Debutant Filmmaker Anand Ekarshi’s ‘Aattam’ Gains Acclaim

Interestingly, all the actors except Zarin Shihab and Kalabhavan Shajohn are from the Kochi-based theatre group — Lokadharmi, which he joined at the age of 16…writes Sukant Deepak

It cannot get better for debutant filmmaker Anand Ekarshi. Even as his film ‘Aattam’ (‘The Play’) will have its Asia premiere at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival after receiving the top honour at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, and is all set to open the Indian Panorama segment of International Film Festival of India in Goa this month, he is glad the audiences and critics are appreciating the exploration of the human psyche.

“I just did not want the film to be preachy. It is paramount that art precipitates a dialogue and does not give ‘answers’. It was important for me to take a very subtle route, a very human approach,” he tells.

‘Aattam’ revolves around a theatre group with a lone woman member who faces sexual abuse and how the group reacts and the changes in the reaction as the movie progresses. Traversing greys, nothing is in black and white, there are no perfect or imperfect characters. The movie questions — what happens to justice in the face of personal benefit.

He stresses that while he has immense respect for independent filmmakers, his movie has proper backing. “I just do not have the guts to take the independent film route.” 

While the film does not really have anything to do with the #MeToo movement, the director adds, “However, as the script progressed, I could see the connection.”

Interestingly, all the actors except Zarin Shihab and Kalabhavan Shajohn are from the Kochi-based theatre group — Lokadharmi, which he joined at the age of 16. 

While the whole experience of working with them was quite personal as they had trained him for years, the roles reversed as he took over the director’s chair. “It was quite personal because you have been part of it for so long and they have trained me in acting. The reverse dynamics and shifting of roles were extremely interesting. Considering the film revolved around a theatre group, it made all the sense to work with people I knew well. And yes, the theatre actors were not given fictitious names in the movie.”

It was on the suggestion of actor Vinay Forrt that the film was written in which the theatre actors could be cast. “Vinay, a well-known actor in the Malayalam film industry was also part of the same theatre group, and wanted to give back.”

Believing that good films from different regions are coming in equal proportion, he stresses that the lack of huge budgets with filmmakers in Kerala makes them focus on excellent content. “It has to be really good so that our movies can come on the radar,” says the director who has no formal training in filmmaking.

While crediting digital platforms for breaking barriers and making cinema from all over accessible, he admits that many independent filmmakers who make cinema thinking that these platforms will buy them are disappointed. “At the end of the day, they are corporate structures and are looking for big films and bigger stars. Sadly, independent filmmakers are not in a good space and are struggling hard,” says Ekarshi who is already writing his next movie — a love story.

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