Acclaimed filmmaker Salim Ahamed opens up about why he made ‘And The Oskar Goes To’, working with Tovino and more.

Tovino can connect with youth and hes struggled too Director Salim Ahamed intvFacebook/SalimAhamed
Flix Interview Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 10:38

Salim Ahamed is in a car, leaving Thiruvananthapuram after some final work before the release of his fourth film, And The Oskar Goes To. He has a beard and a head of curls like his hero. And like him, he has once struggled quite a bit to be a filmmaker. When a movie is about a struggling filmmaker, you tend to do that – look at the director and then at his hero and search for similarities.

But Salim does not tell you that he chose Tovino Thomas to play the struggling filmmaker of his story, because of the beard and the curls. “He is young and this story should talk to the young people here,” Salim says and you complete his broken line – “young people who’d be struggling just like he had once.” And who can better connect to young people in Kerala than Tovino – he is young too and had once struggled like many others before he made it. He can also emote so well, Salim compliments his hero.

Tovino would also be his first young hero, the other tales – that have won Salim many awards -- have all been of senior characters.

The new one has another interesting little detail. Every time the film title was written, the third word 'Oskar' was in Malayalam and the rest in English. And The Oskar Goes To, it was finally spelled out fully in English in the trailer, but with the wrong spelling of Oscar. “To avoid any copyright issues that may arise,” says a careful Salim. It’s easy to imagine he’d have thought that last detail out. Every time there is a script to be written, Salim goes researching. Adaminte Makan Abu, the first that won many awards, Kunjananthante Kada and Pathemari with Mammootty in the lead, have all come out of a lot of hard work and Salim became increasingly recognised as a director with excellent content in his scripts. Content that he has never failed to say, he got from life – his own and those around him.

And the Oskar Goes To obviously has a lot more of him. “At least fifty per cent of it is mine,” he says. “And Tovino too, I felt is someone who understands that struggle. When this film’s trailer came out, someone dug out an old Facebook post of his – where he writes that he too would one day be accepted by everyone. I had spoken to him about the script when we were at a Filmfare Award night together. But the casting happened only after the script got written.”

For the remaining characters, Salim went back to some of his old favourites – Sreenivasan who played a memorable Gulf guy in Pathemari, Salim Kumar who has appeared in all of his films and won the National Award in his first, Siddique (the actor), Lal, Harish Kanaran, Anu Sithara, Appani Sarath and a Canadian actor called Nikki Rae Hallow.

“Sreenivasan plays an actor in the film. Tovino’s character chooses as the subject of his first film a man who sells home-made snacks in his town. The man’s son who goes to Saudi Arabia gets accused of a crime, and according to the law there, he has to pay back ‘the blood money’ or get beheaded. It is this story that’s being made a film (within the film). Anu plays his friend, Lal the cameraman of the film and Dinesh Prabhakar the production controller. Siddique plays the Malayali who helps Tovino’s character out when he reaches the US with his film, for the Oscars,” Salim says.

Salim too has gone for the Oscars with his film Adaminte Makan Abu, nominated in the best foreign category that year. In the trailer you see Tovino’s face light up from among the crowd, expectations written large on his face. You don’t, of course, get to find out the results in the trailer.

“The second part is shot in LA and Canada,” Salim says, not wanting to give away more. 

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