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‘Aadujeevitham-The Goat Life shows what patience backed by a huge effort can deliver’: Director Blessy

Aadujeevitham is the latest Malayalam movie earning kudos from around the world. Director Blessy tells us more about bringing the film to life.

Malayalam movie director Blessy is the man of the moment in the industry after the release of his film Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life) last week. The movie, a desert survival drama, has been in the works for many years and opened to great expectations to audiences the world over. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Blessy shared some insights into the making of Aadujeevitham.
Blessy shared some insights into the making of Aadujeevitham.

As an assistant director you waited for 18 years to make your first movie Kaazhcha which had Mammootty in the lead. Then you waited for 11 years to make your latest movie Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life), after your last directorial venture Kalimannu in 2013. This is incredible. How are you able to stagger your releases and wait so patiently when everyone around you looks to immerse themselves in as many projects as possible?

Patience backed by a huge effort can give big results and Aadujeevitham is an example of that. In my life I have always waited to do the right things. Movie making isn’t a job for me. I was in my 5th or 6th grade when I told my mother that I want to become a film maker. So, there’s a long journey behind all this. I do not see waiting as a period of loss. In the first nine years of my 20-year-stint as a director I did seven movies. The digital revolution followed that period and many possibilities opened up. The theatrical experience is another level now.

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Yes, after the release of Aaadujeevitham I do feel that I should try to make more movies as there are only so many years left in my career. There are many stories that I would like to portray on screen, but I haven’t committed myself to any other venture yet.

How did you zero in on Prithviraj to convey the role of Najeeb in Aadujeevitham? You had so many options but decided to pick Prithvi. Can you explain the thought process behind it?

I had discussed the role with actors like Vikram and Surya. They had done roles that required physical transformations in the past. The role required someone who could commit a lot of time to the project and would be comfortable doing the body transformation again. That’s how I zeroed in on Prithviraj.

He was willing to completely surrender himself to this role. He knew that the role demanded a high amount of dedication. Also, Prithvi is a very intelligent actor and this character demanded that high degree of intelligence.

Prithviraj Sukumaran in The Goat Life.

The only problem is that Prithvi is a highly confident person in real life and he carries that in his eyes. For Najeeb, he had to adapt. I wanted him to show fear in his eyes and look very vulnerable. Also, I had confidence in myself and my abilities.

A similar situation had happened with Kaazhcha when director Jairaj suggested Mammootty in the lead role. Many people were not convinced about Mammootty in that kind of a vulnerable role but we all know how memorably he did that character.

The movie Aadujeevitham is adapted from Malayalam author Benyamin’s book with the same name. The challenge in such a situation is often deciding what to keep and what to chop. How did you go about that process?

That’s right. We had to do a lot of homework before the shoot as the book is very well known and read by so many. As a team we made a thesis around the subject. It was like a proper study of it. There are portions we have elaborated like the relationship between Sainu and Najeeb. Some of the other portions we have tried to curtail. Like always I have tried to portray a certain sense of smell and taste into the scenes, just like I have done in my other movies like Thanmatra (starring Mohanlal).

At this point I would like to clarify that we never shot the intimate scene with the goat, which was part of the book. It was never included in the movie because we didn’t want the continuity of emotions to get affected. There have been reports that the Censor Board had cut the scene out but that was not the case.

When you were writing the screenplay of Aadujeevitham what was the central theme you had in mind?

As we all know it’s all about Najeeb’s survival in the desert but that’s not the only thing I wanted to communicate as a director. Life is a continuous battle. All of us have to fight difficulties in various points of our lives. What keeps us all going are our hopes and dreams. One has to die living.

A still from Aadujeevitham.

You have been a Lifesciences student who graduated in Zoology and many of your movies talk about physical and psychological transformations. Are you conscious of this?

It’s not that I bring these elements in deliberately. But since I understand life sciences, I’m aware of the subtleties of the body. I’m conscious of my breathing, for instance. I realise life and death are separated by just one breath. I can become professorial in my philosophical interpretations, like I’ve done in my movie Pranayam. My movies have a sense of social commitment and why not.

You have had a very rough time initially in the movie industry while trying to find a foothold. Later, you had the opportunity to work alongside legendary film makers like Padmarajan, Bharathan and Lohithadas. Considering that you have not lost any of your passion for movie making even after all these years, would you like to attribute some of that to the engagement you have had with some of those legends?

During my many years of struggle, there were numerous occasions when things got really tough. Finally, I decided that if I do not get to become an assistant director by December 1986, I would give up. Luckily, I became an assistant director within that time frame and even got to assist director Padmarajan in the iconic movie Namukku Parkkan Munthirithoppukal.

I have learned a lot from him and other amazing film makers of the ‘80s. I carry that spirit along and my passion for the art hasn’t dimmed. I can see that passion in many other Malayalam directors of the new generation as well.