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The architect behind Kerala Cafe

November 03, 2009 14:03 IST

Ranjith in a scene from GulmoharWith Kerala Cafe finding acceptance from the classes and the masses alike, Ranjith, the man who conceived the idea can heave a sigh of relief.

Kerala Cafe has ten films from ten directors with a common theme -- that of a journey.

Ranjith himself has been busy with the making of Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Kadha in between, with Mammootty playing a double role in it.

The writer-director spoke exclusively to about Kerala Cafe and more.

How did the concept of Kerala Cafe originate?

The appreciation that I received for my films like Kaiyoppu and Thirakkadha made me think about doing something different in Malayalam. We have been complaining about the same kind of films happening in a particular format and this concept seemed quite interesting. Of course, there have been films like Paris Je t'aime in the past, but here we had a common theme that binds the ten stories together. What I didn't know then was that Kerala Cafe would be such a star-studded project of this scale.

The next task was to select the ten directors. We aimed for a balance by picking directors from the commercial circuit, the so-called art house directors, young talents and so on. The best thing was that all who were involved in this project worked together without any ego hassles. The result is there to be seen on the screen.

You have one common theme, yatra or journey, in the film. How did come up with this theme?

Actually, it was the storyline for one full-length cinema. It was a one line story idea, with different people sitting inside a cafeteria and a railway station. Most of them may be going to the same destination, but they don't know each other. They come from different surroundings, situations and have various targets. Then we decided to focus on ten stories. The viewers are aware about the whereabouts of each of them but not the characters.

A scene from Lalitham HiranmayamWhat difference does it make while narrating the stories in a short film format?

Now, this was the challenge that I put forward to the ten directors. That they could do it is perhaps was the biggest achievement.

Why did you opt out of directing in Kerala Cafe?

I decided play the anchor so as to motivate the ten directors. My excitement was in producing it and I feel that a producer needs to be involved closely with his projects. The difference perhaps, was that just like the viewers, I knew about the various characters at the cafe while each of the ten directors was aware only about their own stories and the characters in them.

A concept like Kerala Cafe could be easy on paper but how was the process like?

I didn't behave like a stranger with a bag full of money while the films were being made. As I told you before, my job was to motivate them. The thing is that they didn't need me to get themselves motivated, as they were all so involved themselves. They were entrusted with the production aspects and I kept track of the developments.

A scene from Puran KazhchakalAre you happy with the response to the film?

Kerala Cafe premiered at the Middle East International Film festival in Abu Dhabi. The response from the audience there, which included international filmmakers, writers and the NRIs, was just overwhelming. I am really happy with the response to the film after it was released (on October 29) in Kerala and hope that it will continue to be encouraging in the days to come as well.

What attracted you to Paleri Manikyam, the film that you are directing now?

Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Kadha has a visual language that attracts a filmmaker. It's a challenging work with some of the events happening 50 years ago and the rest, contemporary. It was tough to find the locations. We trained fresh actors through workshops. It was a wonderful experience.

Meghna George in Kochi