Bhramam, the Malayalam remake of Andhadhun, starring Prithviraj, Mamta Mohandas and Raashi Khanna, and directed by Ravi K Chandran, releases on October 7 on Amazon Prime Video. In this interview with Baradwaj Rangan, Prithviraj and Mamta Mohandas talk about how they reinterpreted their roles even though they were impressed by the original performances, their take on cinematographers who turn directors, and whether they think theatres will soon be back in all their glory. Edited Excerpts…
(To Mamta) Do you think the Malayalam Industry is the only one where you can say, age is just a number for heroines? In the other southern industries, heroines gradually get into character roles after 5 or 6 years…
Mamta Mohandas: After spending 15 years in the industry, I can say that I’ve had a good taste of Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu films. I think it is easier for one to get typecast in the other two industries faster than in Malayalam. If you have made your choices well, I think it’s possible that you can have a longer stint and still get substantial roles. Even if you play the role of a mother in a film, you might not get offered the same in the next. In Malayalam, they still see you for the person you are, the talent that you are.
I can only speak for myself, but I think Malayalam is definitely one of those industries where there are a lot of opportunities for women. Scripts are written for a specific type of women’s personality.
You have a Tamil movie coming up with Vishal called Enemy. All the way back in 2006, you made your Tamil debut in a film called Sivappathigaram, which I feel is a very underrated movie. From your perspective, is there a significant change in the way things are done?
Mamta: My knowledge of cinema was very poor in 2006 because I was never an aspiring actor. I am happy to have experienced cinema — going from film to digital which was one of the biggest changes. Women also have a greater role in scripts. I can say I definitely have a much meatier presence in Enemy compared to Sivappathigaram, but in terms of the subject, the latter might have been more interesting. Enemy has a lot more to offer, even though my screen time is short. I’m playing Arya’s pair in it.
Is there an example of something in Andhadhun that you felt you wanted to play differently?
Mamta: I felt that I would end up mimicking Tabu’s performance because I enjoyed it so much, because her nature has both deviance and innocence. I wanted to try and play it with a little more innocence. I play Shankar sir’s wife in the film and there was a significant age difference between the characters. So, I tried to play it cunningly cute.
Prithviraj: The first thing you need to acknowledge is that the reason why you’re remaking a film is because it was really good. The wrong way to approach a remake is to watch a film and think you can do it better.
Having said that, there have already been a set of actors who have interpreted the original. So, don’t base your performance on what you assume their interpretation was. Because when you watch a performance, you can only assume the actor’s thought process. I’ve not spoken to Ayushman [Khurana] and I don’t want that as well. As much as you are in awe of the original, you shouldn’t base your performance on an assumption of their interpretation.
You need to do that exercise yourself as you read the adapted screenplay, your own interpretation of the text on paper. Not just Mamta, every actor in the film did that, consciously or unconsciously.
There are many directors who shoot their own films. Do you think direction and cinematography are complementary skills?
Mamta: Absolutely. Perhaps, a director cannot be a cinematographer, but I think an excellent cinematographer can definitely be a director.
Prithviraj: I slightly disagree with Mamta here. I think a director could become a cinematographer by picking up the theory. Similarly, a cinematographer might be able to translate his skills into filmmaking. But I think they are different skill sets that coexist.
As a director, I need to have a sense of lighting and framing that I communicate to the cinematographer. And at the same time, the cinematographer’s knowledge of filmmaking is useful, because a shot cannot be good just because the light is beautiful. As a cinematographer, you need to understand, with a closeup for example, that the point is not how well lit the frame is, but about how close the person watching the film is to the actors.
Mamta: Just adding to Prithvi, what I intended to say is that most often we see cinematographers foraying into filmmaking, but we don’t really get to see filmmakers getting into cinematography, because it requires that technical skill.
Do you think theatres will come back in all their glory?
Mamta: I actually don’t know if I should be saying this, if I’ll be held against it, but I have truly started enjoying watching movies in the comfort of my own home with my family. The one thing I don’t enjoy about the home experience is that I get interrupted several times by my family, which doesn’t happen in the theatre. I speak for myself here, and I do enjoy both experiences.
We do have people who enjoy watching movies in cinemas where they are perceived as well as enjoyed differently. Different films are enjoyed at home and at the theatre. Some films that were released on OTTs would not have become great hits, at least to the same extent, if released in theatres.
Prithviraj: I think theatres will be back up and running in their previous glory, but what would need to change is the kind of cinema being made for theatres. I think cinema will now go through a bifurcation, where there will be content made for streaming services and content made for theatres. You are basically not making content for the platforms, you are making content for the viewing experience.
I think certain kinds of cinema will be better for community viewing and for personal viewing. Filmmakers should ask themselves which one a script lends itself to. It is going to be a very interesting future, not just for the streaming services/theatres scenario but also for filmmakers, actors, producers. I think this is just the beginning of a co-existence.