In Conversation with Malayalam Filmmaker Salim Ahamed: On working with Mammootty, his latest hit Pathemari and More

Salim Ahamed shot to fame with his multiple National Award winning Malayalam film, Adaminte Makan Abu. He has since then gone on to make Kunjananthante Kada and Pathemari, both featuring Mammootty in the lead. Here in an exclusive interview with MAM he talks about his films, working with Mammootty etc.

Salim Ahamed 3How do you usually choose the subjects for your films? Wasn’t Adaminte Makan Abu inspired by a real life incident? What about the other 2 films?

Yes Adaminte Makan Abu was inspired by a real life incident while Kunjananthante Kada is in a way based on my experience, that of running a shop. In case of Pathemari it is a tale that I’ve grown up listening to. I prefer choosing subjects that I come across in various ways, subjects that have influenced me and appeal to me.

Is it a style that you intend to follow for your future films as well?

Not really, nothing is pre-planned. It all depends on the occasion and the kind of film.

You’ve worked with Mammootty in 2 successive films, how easy or difficult was it to work with him considering you were only one film old (after Adaminte Makan Abu)?

As long as the subject is interesting it is quite possible to get popular people to accept your film. Unlike other industries here in Malayalam the popular actors including a superstar like Mammootty would always want to do at least 2 quality films every year (apart from the rest). Hence I have had a good experience working with Mammootty.

How do you go about casting for your films?

I have a specific caricature for a character in mind and thus go with whoever best suits the same, can perform the best.

While you have worked with the same DOP (Madhu Ambat) & editor (Vijay Shankar), in terms of music you have worked with different people, why is that?

Well for my first 2 films I worked with Isaac Thomas Kottukapally but he isn’t someone who does too many films and is quite choosy. Hence I went in for Bijibal in case of Pathemari as I have always liked his work and have always wanted to work with him.

Do you go in for storyboarding for your films?

I have done storyboarding for Pathemari.

Considering the kind of critical success that Adaminte Makan Abu received, were you disappointed by the not so great response for Kunjananthante Kada?

Well one cannot compare all films equally, each film is quite different. Personally I am very satisfied with Kunjananthante Kada, from a social viewpoint it is my favourite film of the 3 that I have made.

Is there anything that you would have loved to change about Kunjananthante Kada or are you satisfied?

No I am quite satisfied with the final output. Also the film was successful commercially.

What according to you is the USP of Pathemari? Why has it struck such a chord among viewers?

I think it’s to do with the subject, probably only a small section of the audience can relate to a Adaminte Makan Abu or Kunjananthante Kada. But in case of Pathemari a lot more people can identify with it, the tale of a Gulf Malayali has a wider appeal I feel.

Was there any particular reason to choose a non-linear style of narration for Pathemari?

No particular reason basically I go by what would be the best way to present a story, which in this case I felt would be a non-linear style.

Pathemari PosterDo you think that compared to your first film you are now finding it easier now to have your films released? If yes how have you managed this successfully?

Well yes commercial success does help and thanks to Pathemari I am sure I will find it easier with my next film. But I am making the kind of films I have always wanted to make, not making it with any commercial objective separately.

Pathemari is the 2nd Malayalam film to be released by Eros International (after Life of Josutty), how did this deal happen considering they are more known for backing regular commercial films?

They happened to see the film in Mumbai once it was ready and liked it, so they came on board.

Is there anything that you would have wanted to change in Pathemari?

Well given the budget constraints I think I have managed to do whatever best was possible, perhaps if I had a bigger budget it could have visually looked a little more polished and grand.

How did you manage to show the transition between time lines over 50 years so well in Pathemari?

Well the use of specific hues and lighting, also the choice of shots (close vs long at specific points) helped quite a bit. Actually we used 4 different places to show the same place, the house of Pallikkal Narayanan (Mammootty) in the film, but despite being different they conveyed an image of the same place undergoing transition quite well.

What do you feel about the recent Malayalam films as there have been quite a few films which are doing well, some of them not really being out & out commercial?

Well we should stop under estimating the audience, saying they are only keen to watch a certain kind of film. Give them a good film to watch and they will appreciate it, films like a Pathemari or Ennu Ninte Moideen are examples of this.

What next after Pathemari? What kind of films would you want to make now that you have a genuine hit?

All my 3 films so far are different from each other and I would continue following the same way of making films. As for my next film I have a few concepts in mind, but haven’t frozen upon one among them yet. Once I do so I will be getting into the scripting stage.

Any producers locked up for your next film?

After Pathemari 4-5 producers have evinced interest in working with me, but let me finish my script first and then go to them.

How do you write your screenplays? Do you involve others during the writing process?

Till the first draft is ready I do not involve anyone, post which I do discuss with a few select people and even take inputs if necessary.

Salim AhamedIs there any particular actor that you would love to work with?

One thing unique about the Malayalam film industry is that all the stars/superstars are also good actors; hence I’m keen to work with all of them.

What would be your advice for aspiring screen writers and filmmakers?

Well today the market of Malayalam films is expanding, films like Drishyam and Premam have shown that the business of Malayalam films can be a lot more. At the same time there are quality films which are also doing well. So keep these things in mind while setting out to work in the industry.

Any particular learning that you have gained from your 3 films?

Focus only on your film while making it, concentrate 100% on making a good film, not on how much business it would do, awards it will receive etc. All that would happen much later first make a good film.

How has the journey of being on the film festival circuit been?

It has been quite good; with Adaminte Makan Abu thanks to the National Awards it got recognized and thus started getting accepted at many festivals, winning plenty of awards as well. Perhaps after Piravi it is the only Malayalam film of late to have done so well in the festival circuit.

It was wonderful talking to you Salim, we at MAM wish you all the very best for your next film.

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