By Subhash K. Jha
The prolific Priyadarshan has been to hell and back. A messy ugly divorce played out in the public domain left him shattered, and he felt unable to make films -- until "Oppam" last year. He credits Mohanlal for pulling him out of depression.
Breathing a sigh of relief, he says, "It has been a traumatic time for me. I can't even begin to describe what I went through. I stopped making films for three years. I couldn't think straight. I felt I had lost my ability to make films.
"He (Mohanlal) told me I had to get back to work, and not with another comedy. Mohanlal and I have done nearly 40 films together, many of them comedies. I could've easily done another comedy with him. But he insisted we do something we haven't done before."
Priyadarshan, who officially ended his marriage after signing legal documents in a Chennai court last year, chose to do a thriller this time with Mohanlal.
"I've done so many genres of films in my career. I've done 91 films so far. But never a thriller. That's how 'Oppam' happened."
When "Oppam" became a box office hit, both Priyadarshan and Mohanlal breathed a sigh of relief.
"It was very important for me to come back with a bang. And Mohanlal was worried for me. He never needs to worry for himself. Luckily, the film was a success and I was back in business, though movies are not a 'business' for me.
"My big moment of vindication was when Kamal Haasan called me and said he couldn't believe I had made this film after what I had gone through in my personal life."
Priyadarshan can't get over his leading man's versatility.
"Mohanlal can play anything, and it is not 'playing'. It is becoming the character. In 'Oppam', he plays a blind man. You have to see how natural he looks. No attempt to look blind. Watching him, we just know he can't see."
Priyadarshan's Tamil film "Sila Samayangalil" last year about AIDS, was up for the final round of the 74th Golden Globe awards.
"We didn't make it to the shortlist. But it felt reassuring to have done something so meaningful after such a long time. Frankly, I was overdoing it before this break. Too many films and too much of it being done for business purposes. Now I only want to make quality films," he said.