Jayaram has scored big after taking a short hiatus from Malayalam cinema with his comeback Abraham Ozler. Helmed by Midhun Manuel Thomas, it sees Jayaram as an insomniac investigating a series of peculiar murders. In addition, the film also features Mammootty in a pivotal role. However, Jayaram was sceptical about why Midhun wanted him to play the titular character. In an interview with Film Companion, the director talks about his unconventional casting choices, his foray into thrillers and more.
It’s no wonder that Jayaram was sceptical as many seem surprised by Midhun’s conviction in casting the actor in such an off-kilter part that is usually outside his wheelhouse as a performer. Midhun says. “Even when I was making Anjaam Pathiraa (2020), I wanted to cast someone who had previously not done a dark subject matter. That aspect itself infuses some freshness into the narrative and that’s why I cast Kunchacko Boban in the lead. Similarly, for Abraham Ozler, I wanted to cast someone who would feel fresh for the part. I liked the character of Ozler who is a senior police officer weighed down by a tragic past. It’s a very complex character and so I needed a seasoned actor but also someone who looks fresh in such a milieu. So we wanted to rope in Jayaram sir.” But when Midhun approached the actor, the latter’s reaction was quite startling, we are told. Although Jayaram loved the script, he asked if the director was sure that he must play the lead role. Midhun adds, “Jayaram sir was doubtful whether I really had him in mind for this character. But I told him that he was my Ozler and there was no turning back now. He even called me again to see if I was really convinced. I told him we came looking for the story and since you liked the story, there is nothing else to think about. I also quipped that if he wasn’t doing the film, I might even drop the project altogether. That’s how he finally agreed.”
The film sees Jayaram as an ageing cop getting treated for clinical depression when he is assigned to a new case involving a series of seemingly connected killings. “It usually takes some time for me to get to know my actor and once we connected well, everything else fell in place easily. From day three onwards, he was Ozler on set. Looking back, I don't think anyone else could have played the character of Ozler so well.”
Abraham Ozler is based on the script written by real-life doctor Rendhir Krishna. When Midhun heard the pitch, he saw the thriller had the potential to double up as an emotional drama. “Rendhir has integrated complex emotions, characters and surprising elements in this screenplay which worked for me. Besides, I think I have made a good drama with Abraham Ozler. It’s not an edge-of-the-seat thriller but deals with more emotional interplay which is also why I will categorise it as an emotional crime drama.”
Earlier known for his comedies like Aadu (2015), Aadu 2 (2017) and Ann Maria Kalippilaanu (2016), Midhun made a pivot to thrillers with Anjaam Pathiraa that marked a resurgence phase in his career and he has ever since been known for scripting more serious thrillers like Garudan (2023) and Phoenix (2023). “I have always wanted to make thrillers. However, my first greenlit script happened to be a lightweight comedy and I followed that template for some time. I am obsessed with thrillers, be it in the books I read or films I watch. So after I wrote some comedies and found success, I decided to go back to thrillers and try out things. There has been no going back since then.”