‘No.66 Madhura Bus’ is a family thriller that would appeal to all audiences alike: M A Nishad in ‘Balcony Baatein’
Connoisseurs of good Malayalam cinema are familiar with director M A Nishad for the handful of socially significant films that he has done like ‘Pakal’, ‘Nagaram’ and ‘Vairam’. The director has quite recently wrapped up the shoot of his latest film ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’, that has a unique star cast with actors as Makarand Deshpande and Pasupathy sharing screen space for the first time. Here is M A Nishad in a conversation with Balcony Beats, where he spiritedly talks about the art of film making thereby offering us some fascinating insights into the creation of his sixth film, ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’.
BB: You have got the audience all keyed up with a very unique title for your new film – ‘No.66 Madhura Bus. Quite naturally, we are curious. What is the film all about?
M A Nishad: You could think of ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’ as a road movie. It’s more about a journey that this man called Varadarajan undertakes, and his voyage to Madhura forms the crux of the film. Why was it that he got aboard the ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’? Was there any special reason other than that which meets the eye? The answers to these questions and more would be revealed in the film.
BB: You have managed a casting coup of sorts in ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’, by bringing together two of the best actors in Indian films – Makarand Deshpande and Pasupathy.
M A Nishad: Yes, definitely. We have banked on two of the most brilliant actors on Indian screen, and that’s what makes this film very special. Stars have taken a back seat here, and actors have emerged to the forefront. We also have a host of amazing actors who have repeatedly astounded us with their acting prowess in several films – Thilakan, Swetha Menon, Padmapriya, Jagathy, Jagadeesh and Mallika – coming together for ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’.
M A Nishad: This is a film that gradually unfurls through the point of view of Varadarajan, the protagonist played by Pasupathy. My primary challenge as a director has been to make the viewer undertake a journey along with Varadarajan, aboard the Madhura bus. As the title itself suggests, the bus eventually evolves as a central character in the film as well, and I have tried to explore all the possibilities that a film like this offers me as a film maker.
BB: I still remember the film ‘Vairam’, which I feel is your best as yet, and that stupendous performance that Pasupathy had come up with, in the film. I have always thought that you share a warm relationship with the actor, and now you are working with him again in ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’. How far is my assumption true?
M A Nishad: You are absolutely right! More than an actor-director relationship, we have always been good friends; we have been like brothers rather. It’s almost like we share some sort of a Karmic relationship! (smiles) The rapport that we share is brilliant, and often I find myself thinking of characters that Pasupathy would be appropriate for, while reading a new story or going through a script.
But let me also remind you, that the reason why I approached him for ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’ was because it was drastically different from the role that he had played in ‘Vairam’. While ‘Vairam’ dealt with the agony of a father and his fight for justice, ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’ works on a different plane altogether. In other words Sreenivasan of ‘Vairam’ and Varadarajan of ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’ are distinctly dissimilar to each other, and its only because I felt that Varadarajan would put forward fresh challenges to him as an actor that I decided to offer him this role.
BB: Makarand Deshpande is a name to reckon with, when it comes to Hindi and Marathi films and theatre. How did you convince Makarand to take up this role in a Malayalam film?
M A Nishad: The first time I read about this character called Sanjayan in the script, I knew that it should be Makarand Deshpande who should be playing this role. I still remember having watched him in ‘Swades’ and being all impressed by the awesome performer that he is. It was a friend of mine, Vinil, who introduced me to Makarand. I met up with him at Bangalore, when he asked me if I had a script. I said I did, but added that I wanted to narrate the story to him. Makarand was all excited when he heard the story, and readily agreed to do the film.
BB: But when you cast non-Malayali actors in a Malayalam film, aren’t the challenges before you as a director increasing multifold? Right from the point of delivering dialogues to comprehending the cultural contexts of the film, the actors are bound to experience hurdles. How do you help them deal with all that?
M A Nishad: In ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’ both Makarand and Pasupathy play two characters who are non-Malayalis by birth. Born in some border town just across the state, they are immigrants who have moved to Kerala when they were about fourteen years old. They speak good Malayalam though. That totally justifies my selection of the actors, I guess.
Coming to your question, let me remind you that both of these actors are incredible performers. The kind of effort that they would put in to transform themselves into the characters that they play on screen would literally stun you. These are artistes who have truly risen above the barriers of language or place.
BB: What has been surprising probably is the emphatic female presence in your film – Swetha Menon, Padmapriya, Mallika and Rekha, just to mention a few. Isn’t it a welcome change in an industry, where a majority of the films still remain male oriented?
M A Nishad: I am proud to announce that it’s not just the female presence that matters. I could confidently say that each one of these woman characters has a distinct identity of her own and it’s wonderful that they have been played by accomplished actors as Swetha Menon, Padmapriya, Mallika and Rekha. And what’s more, Jayalalitha, who had bagged much critical acclaim for her film ‘Uppu’ years back, would be staging a strong comeback to films through a character that she essays in ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’. Each one of these women whom you would get to see in this film, serve as icons of their real counterparts in the society.
BB: Social criticism had dominated your first four films until you decided to try a hand at comedy with ‘Best of Luck’. Could we say that you are back on a comfortable turf again with ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’?
M A Nishad: I have always liked films that stand close to real life. Films, I believe, should make a viewer think as much as it should entertain. With ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’, I find myself on a familiar ground again. This is a genre that I am quite at ease with. But just because ‘Best of Luck’ didn’t work out well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I might not direct a comedy ever again.
BB: What went wrong with ‘Best of Luck’?
M A Nishad: Several things went wrong with it, now that I think about. It’s more like a bad dream to me that I’m trying to forget. But I would also admit that it has been a tremendous learning experience. It was because of ‘Best of Luck’ that I decided to focus on the content of my new film even more, and I believe it has helped me evolve as a director. Probably ‘Best of Luck’ is one of the reasons, why I have been able to rebound with a determination.
BB: How do you visualize the altering face of Malayalam cinema? Are things changing for good?
M A Nishad: I would say it’s an absolutely welcome change! Cinema, as any other art form, undoubtedly reflects its age and times. The exaggeration that characterized cinema in the 60’s eventually did give way to a realistic movement that was brought in by veteran film makers as Bharathan, K G George and Padmarajan. Time went on, and we also passed through a phase that saw films that questioned the basic intelligence of the viewers ruling the roost. And it was then that a new generation of film makers entered the scene, who brought in a cinema culture that was outstandingly refreshing. I’d like to specifically appreciate director Ranjith in this regard, and for serious film lovers like you and me, things certainly seem to be looking up.
BB: You have been a person who has maintained a clear-cut political outlook in your real life. How much of your political ideologies have been reflected in your films?
M A Nishad: None! Let me tell you, that I have successfully managed to keep my films away from my personal political view points. I have never tried to mix up my films with my political beliefs, since I believe a film maker should be beyond all that. My first and foremost priority has always been films, and it will remain so.
BB: How has your transformation been from film producer to film director?
M A Nishad: I had completed my engineering and was roaming around with an ardent desire to become a film director. I turned producer with the film ‘Oral Maathram’, with the intention of grasping the technical know-how behind the making of a film. It was after producing a few more films that I finally made my debut as a director with ‘Pakal, the first Indian film to have dealt with the farmer suicides in the country. I still hold ‘Pakal’ close to my heart.
BB: What are your future projects going to be?
M A Nishad: After ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’, I would be making a satirical film with Thilakan in the lead, that has been titled ‘Gandhi Square’. Further details regarding the film would be formally announced soon.
BB: And what’s your final word on ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’?
M A Nishad: I’m sure people who love good films wouldn’t be disappointed on seeing ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’. It’s a family thriller that the masses and the classes could easily connect with. In short, I don’t want film aficionados to miss this bus!
BB: All the very best for ‘No.66 Madhura Bus’! It was such a pleasure talking to you!
M A Nishad: Thank You!
Tags: M A Nishad, No.66 Madhura Bus