‘Thallumaala’ Gave Us A Lot of Confidence In Our Material: Director Nahas on 'RDX'

“Thallumaala gave us hope that audiences would like this sort of an action-heavy treatment of films that has been missing in Malayalam cinema for a long time.”
‘Thallumaala’ Gave Us A Lot of Confidence In Our Material: Director Nahas on 'RDX'

Weekend Blockbusters, the production house that was behind the sensational streaming hit Minnal Murali (2022), is back with their next production RDX, a martial-arts based action film set in the nineties. The film deals with three brothers who are forced to go back to their old ways when pushed to their extreme. RDX is directed by debutant Nahas Hidhayath with Shane Nigam, Anthony Varghese and Neeraj Madhav in lead roles. In a conversation with Film Companion, the filmmaker speaks about what it was to make an out-and-out action film with an emotional core. Excerpts from an edited interview:

You had earlier announced a film called Aaravam before RDX, right?

We had to drop that project because of budgetary issues. We started working on that project at the beginning of the Covid lockdown but since the producer had faced some issues with the financing of films such as Churuli (2023) and Jallikattu (2022), he was not ready to take up such a campus film that demanded a high budget at the time. We might be able to restart it if everything goes well and make the announcement soon.

You also had many issues during the shoot of RDX right? So were you at all personally affected by all that?

Yes, in a way, because it affected the total atmosphere and morale on the sets. To be honest, the first 70 days of our 88 day schedule went very well and everyone had a great time. But towards the last few days there was some miscommunication on set. Suddenly Shane Nigam developed this doubt if his part in the film was being sidelined in some way. He did not want to be a part of ensembles and it was a miscommunication.

A still from RDX
A still from RDX

Even though we were clear from the start that he was the leading man, it was an unfortunate misunderstanding. From the initial pitch itself I wanted to place Anthony Varghese as the emotionally vulnerable component of the film with the whole story unfolding through Robert, the character played by Shane Nigam. We tried to flip their regular casting type in the film by making Shane play the hot-headed guy on the lookout for fights and present Anthony Varghese as a more emotional person. So it felt fresh that way, diverging from type-casting these two actors.

What are their characters in the film?

It's basically a story that takes place in the late 90s about this gang that goes around misusing their karate training, turning into a headache for their master played by Babu Anthony. The film then goes on to show the after effects of their local gang fights after a few years.

I wanted to make an out-and-out action film that followed all the formulas wherein the audience could sit back and enjoy the action in between songs and a good dose of humor and some hopefully emotionally engaging story. 

Thallumaala (2023) gave us a lot of confidence in our material and hope that audiences would like this sort of an action-heavy treatment of films that has been missing in Malayalam cinema for a long time. Though our film is structured in a linear fashion and the story is pretty straightforward. The more serious fight sequences come mostly in the second half of the film.

What about the initial casting?

Since these three main guys are all playing brothers, it is difficult to get the casting right. We had approached Tovino Thomas for the Robert Character and even Pranav Mohanlal was considered at the initial stages of casting. But since they were not available at the time and we had to start production at the earliest, we went ahead with this group since I have been good friends with Anthony Varghese, ever since narrating Aaravam to him. 

How did you end up making such a big film for your directorial debut?

Ever since Aaravam got shelved, I have been trying to get many projects to take off, but nothing has worked out for a variety of reasons. I went back to doing short films in between and did the viral short music video “Oru Color Padam” which helped me get more access in the industry. At that time, Weekend Blockbusters was looking for scripts for a big budget theatrical film that would bring audiences back to the theaters. So, I pitched this idea I had in my notes, which was a dramatised version of my friend’s real-life experience. 

Sophia Paul ma’am, the head of Weekend Blockbusters, greenlit the project and decided to go ahead with RDX. Even though there were talks against me in the industry as my first film got shelved, she believed in my story and stuck with the film till the end.

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