The promos for 'Lilli', an upcoming Malayalam horror film, suggest that the story is about a pregnant woman who is trapped and under attack.

I was always nervous around pregnant women Lilli director Prasobh to TNMFacebook/Prasobh Vijayan
Flix Interview Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - 13:09

Anyone who has seen the trailer of Lilli, an upcoming Malayalam thriller, would agree that it gave them panic attacks. A heavily pregnant woman held captive, surrounded by men who are hurting her, isn’t a pleasant sight. It’s Prasobh Vijayan’s debut directorial and social media is majorly impressed by the trailers, posters and the theme. We thought of asking the director how it all began.

When Prasobh couldn’t contain his curiosity about cinema any longer, he started writing little stories on mundane life. Every single day, he would pen stories, format it into scripts and read it out to friends and family. Their reactions helped him separate the wheat from the chaff. This daily process in effect brought him closer to cinema.

Cinema caught him very early in life and he would binge watch films on TV, YouTube and read every bit of material about cinema. For him, it all came down to a simple question—how was it made? It was this curiosity that dissuaded him from pursuing his post-graduation in English literature and instead to just go after one goal—cinema.

Prasobh loved the satires of Sreenivasan and Sathyan Anthikad and for technical knowledge, he started combing through Western films. Robert Rodriguez (American filmmaker) has been a huge influence in his life. “I am a huge huge huge fan,” he says.

“If you have a story to tell and you know how to tell it, you can direct a film. I can convincingly tell my story to anyone,” Prasobh notes.

The only bit of experience he had was when he assisted his college senior Roopesh Peethambaran’s debut feature film—Theevram. “That was enough for me,” he says.

 Then he made a short film on a shoestring budget with friends. And five years later, he is out with his first feature film, Lilli, with the same team.

Prasobh thinks there are two types of people who watch films—those who want to make the movie they are watching and those who want to make something diametrically opposite. He believes that he belongs to the second category.

It was Michael Fanagan’s 2016 film Hush that triggered Lilli.

“The female character is deaf and dumb, she gets locked and someone tries to hurt her. So, I thought of switching her with a pregnant woman,” says Prasobh.

He was always nervous and anxious around pregnant women and newborns. And he wanted to manipulate that same fear and anxiety through the film.

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“I didn’t want to fake it or dramatise it. This was a fresh subject and I was able to sell my story to a big production company,” he adds.

Horror, he thinks, has different classifications to it, beyond ghosts. Lilli works on implanting fear through sounds and visuals, edge of the seat thrills.

Though Lilli is Samyuktha Menon’s second major film (first was a cameo in Popcorn), she is already a known face thanks to the recent hit Theevandi.

He knows Lilli isn’t really a ‘release-friendly film’ but he also knows that today, there is a niche audience for these kind of films.

Since the main character is a heavily pregnant woman, he took notes from another pregnant woman, poet Sowmya Vidyadhar, who happened to be his leading actor’s (Aryan Krishna Menon) wife.  Samyuktha was also sent to a maternity ward for half a day to observe their body language. Little rehearsals.

“Just a matter of two days,” he says. “A pregnant woman is physically and emotionally weak and under any circumstances, her priority will be her child. And in here, the child has already gone through a battle before entering the world. In a way, she represents the everyday struggle of a pregnant woman, who braves cramps, dizziness, anxiety attacks, varicose veins, backache, heartburns and other difficulties for the unborn baby. It’s layered that way, we are telling little indirect stories too.”  

Despite everything, he admits shooting 20 days, wearing the same outfit, prosthetic makeup and bundled in one room, took its toll on the actor.

The trailers were spine-chilling, and one can’t help but wonder how the events will unfold. “That is exactly our selling point,” he says. Needless to say, one of the most repeated queries that came to him after the trailer was released— “Will she survive the ordeal?”

This fear factor and anxiety hopefully will work for us, he adds. Prasobh has already begun work on his next and no, it won’t be another Lilli.

“My next one will have no traces of my first. And I have made sure there isn’t even a scene of a bleeding finger,” he concludes.

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