'Thondimuthalum' changed my view as a producer: Sandip Senan on win at National Awards

'Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum' won three National Awards, including Best Malayalam film.
'Thondimuthalum' changed my view as a producer: Sandip Senan on win at National Awards
'Thondimuthalum' changed my view as a producer: Sandip Senan on win at National Awards
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Four years ago, when Sajeev Pazhoor approached Sandip Senan with a script, the young producer sensed that that plot was extraordinary.

Fast forward to 2018 and Sandip couldn't be prouder as the screenplay which haunted him for nearly two years has won the National Award. 

The journey towards making Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, among the most brilliant films ever made in Malayalam, is cinematic in itself. 

Sandip had discussed another script with Dileesh Pothan, the director of Thondimuthalum, to make a film. However, the project was shelved as another film with a similar plot released at the same time. 

“Pothan did Maheshinte Prathikaram after that. He had promised me that he would do the second project with me, and he kept his word. I don’t know how many people would that. Pothan has proved himself 100 percent. But I trusted him even before he did Maheshinte Prathikaram”, Sandip recalls.

In an interview to TNM on the day the National Award was announced, Sandip says that he and Dileesh had listened to multiple scripts for the movie together. 

“Pothan had listened to 40-50 scripts, my partner Aneesh and I, also listened to several scripts. We didn’t like any of them much.  One day, I told Pothan I had a script. I was talking about Sajeev's script. If the script was haunting me even after one and half years, there should be something in it, no?  But Sajeev had wanted to direct the movie himself. I knew it was not fair to ask him if it can be directed by someon else.  However, I spoke to Sajeev. He said Maheshinte Prathikaram is one of the best movies to have released in Malayalam in the past ten years, but he had to think about it.  Days later, Sajeev agreed and he and Pothan met,” Sandip recalls, sitting in his apartment at Kuravankonam in Thiruvananthapuram.

Pothan, Sandip chuckles, is like his movies. “He is as subtle as his movies, he won’t show any excitement. He didn’t say anything when he met Sajeev. Later when I had called him to ask about it, he said it’s ok. In a few days, he told me the title, which is as brilliant as the movie. After that, he was ‘absconding’. Sajeev told me that he had no idea where he was. We went in search of him... then Pothan was sitting with the board ‘Urvashi Theatres presents Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyumdirected by Dileesh Pothan’ written on it. By that time, his thoughts were fully into the script. He came out of it only after undertaking a journey after the movie was released.”

For the 36-year-old who forayed into the cinema field 18 years ago as an executive producer, Thondimuthalum was a learning experience.  When asked how he feels being part of an experimental yet commercially successful film, Sandip says that he is indeed proud and happy. 

“It has changed my perspective about movies. As a producer, it was a lesson for me. My capital is my experience. I have never seen a filmmaking style like that ever before. The whole team was amazing - each shot, each sequence is their sweat, their hard work. Brilliant people like Syam Pushkaran and Rajeev Ravi were there, the whole team was dedicated to the minutest details,” he says.

He goes on to add, “From the title to the casting, I trusted Pothan. Casting new faces in all the roles except a few was also Pothan’s idea. That is where I respect his vision, his foresight. The idea was with him even before making Maheshinte Prathikaram, he had successfully experimented with that movie and he followed this in Thodimuthalum as well. Casting Suraj was also his suggestion and the latter has performed amazingly. As an actor, Suraj's potential is still unexplored, I believe. And having lesser known people for the second line of actors is a big help for a producer. Pothan believed in what he was doing, and I believed in Pothan,” he says.

Sandip started the production house Urvashi Theatres with his classmate and friend Aneesh in 2011. Their first movie was the Sunny Wayne starrerNee Ko Njaa Cha. Sandip is the nephew of well-known producer K Suresh Kumar. He began his film career when he was a graduate student. 

“A producer should be a social animal. He should be aware even of the changing political situations to judge the viewer, though the judgment can fail sometimes. Movies like Thondimuthalum ride on thin ice. If not a success, it could be a big flop - and not something in between. However, movies shouldn’t be made in any which way,” he signs off.

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