Kannur Squad starring Mammootty had a successful run at the theatres and is one of the best films to come out of Malayalam cinema this year. The procedural about a four-man police team from Kerala on a manhunt across the country however is not the only success story here. Directed by Roby Varghese Raj, the film is based on a screenplay by his brother, actor-turned-screenwriter Rony David Raj and Muhammed Shafi. The success of the Mammootty starrer feels like a personal win, reveals Rony in the Malayalam Roundtable 2023, before sharing an anecdote with us.
It is a behind-the-scenes tale from Mahayanam (1989), another film that featured Mammootty in the lead role. “Almost three decades ago, my father produced the Joshiy sir directorial with Mammootty sir in the lead. It was based on a screenplay by Lohitadas sir,” the writer says. His father was a theatre owner back in the day and decided to produce the Mammuka starrer. But things didn’t go as planned. “He did not know how to plan a film shoot at all. It was shot on different schedules. Mammootty sir did Mrugaya (1989) and Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989) in between the schedule breaks of our film. I was eight years old at the time and Roby (director of Kannur Squad) was just four years old.”
Something was off about that film’s making from the onset, Rony reminisces. He says, “One thing led to another and the film’s delayed production impacted us financially. So after a point, the budget went beyond control. All films have estimated, predetermined budgets. During that time, that film’s expenses ballooned up to three times the estimated figure.” By the time the shoot was finally over, their family had to shut down the theatre and eventually sell their house. “It was also due to some party-related issues back then. So the family’s fund flow stopped all of a sudden. We were in a very tough spot. Since I was a child, I was not aware of all this and I remember dancing when Mammootty sir’s State Award for our film was announced,” he says adding that by then they were living in a rented house.
It is one of the reasons why the success of Kannur Squad means a lot to the brothers. But it’s not only about having done a successful film with Mammootty, says Rony. “ Like I said somewhere, I feel like I have gotten an Oscar right now. More than the fact that Mammukka himself played the lead in our film, the fact that our parents are well and alive to see this day makes this moment special.” He further adds, “I have heard Shah Rukh Khan say in interviews that his biggest regret is that his parents are not alive to see and enjoy his success in life. We got to celebrate this victory when our parents are still around. And nothing can beat that feeling.”
Kannur Squad features an ensemble cast consisting of Rony David Raj, Azees Nedumangad, Shabareesh Varma and Kishore, among others. The film is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.