Ganesh Raj is not a bundle of nerves. The engineer-turned filmmaker, who is making his debut as a director with ‘Aanandam’, is concentrating on finishing the post-production of his film on time. “Anything that requires you to follow your heart is a difficult thing to do,” says Ganesh Raj as we begin our conversation.
Aanandam, which is written by Ganesh himself, has a bunch of new comers and the movie talks about college life. The multi-talented actor and director Vineeth Sreenivasan is producing Aanandam, under the banner ‘Habit of Life.
Ganesh, who has worked as assistant director in movies like Thatathin Marayathu, Thira, Bangalore Days and Jacobinte Swargarajyam, talks about Anandam, his dreams and more.
Excerpts from the interview
Your dream project Aanandam is set to release soon. You must be excited and tense – all at the same time. What’s your feeling at the moment?
I’m very excited. I cannot wait to show the world what we have been cooking up. It’s been quite an exhilarating feeling in this last month of post-production. It’s such a rush and high. I really don’t have the time to stop and think, it’s always work, work, and work. But that’s good; constant work is a welcome distraction from all the tension and excitement. It keeps me focused.
How did the concept for Anandam emerge?
There was this unknown little film called Take Me Home Tonight, which told a high school romance over one night. I found the concept very intriguing. Moreover, travel and coming of age are two of my favourite genres. So when I started searching for such a plot, a college tour proved to be the most exciting since it had everything I was looking for – travel, coming of age, and short time span. I didn’t think twice.
The trailer has created a buzz; a lot of people are looking forward.
Yes, we are thrilled with the reception so far. People have been very kind to the film and to our new actors. We are getting a lot of messages saying people are looking forward to it. So that’s always a positive sign. Hopefully things will keep getting better.
How did your tryst with filmmaking happen?
I used to make short films in college. I send those to Vineeth on Facebook. He liked what he saw and that’s how I became his assistant. It was a very fortunate series of events.
Vineeth keeps a tab of everything that’s happening and makes sure to push us along when we are slacking a bit. In essence he is more of a mentor and big brother to us than a producer. I turn to him whenever I need advice.
You come from ‘Vineeth’s School of Media Studies’. We all know that he is a brilliant filmmaker. But how was it like working with the producer — Vineeth Sreenivasan?
He is as chilled out a producer as you can expect. He do not interfere in anything. Even when I was writing, he never pointed out my mistakes, but made me figure it out by myself which I believe has made me such a better writer than I was before. He rarely visits the shooting set and even when he does, he doesn’t come to watch the shoot much. He gave me the freedom to choose everything, from cast and crew to the locations. No interference whatsoever. But he keeps a tab of everything that’s happening and makes sure to push us along when we are slacking a bit. In essence he is more of a mentor and big brother to us than a producer. I turn to him whenever I need advice.
I have heard you re-wrote the draft many times before Vineeth finally agreed to produce Aanandam. Is it true?
Yes. I finished the first draft in June 2014. He didn’t like it. That was a terrible time for me. I was lost for a while and didn’t know what to do. But I went back to the white board and started fresh. I wrote four more drafts before showing Vineeth again. Fortunately he liked the fifth draft. And that was precisely after a year. Since then I have rewritten it around five more times before shoot. I didn’t know he wanted to produce until after the 10th draft. That was after Jacobinte Swargarajyam. I used to narrate the script to him before to just get his feedback. To be honest, being his student, I never had the courage to ask him to produce. So when he offered to do it, it just made me the happiest person in the world.
You assisted Vineeth and Anjali Menon. Has that experience helped you while shooting Aanandam?
Absolutely. They are both very different types of filmmakers who want to say the same kind of story. They both like to keep things rooted and real and stay true to emotions more than anything but their styles are completely different. So seeing two different approaches to the same genres was quite a learning experience. I just hope I have learned enough from them.
I remember waiting for weeks to write the climax because I had no clue how to end it. Honestly, it was a struggle but well worth. That feeling you get while writing is unmatched.
The script is yours. It took four years to complete. How was it writing Aanandam?
At times writing can be nagging, exciting, fascinating and troublesome. It stares back at you. There are times when it opens up and at times it just opens up halfway and not completely. I remember waiting for weeks to write the climax because I had no clue how to end it. Honestly, it was a struggle but well worth. That feeling you get while writing is unmatched.
The lead actors are relatively new. How was the experience working with them?
They are all young and full of energy. Most of them haven’t acted at all. So it was a learning process for them too. But we made sure to cast actors whose real-life character suited their on screen character. So they didn’t have to act much but just behave. There was never a time when they would forget a dialogue or a reaction. We had rehearsed most of the scenes too. So yes, they were incredible to work with. The most satisfying thing for me was seeing them grow and mature as actors as the shoot progressed. I’m very proud of them and what they have done for the film.
Sachin Warrier knows Aanandam inside out. It’s a pleasure working with a friend. He loves happy music and Aanandam is all about that.
Your best friend Sachin Warrier is making his debut as a music composer in this film. What’s your reaction?
Well I’m thrilled. He has been my close friend since college and he has known about my film since 2013. In fact, he was one of the first to join as crew. We started discussing while my writing was going on itself. So he knows Aanandam inside out. It’s a pleasure working with a friend. He loves happy music and Aanandam is all about that. He’s pushing himself everyday and exploring his boundaries. So it’s a lot of fun. Expect a lot of fun, happy tunes from Sachin.
Now that there is a flood of new directors, how do you plan to stay put?
I guess it’s about doing quality films. That’s the simplest solution. Filmmaking is an art form, not a sport. So it’s not a competition. We are not trying to be number one. Everyone who does a good film will be accepted. Hopefully, Aanandam will be accepted too.