Jeo Baby's Kaathal - The Core has been instrumental in bringing out sensitive, healthy conversations among filmgoers about the problems faced by the LGBTQIA community. The film features Mammootty playing Mathew, a gay man who is in the process of a getting a divorce from his wife Omana (Jyotika). The filmmaker, who has been lauded for his deft and sensitive work in Kaathal, spoke to Anupama Chopra about his process at the Film Companion Directors Adda 2023.
“I have a lot of doubts during my process. I try to think from the audience's perspective and resolve any issues. I also discuss all aspects of the script with my partner Beena, my cinematographer, and my editor regarding how to shoot scenes. I have handwritten all my screenplays till now. I don’t really write a proper screenplay in the sense that there aren’t dialogues in it. I improvise and wait till the last minute to get the dialogue to achieve a fine-tuned version. This is usually my comfort space.”
Kaathal - The Core deals with a family reckoning with the protagonist's sexual identity, in the backdrop of a ticking bomb structure provided by a local election that frames the film’s secondary plot line. Mathew and Thankan's relationship in the film is depicted through subtle stolen glances, something that was fleshed out in the screenplay too, Jeo says.
“This script is written by my friends Paulson and Adarsh. Mammootty sir was the person who came to mind after reading the script. I needed an actor as well as a human being like Mammootty sir for this story. Mammootty sir gave a few suggestions for the whole screenplay after we narrated it to him. He also became an active part of our discussions. Sometimes he used to send whatsapp messages to us suggesting changes if possible. His support was great.”
The filmmaker also adds that it was Mammootty who suggested a pivotal moment in the film. "Mammootty suggested that his character share eye contact with him (Thankan) in the interval scene. And that worked really well among the audiences.” While Jeo addresses that there is politics in all his films, he does express his desire to make different kinds of films.
“In the industry right now, I have got this tagline that I am a feminist and a political filmmaker. Personally I love action films. I have to change myself as a filmmaker and try comedies and try action films like Jailer (2023) and Jigarthanda Double X (2023). I think the society affects me, and my family and relationships too affect me, so I end up telling these kinds of stories. But from a career perspective, I should try all kinds of genres. I am always trying to do that.”
Watch the full conversation here: