Anand Ekarshi was born with a flair for drama. He loved to act and perform, and found his stage in the world of theatre. He grew up in Kochi, a city of culture and charm, with supportive parents that lead him to the arts. He joined a theatre group called Lokadharmi, where he honed his skills and travelled across the country. Anand was content with his life, until one day, he attended a film camp at his school. There, he met Praful Gopinath, a filmmaker who opened his eyes to the magic of cinema. He taught him how to direct a short film, and how to watch films with a critical eye. He introduced him to the works of great directors from around the world, and inspired him to pursue his his own vision. Anand was hooked. He started to assist Praful in his projects, and learned the ropes of filmmaking. He also studied Communicative English and Psychology, which gave him an edge in understanding human nature and communication. He followed the advice of his Guru Ajith Basu, who told him that psychology would help him stand out in a world of pretense and transactions. Anand’s journey is a story of passion, discovery and growth. We're in conversation with him about his debut film, Aattam, which also revolves around a theatre group.
What inspired the story of your debut film, Aattam?
Aattam just happened! It came from nowhere. I was already midway writing something completely different when a small one day trip with the actors of Lokadharmi happened. During that night it was Vinay Forrt and Girish Menon who came up with this whole thought of why don't we do some sort of a film with the dozen of theatre actors we already have. Vinay Forrt being someone who was already so established in Malayalam cinema is one gracious human being who is well aware and compassionate to his roots and people, which made him what he is. It was covid times and he asked me whether I could write and direct something for them and that he would give in all his support. That was a tremendous jumpstart and Aattam being a collective dream began to roll and things happened so fast that in an year and half from then we had a completed film. The best part was that we got an amazing producer, Dr. Ajith Joy, who was well informed and believed in the movie as much as we did.
The story of Aattam was build around the cast or for the cast. I had eleven men that I had to include. The idea that came up was about exploring the dynamics and psychology of a collective or a group versus that of an individual. I wondered whether a group can ever pursue truth and justice or is that pursuit only possible through an individual. The story was developed from this idea.
What’s your creative process?
Writing is more of a chaotic process than a creative one. You write on paper, you write on ipad, you type in, you dictate, you record, you write in the early mornings, you shift to late nights, you are inspired on Monday, you have a writers' block on Thursday, you want some therapy on Friday and you want to give up on Sunday but that Monday always comes back and the writing goes on. Aattam is a dialogue intensive chamber drama and is so dependant on fine performances; we spent 35 days on scene rehearsals before the shoot and 7 days even at the location. The rehearsals really helped the actors transition themselves from theatre acting to film acting. They had learned their lines so well that it had gone to their subconscious and they naturally moved to the nuances and the emotional layers of acting more than the mere craft of delivering a good dialogue.
Any directorial conundrums that came in the way since it was your debut production?
On set every day is a challenge. I guess 15 years of theatre acting really helped me in terms of putting on the pretense and walking around like somebody who knew it all! We were shooting in sync sound and the location was a calm and serene one until the shoot started. The corporation road works began from nowhere. The rains started to pour in and it was still summer. I think it's mandatory from the eyes of the universe that film shooting shouldn't be easy. You have to maneuver through those challenges no matter what and we have to end up getting what we had set forth to. Everyday, there are moments to put your foot down and insist, moments to negotiate, moments to improvise and moments to accept the fate and move on.
What kind of stories do you see yourself gravitate towards?
I don't know clearly. I just hope I gravitate towards more and more compelling stories that stays with the viewer for a long time and something that they would comeback to watch it again and again. Human mind and behaviour, and mystery is something that is a part of me that I guess will reflect in the stories I pursue.
Lastly, what are you working on next?
I am still figuring out what exactly is romance and love between people. I am slipping myself, wanting to go deep into it. The next is a love story.
Words Hansika Lohani