Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, Tovino Thomas
Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, Tovino ThomasFacebook

Malayalam director shares film online for free after spat with actor Tovino over release

Four days ago, director Sanal made a series of charges against actor-producer Tovino for his alleged lack of interest in getting their film ‘Vazhakku’ released.

After a public spat with lead actor and co-producer Tovino Thomas, whom he recently accused of showing no interest in getting their film Vazhakku released, Malayalam filmmaker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan has shared the link to the film online for free. The two had worked together in Vazhakku (meaning quarrel), the name now taking an ironic twist, and although the film was screened at some festivals, there has been no theatrical or OTT release yet. Sanal made the allegations against Tovino four days ago, after which the actor appeared on a live video on his social media page on May 13 to address the charges against him. Tovino said his initial urge was not to respond, but later decided to clear the air and tell his side of the story. A day later, on May 14, Sanal shared a link to watch the film online for free.

Vazhakku, an offbeat film about a lawyer who is going through a divorce experiencing a change in outlook after his encounter with a woman and child with disability, was screened at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in 2022. Sanal said that the film was rejected at several festivals before this and he had no hope of it getting accepted at the IFFK. The filmmaker has had issues over the selection process of the festival in previous years, often protesting when his film was rejected or chosen for a non-competitive category. At one point he went to the extent of organising a parallel film festival, on a venue sharing the fence of the IFFK’s main venue, and calling it KIFF (Kazhcha Indie Film Festival). 

Sanal said that Vazhakku was chosen in the 2022 edition of IFFK only because two of the jury members were insistent about it. The film received a massive response, theatres filling to the brim with delegates and leading to tussles outside for lack of seats. The director said that he wanted the film to have a release after it, but claimed that Tovino was neither interested in an OTT nor theatrical release. He said that the actor felt the film, which was received well by the festival audience, would not get the same kind of response in a theatre. When Sanal told him about finding another investor who was ready to bear the expenses of a theatre release, Tovino was still apprehensive, he said. He claimed that Tovino sent him a message saying that his career would be affected, but that he would tide over it after a couple of films.

Tovino, clearing the air about all the charges, said that Sanal seemed to think everyone in the world was working against him and wanted to bring him down. Addressing the director with respect, Tovino spoke of his admiration for him as a filmmaker. It was to promote such creative work that he too wanted to be part of the film, he said, adding that was why he co-produced it by spending Rs 27 lakh and not taking any remuneration. He was unsure about a theatrical release, knowing that there may not be the same crowd as in a festival circuit, since the audience for both would be different. If the film did not do well, “they will write it off as a failed film, and it would not get the respect it deserves,” he said. He did not fear that his career would be at stake for acting in a film with little commercial value, he said, or he would not have acted in other such films, like Adrishya Jalakangal made by Dr Biju. Incidentally, Dr Biju had voiced his support for Tovino after Sanal’s allegations.


About getting an OTT release for Vazhakku, Tovino said that he was ready for it but Sanal did not want to give up his creative rights as the companies required. He later added that Sanal’s social profile – of having been arrested in a case [of stalking actor Manju Warrier after their film Kayattam] – was also a reason for not getting an OTT release.

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