Interview: Bramayugam director Rahul Sadavisan opens up on directing Mammootty - Hindustan Times

Mammootty's experimental choices give us confidence to do something different, says Bramayugam director Rahul Sadavisan

Feb 27, 2024 12:54 PM IST

In an exclusive interview, the Bhoothakaalam director talks about Bramayugam, Mammootty, and why it took him a decade to get his second break.

A film in monochrome in today’s times? And a commercially successful one to boot? Yes! Director Rahul Sadasivan has achieved this feat with his latest film, Bramayugam (The Age of Madness), starring 72-year-old Malayalam superstar Mammootty aka Mammukka. The movie has grossed more than 50 crore worldwide already and is continuing its golden run in theatres. (Also Read – Bramayugam X reviews: Mammootty gives a standout performance)

Mammootty in a still from Brahmayugam
Mammootty in a still from Brahmayugam

As the London Film Academy graduate talks about his film, which is being touted as a cinematic experience rather than just a movie, you can see that the filmmaker is passionate about cinema and what he wants to achieve on screen. In this chat with Hindustan Times, Rahul Sadasivan says he’s overwhelmed with the response to Bramayugam, but says he could have done an even better job of the film now! The Bhoothakaalam director talks about Bramayugam, Mammootty, and why it took him a decade to get his second break.

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Firstly, why did you choose to do a film in monochrome?

I couldn’t see this film in any other format. When I had this idea, I felt that when I’m telling a period story and a horror one, it had to be black-and-white. I couldn’t have colour in this. Right from the beginning, I had this mind. When I pitched this idea to my HODs (heads of departments) and Mammootty sir, it was a monochrome film. My excitement was to shoot a black-and-white film.

Was this influenced by certain filmmakers or filmmaking styles?

Many! I am a huge fan of (Akira) Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray, Spielberg and others. For me, the story has to be important – the format shouldn’t be. These are times when technology and the colour format are so advanced to portray a film on a wider canvas, but I wanted to break that and say that content is important – you’ll forget the format once you are immersed in the film, and that’s exactly what happened. When you start watching Bramayugam, you’ll forget in the first five minutes itself that you are watching a black-and-white film. That’s because you’re hooked onto the story. I knew that it would happen and it has been well accepted by the audience. I’m very happy about that.

You’ve said that you only wanted Mammootty for the role of Koduman Potty. Why is that so?

I think Mammukka has acted in around 420 films now. It was always a dream to do a film with him and I was thinking about how I can make a different kind of film with him. How do I excite the audience with just one poster (launched on his birthday)? We know Mammootty sir is very glamorous, has got good features and looks young. I wanted to break that look and perception and be different from the other films. So how do I make him look like an old man? In Bramayugam, Koduman Potty looks and behaves a certain way. When I visualised it, only Mammootty sir could do this role. I wrote this character for him, never had a second thought.

A superstar like Mammootty, in any other film industry, would not make the kind of film choices he has in recent times (he played a gay man in Kaathal: The Core for instance). Do you think Malayalam films are far ahead of the rest of the film industries?

If you look at Mammootty sir’s filmography, he’s not been doing these experimental roles recently – he’s always been doing them. So, it’s not surprising for the Malayalam audience as we know Mammukka gives an opportunity to new concepts, new writers and directors. We all know that. That’s what gives us confidence to write something different and go and pitch to him.

If you look at his films of the ‘80s and ’90s, there are many experimental films he has done. I am sure Mammukka would say the same thing.

Now, the media is more prevalent and this generation has started to notice, and content is available everywhere for them. Mammukka was very excited during filming and he was happy with the film (smiles).

But a superstar from Tamil or Telugu cinema would have never done this role. Right?

Never (smiles)! Malayalam cinema gives us the creative liberty to explore new ideas. Though our industry is small, we are trying to come up with new ideas. Everyone is looking to Malayalam films now. There was a time when great filmmakers like Adoor Golapakrishnan or (AK) Lohithadas did these kinds of films and they were noticed then. Then we shifted to comedies and mass masala films, trying to copy other film industries. But now, there is a shift back to content-driven subjects. I’m truly blessed to be a part of this industry and it gives me more confidence that if I tell a story, there is an audience for it. And India is looking at what the Malayalam industry is doing. We want to try and push our boundaries and get other language audiences to look at our cinema as well. But there are limitations as it is a small industry.

Bhoothakaalam, and now Bramayugam. Is the horror thriller genre your favourite?

I love horror films (laughs). I’m a huge fan of M Night Shyamalan, Alfred Hitchcock, Ari Aster, Robert Eggers. I have stories and concepts in other genres also. Guess this was on my mind now. My first film, Red Rain (2013), was a sci-fi film. I have to thank my producers for Bramayugam because it was a very risky attempt. It’s hard to find producers who can support my vision and say go ahead with a black-and-white film. Sashikanth and Chakravarthy Ramachandra of YNot Studios have been very supportive.

The sound (Christo Xavier) and cinematography (Shehnad Jalal) in Bramayugam took it to another level. How much time and effort did you spend on this?

I took around one-and-a-half years, which included pre-production, storyboarding and writing. My scripts are very descriptive – I even have a sound script. So it’s easy for the other HODs to understand this. Trying to get the best people to execute this is very important. I worked with the same editor and DOP as my previous film. Getting everyone on the same page happens with extensive discussions.

You made your debut with Red Rain in 2013 and it took you nearly a decade for your second film to happen. What was the reason behind the delay?

Red Rain happened right after I graduated from the London Film Academy. I was very new to the Malayalam film industry and I didn’t understand the pulse of the audience. I wanted to show everyone that I could make a film, but that failed in a very spectacular way (laughs). Even though I had some good ideas, people were not ready to invest in a film because of the failure of Red Rain. Red Rain taught me how not to make a film. I am a self-taught filmmaker and I took a lot of time to correct myself and bounce back with Bhoothakaalam.

What’s next for you now?

I have a lot of ideas. I was just waiting to see how the audience would receive the Bramayugam experience. This has given me confidence to push the limits and explore other ideas. Now, I have to sit and write (laughs).

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