Karikku Fliq, the web series vertical of the Karikku digital platform, recently produced a musical drama mini web series titled Average Ambili. The sixth and final episode of the series was released last week.
Karikku, a new-age Malayalam digital platform founded in 2018, is known for producing comic sketches, short videos, web series and independent music tracks, under various verticals. According to the platform, Karikku has established itself as a leading digital company in Kerala, with over 12 million followers.
The platform is branching out beyond the traditional comedy genre with Average Ambili, a musical family drama written and directed by Adithyan Chandrashekar, who previously made another web series for Karikku titled Rock Paper Scissors.
Average Ambili follows a young woman who is average in all aspects. The series reflects on family dynamics, relationships, human emotions, parenting, and more.
In conversation with Silverscreen India, Adithyan, who also stars in the series, talks about making Average Ambili, exploring a new genre in the YouTube space, and the scope of the platform for aspiring artists.
Breaking away from typical genres and including songs in a mini series
Average Ambili was an attempt to break away from the usual genres of YouTube series, says Adhityan. “Over the years, Malayalam content on YouTube predominantly falls into genres like thriller, humour or romance. As a creator and as an audience member, I always wanted a break from that. So when I got to know that Karikku was looking for new content, I pitched this idea. The team liked the subject and agreed to produce it.”
Average Ambili is not just a drama, it’s also a musical – an unusual move for a mini series. There are six short songs in the series, one for each episode, composed by Vishnu Varma. “While writing the script, I realised the need for music in this drama. Music has set the right pace for the series and to an extent, it has enhanced the content as well,” says the director.
He adds that making the series was a challenging exercise. “I did not have any examples. And our audience has only been exposed to a specific type of content all these years. So there was worry about how they would receive something like this. I am glad that Average Ambili has been well received.”
Adhityan feels his attempt will motivate fellow creators to think out of the box and come up with exciting new content.
A story about an average young woman
Aside from experimenting with the genre, Adithyan also wanted to tell an untold story in Average Ambili. “Most films and series tell the stories of successful people. Or they go the other way and tell tragic tales of the losers. But what about those in between? We don’t know about them. Hence, I wanted to tell a story about a person who is average, between these extremes. That’s how Average Ambili happened.” The series emphasises the idea of self-confidence and perseverance, he adds.
The story is told from the perspective of a young woman, Ambili, and in a bid to ensure authenticity, Adithyan made sure to include a woman in his writers’ team. “My teammate Megha Ranjini Krishnan and several other female members from my family and friends circle contributed to the content. I wanted to be sensitive and careful while handling such a subject. So I took inputs from many people, especially women,” he explains.
Sensitive scripting and relatable characterisation
Adithyan believes that one of the aspects that makes Average Ambili relatable to the audience is its well-defined character arcs. “We went in depth into each character during the scripting process. The series shows the dynamics of a middle-class family and a girl who is considered to be average. So, during the writing process, we built background details of these characters which could justify their behaviour. There are no black or white characters and we also ensured to keep the show rooted. This, I believe, made it possible for the audience to empathise or connect with at least one of the characters.”
While the series addresses topics like bullying and patriarchy, Adhityan says he did not want to force-fit any politics and has only added whatever the situations demanded to keep it genuine. “We wanted to be sensitive. There were several instances in the series where we could have had dialogues to underscore things. But instead, we opted to convey the essence through the artists’ expressions and music. I feel that created a better impact.”
Casting and production
Adithyan and his team completed the script in 15 days in March 2021. Actor Arsha Baiju, who was part of the 2019 Malayalam film Pathinettam Padi, was then roped in to play the titular role in Average Ambili. The rest of the cast was chosen through virtual auditions followed by look tests. All of the actors had prior acting experience.
The entire series was shot in just 17 days, says the director. He further adds that his team, consisting of cinematographer Azad Roshan, sound designer Sreejith Sreenivasan and editor Pinto Varkey, has managed an output on par with a feature film.
Where it all began
Adhityan is not new to YouTube or content creation. His interest in art began with school plays and eventually developed into an interest in acting and cinema. After graduating with a B Tech degree, he decided to make YouTube content that he could also act in. “In 2017, I made my first mini-series called B Tech Maman. At that time, there was no big web series culture in Malayalam. From then on, there was no looking back.”
After doing a few more sketch videos, he collaborated with Karikku for Rock Paper Scissors. It was Karikku’s first outside production and the first series to be released on the Karikku Fliq channel.
Last year, Adithyan won the best director award for Chandrettayanam under the music video category at the IV Sasi International Short Film Festival. The music video also bagged three more awards at the Indian International Film Awards 2020.
For Adithyan, who has not gone to any film school, YouTube has been a valuable learning ground. “It’s a boon for budding creators and artists. The platform gives one the scope to experiment with new ideas and improve their craft before taking the leap into feature filmmaking. With every new attempt, I get a chance to reinvent, learn and unlearn a lot of things. I didn’t know that I’d be the first to make a musical drama series, but by doing this, I feel ready now to broaden my horizons even more in the future.”