Abhilash Purushothaman, this debutant director is making his entry into the film industry by trekking through uncharted territory. The first-look poster of his single-character movie ‘Aa Mukham’ starring Priyanka Nair was released recently. Abhilash is a bank professional based in Thiruvananthapuram who decided to take up movies when he realised that he does not want the mediocre things in life, but to have his presence made known to the rest of the world. Here are a few snippets from Mathrubhumi.com’s conversation with him.
How did you arrive upon the idea to do a single-character movie which happens to be a less-trodden road in the film industry?
I am fascinated by cinema. My first short film ‘Akam Puram’ was completed in 2016 and my second work ‘The Better Half’, a non-dialogue fiction on extra-marital affairs, starring Priyanka Nair came out in 2019. Although commercial movies did appeal to a part of me, I was looking forward to doing unconventional movies, ones that have a phase of their own. I have attended film festivals every year without fail for the past 12 years. Watching experimental movies at film festivals has inspired me. I had thought of a thread for a story of a woman living her life alone, tormented by innumerous problems and the society closing down on her. I had decided that if I were to do the film, it wouldn’t be one with many characters and just an occasional focus on the lead female character. After much scrutiny, I thought why not bring about something unique, centralise the female character and show other characters only through her? That revelation was the beginning of that less-trodden road.
Meera, the woman character, is suffering from Schizophrenia. Why did you choose to portray that disorder?
As I said, I wanted the story to revolve around this one female character and also show the varying states of her mental health. I looked up the mental problems that most women face and did my share of research on Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder affecting 20 million people worldwide and poses a great threat to mental stability when the disorder takes over the mind of those plagued by it. It is also a trigger for many suicide cases. But the gravity of this disorder is often forgotten and misinterpreted. I wanted to showcase the polarity of one’s character through Meera and how that character survives while the rest of the world collapses around her. Other characters in the movie are voices and sometimes just figments of Meera’s imagination. There are only a very few films with a single character portraying the afflictions of a serious mental illness.
Your expectations on your debut movie which is heading for a probable OTT release?
It is a very interesting thing that we actually made a movie. We have wrapped up the shooting of the movie and are awaiting its release. Making a single-character movie is a tough row to hoe. There are only countable such movies released all over the world so far. Such ideas are what experienced directors try out when they feel like stepping up their game. Not the kind of stuff an amateur director would do. To step into the film industry with a less explored thread is exciting and that very thought gives me happiness. It is also very hard to find a concept to shoot a single-character movie. It tends to get boring and the trick is to have some interesting factor included. The movie is backed by national and state award-winning technicians which is like a brownie point.
Is there a story behind the title ‘Aa Mukham’?
The female character in the movie has had a shock that she has not quite recovered from. She has faced many setbacks in her life. Every time she tries to take control of her life, her mind unwinds. There is a shock that haunts her and pushes her to an extremely distraught mental condition. The story behind the title will reveal itself when you watch the movie.
What was it like working with an award-winning actress like Priyanka Nair?
Priyanka is a very good friend of mine. She likes experimenting and has done a lot of offbeat movies and does not stick to commercial movies alone. The thing to be noted here is that Priyanka was very dedicated to this whole movie. She even gained weight for the movie because her character demanded it. As far as an actor is concerned, doing a single character movie is a great milestone and she truly enjoyed shooting for the movie.