, they made sure to fit the story to the new setting – Dehradun – and to localise it by means of the dialogues. “Since the story is set in Dehradun, we had a person from that locality to keep a tab on the dialogue delivery. On sets, I would ask Janhvi to deliver the lines in her own way to keep it realistic,” says Mathukutty, adding that Janhvi was comfortable and cooperative to work with.
The filmmaker says he had earlier seen Janhvi’s performance in Ghost Stories and that convinced him that she was the right choice for Mili.
Noble, who co-wrote Helen and essayed the role of Azhar in it, worked as the creative director for Mili.
In an earlier conversation with Silverscreen India, Mathukutty, Noble and their co-writer Alfred Kurian Joseph spoke about the journey of three dreamers, one vision, and five years of hard work in making Helen a reality.
“We shot Mili this year in October and November. And we began the post production works recently,” says Mathukutty.
The filmmaker feels this is a good time for Malayalam cinema as it has a wider reach now. “The Bollywood industry has huge respect for Malayalam films. During the Covid-19 lockdown, when most of the film industries were not functioning, Malayalam cinema came up with good, quality films like C U Soon and Joji. And from then on, the viewership increased.”
Mathukutty reveals that he is “very excited” about the upcoming Malayalam superhero film, Minnal Murali. “It looks grand and is also an example of what we can do with the available resources. Marakkar is also a much-anticipated, big-canvas film from the Malayalam industry. I hope the industry will flourish more in the coming days.”