She sent me a message one morning, “Peramma, please pray. I’m going for an audition.” “Did your parents allow?” was my first question. “Yes, they don’t think I’ll get through,” she laughed. The next action was in reflex, dialing my sister, “Di, you did allow her?” ” She’s always wanted to be in movies, she says. Let’s see. Will decide if she gets through.”
The uncertainty continued till the last round. The debutant director had spoken to the brother in law by then. What turned it around was the other kids and their parents. Educated, from similar families. And what clinched it finally was a name – Vineeth Sreenivasan. He is the brand Tata of Malayalam film industry – trusted, ethical. The sacking of the Chairman and the controversies came later, Vineeth is anyway a brand by himself now – for his groundedness, quality and turning the ones around him into their own brands. If he has put his faith in this new guy, he has to be good, the movie had to be good, was the thought. ” Vineeth alle producer? Onnum kaanaathe cheyyumo? Athum his first venture into production,” was the general concensus.
As the kids got together and the schedule started, it was as if I was seeing a brand new version of my sister and her husband. They are the most down to earth, graceful people you would ever meet. True spiritual beings and I don’t mean it in a religious manner. The spirit of their land has infused into their souls – gentle, true, one with the nature. Their home is a haven for tired souls and bodies. Never would I have imagined they would embrace their daughter’s wild dream so whole heartedly. There were other skeptics in the family, many of them asked ” did they really allow her?” Yes, there were moments of angst, even anger. At the end of it all, they stood by her, trusted her enough to travel alone with the group, visiting her now and then. And to ignore the words of some nay sayers.
The kids came to life for us as the shoot progressed, we met a few of them in Goa. Roshan (Gautam), who has been tirelessly following his dreams, dropping out of engineering and then a course in Physics, if I remember right. He had moved onto Mumbai, on the way to becoming a successful theater artist. Yes, he had acted in two movies by then, I’d watched both and for the life of me couldn’t remember this guy. Soochimon, you will not be forgotten anytime soon, that’s for sure. Visakh (the delightful Kuppi), the one who actually held the movie from beginning to end – a mechanical engineer who had quit his job in Chennai for the movie – was a theater artist as well. Arun (Varun) my favorite, of course after the niece. His sensitive nature reflects in his eyes, so vulnerable and he doesn’t even attempt to hide it. The boy wears his heart on his sleeves. Destiny, it was for him. He was auditioned three times, apparently. Anarkkali (Darshana) the silent beauty in the movie. Her eyes speak thousand words, in poetry. In her second year of graduation, she is very clear about where her future lies. Thomas (Akshath), the quintessential cute boy next door. Innocence coupled with unstoppable energy, again doing his graduation. Siddi (Dia), the live wire in the movie, as in life. And my niece, Annu (Devika aka Tattoo mol). First one in her generation from our side of the family, naturally our special one. I knew she wanted to be on stage, but that movies was her dream was news to me. And the director, Ganesh. He has been honing this story and script for more than three years! Along with him a slew of other debutants as well, including the musician Sachin Warrier who has added that fresh bout of liveliness and soothing melodies to the movie.
That we would watch the premiere along with her was a given. That’s when the other side , or should I say the real nature of these kids came to light. As with every generation, the elders tend to feel and say, “this generation, they neither love nor respect their elders.” And as with every generation, the kids prove the naysayers wrong. The collective excitement and anxiety was palpable. They had seen the movie, but the audience was limited to them. How would everyone react, especially their parents? Annu was even more tense, how would her amma react to the ‘scenes?’ She refused to sit next to her mother. The mother was very clear, though. “It’s a movie, isn’t it? You were acting, right?” Wise woman, my sister is.
All of them, without a single exception had decided to watch the first day first show with their parents. Rooting for each other, hooting and howling as each scene unfolded, it was an experience of lifetime for me. The camaraderie was unbelievable. They had become friends and supporters for life. The seeds do not fall far from the tree you realize. As we met parent after parent, it was not very hard to see where the kids had inherited their values and nature from. Hats off to the parents who dared to dream and believe, along with their children. They are as much, if not more a part of this success as their children are.
As the movie came to an end, all the faces wore huge grins of success and relief. They had arrived, as individuals and as a group. ‘Team Aanadam,’ the brand was made. And it is here to stay. Three weeks hence, the movie is a roaring success. And it has just been released in the rest of India and soon to be in other parts of the world as well. As the team continues their journey, inspiring kids in colleges across Kerala, the collective euphoria is palpable. What this team has done is far more than make a movie. They have set fire to the hopes and imaginations of thousands of kids like them. Our nine old daughter said it best, “Now I really know dreams do come true. You just have to believe. Annu chechi’s did.”
We now talk of these kids as part of our family. It is Lal Jose’s words that come to mind while wishing them well. The team was officially introduced during the 100th day celebrations of ‘Jacobinte Swargaraajyam’ The entire group struggled for words, they were greenhorns, literally. And Lal Jose wished them, “may this stage fright never leave you, even as you become established actors and super stars.” That’s what I would wish for them as well.
Success, happiness, more dreams come true! While at that, may you remain grounded, always connected to your family and friends!
p.s. for those of you who ask how the movie was, who watched it? I had eyes only for my niece 🙂
* Ini Aanandame -only happiness, henceforth