Nithin Renji Panicker on directing Suresh Gopi and Renji Panicker in ‘Kaaval’

Story: The director’s second Malayalam film, starting November 25, revolves around two friends-turned-foes.

Review: Set in two periods of time, Kaaval tracks the timeline of the two main characters as they go through the ups and downs of their businesses and life. “They were allies before an incident drives a wedge between them,” he reveals.

Renji’s no-punches-pulled scripts in the late nineties had catapulted Suresh into the mega star league and given him the image of a super cop. So, what was it like to direct these two friends and contemporaries? “I had grown up watching my father’s films. So, I had always wanted to direct Suresh uncle. I was waiting for a script written by my father. When that didn’t work out, I went ahead with my script. It was a privilege to work with these veterans,” admits Nithin.

He makes no bones about the fact that he was hugely inspired by his father’s testosterone-driven films where the male characters dominated the story and the screen space.

Agreeing that Kaaval is a film on those lines, he says that when there is a superstar in the lead, the story follows their trajectory. “It is a natural progression and the film becomes a male-centric theme. Tomorrow, if I were to work with Manju chechi (Manju Warrier), the film would have a women-centric theme. Scripting and casting are extremely important to the narrative of a film.”

Shot in Kattappana, Idukki, by National award-winning cinematographer Nikhil S Praveen, the cast includes Muthumani, Pauly Valsan, Suresh Krishna, Shanker Ramakrishnan, Sreejith Ravi and Evan Anil among others.

In 2016, Kasaba, Nithin’s debut work starring Mammootty, had sparked off a controversy about certain dialogues and scenes in the film that were criticised as misogynistic. Dismissing the allegations, Nithin says that the controversy that erupted was never a constraint while writing the script of his second film as he did not feel the criticism against Kasaba was justified.

Even as debates are on about obscene language and cuss words in a recently-released film on OTT, use of expletives in Renji’s previous films had triggered similar discussions. “All the films were censored and shown in theatres. I feel that what we see daily in the media is not half as gory as what is shown on screens in India. People have a choice to not see a film in the theatres.

“In the case of OTT, there is no censoring. So, it might be problematic for families to watch such films together. But then, isn’t it true that there are people like these characters who use profane language as part of their daily life?”

As Kaaval releases in theatres, Nithin is moving on to his third film, which he says will be a romantic thriller. “A young pair of the new-generation of actors will be cast in it. The film is likely to begin rolling in March 2022.”