‘To get so much love from all over India…’

Manjummel Boys is way beyond my control now.’

Manjummel Boys Director Chidambaram S Poduval can’t believe what has happened to his sophomore film.

“I am not used to this. I am getting a lot of calls and messages. A lot of interview requests. It is all happening too fast. I am a bit dazed now,” he tells Subhash K Jha.

Manjummel Boys has surpassed all my expectations.

“We tried to make a good film, but did not expect such an impact. We knew we had a good product, but to get so much love from all over India irrespective of the language they speak… It is a big achievement for the Malayalam film industry. I am thankful to all the people who invested their time and money into watching the film and who also told others to watch it.”

IMAGE: Chidambaram is grateful to Kamal Haasan for the climax of Manjummel Boys. Photograph: Kind courtesy Chidambaram/Instagram

Even though Manjummel Boys has done so well at the box office, Chidambaram is not dazzled by the collection figures.

“Numbers are important as long as they encourage film-makers to make bigger larger and more daring content.

“I don’t run after numbers. More than the box office numbers, I value the love that is coming from every Indian state. I didn’t expect it to go this far. Outside Kerala, it has connected the best with Tamil audiences for Kamal Haasan’s Guna and Ilaiyaraja’s classic song Kanmani Anbodu Kathalan. It is also strong in the North India Hindi belt. All this is truly humbling.”

“Soon after I made my first film Jan-E-Mann, my producer Shawn Antony told me about the incident,” Chidambaram recalls.

“He told me a one-liner and I was really interested. We went to see the real Manjummel boys, sat with them and chatted with them. We were convinced that this story must be told to the world. We started work on Manjummel Boys as soon as I finished my first film.”

The film’s cast looks new, but the director clarifies, “Only three of them are newcomers. The rest are known actors. They have done work in Malayalam cinema. They were all natural before the camera. They were my friends and really stood behind me during this tough shooting. This film was really hard to shoot, both physically and emotionally.”

The real Manjummel boys were a part of the film-making process.

“They were an integral part of the writing process. As soon as I met them, I started a conversation with each of them individually, got them to narrate their experience on the day when the incident happened. This gave me the blueprint for the script. All the actors corresponded with the real Manjummel boys whenever they had a question. The real boys were always in the loop.”

Chidambaram reveals the film was shot in the actual cave as well as a secure environment.

“We shot in the real Guna caves. Subhash (the character who falls in the abyss)’s dream, where he comes out naked from the abyss, was the real Guna cave. The rest of the cave sequences were shot in studio as there were too many practical problems like heavy rains. The actual cave is very dangerous so we had to build the abyss on the studio set.”