With Malayalam movie appandirector Maju has proven himself as a master storyteller. The jaw-dropping drama about toxic patriarchy is hailed as original and thrilling. In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, the filmmaker opened up about his film and more.
Appan shocks you, shakes you. Where did the idea for this monster father come from?
Kerala had a historical migration from the lowlands to the highlands in the early 1950s… And some of the settlers colonized these high ranges through brute force and savagery. Although this migration was primarily for earning a living and making a living, some settlers resorted to logging and engaged in hunting wild animals. This greed for land, meat, and exploitation was a recurring theme for many stories and novels set in High Range. So I came across this literature and some of my (high level) friends have also shared their experiences and incidents of toxic masculinity often in the form of a father. It was from these thoughts that the idea for this film developed… as to how these types of people behave in their homes, their worldview, etc.
Patriarchy has always been the predominant driving force in our society. Do you think cinema should stop reinforcing patriarchal values?
Cinema is just an art medium, I don’t think we can use film as a tool for social reform. However, even if positive values do not spread through cinema, we will try to avoid evil as much as possible.
If I may say so, how was your equation with your father in your real life?
My father was a farmer with no significant education. Although he was very loud, we share a great relationship, and he means a world to me.
Please tell me how you chose your two powerful lead actors for father and son and the rest of the wonderful cast.
Alencier Ley Lopez was in the lead when we wrote this script. The person who would be bedridden, with only movement above the waist and only an amazing actor can play that role and Alencier fits that role perfectly. His voice is very important in this film. He wanted to overcome the deformity of his body through his voice. That’s why he modulated his voice from his normals and incorporated a much louder, more unpleasant sound. It was our conscious decision that Itty’s voice should disturb the audience.
What made you choose Sunny Wayne as your son?
Regarding his son, I was sure that Sunny Wayne was a good actor and if he had a good role, he would play beautifully. The son is a very deep character, a son who knows the cruelties that his father inflicted on his mother, the cruelties as a son that he has to endure throughout these years… and just because he was born in as a son of that father, the isolation he faced from society. He is angry with his father and even wants to kill him. But he backs down because he is convinced that his son grows up seeing him and that he will be at fault in front of his mother and his wife. He is a character full of self-conflicts.
The female characters, though submissive, are also heavily etched.
Although this is the story of a father-son relationship, we have taken care to show four types of female characters through this film. Kuttiyamma, who has no choice but to endure, and her daughter Molly, who contains traits of her father’s qualities, and Rosie, who takes the side of truth, which makes it clear that if conflict arises , she must go, Sheela is presented as a representative of the current era, another Kuttiamma in the making, bound by helpless and homeless., So regardless of the era, women are always coerced and chained!…….Well, the task of finding actors to play these characters was very difficult.
Talk to me about you, your first French film Viplavam, which was an interesting satire on prohibition, but nowhere as powerful as Appan.
Well, as you rightly pointed out, french viplavam was a satirical version of the arrack ban. It happened in Kerala without much thought. When the government banned arrack, people accustomed to this cheap, local liquor were left behind and they all began desperately to seek other forms of intoxicants. rescue in illicit alcohol. which, in a way, is far more dangerous and conducive to calamities than the arrack itself!!! The ban was therefore rather counterproductive and I tried to underline this point.
Malayalam cinema has experienced a flourished revival lately. Which filmmakers have inspired you?
My favorite director of all time is KG George. And from the present day… it’s Lijo Jose PallisheriDileesh Pothan and Rajeev Ravi.
What do you do next?
I want to experiment with different genres; I want to make a very humorous film next. If I enter the work of this film, I will forget my appan and focus on the next project.
Actors and filmmakers whose work you like in Hindi cinema?
Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Naseeruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan, Radhika Apte, Vidya Balan. Among Hindi directors, I like Anurag Kashyap and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has written about Bollywood long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.