FINDING VEERAM: Veerum, the film, united Chandramohan, left, and Jayaraj after 30 years.
Pursuing their respective passions in life, they crossed paths for a moment, connected with each other, shared their dreams and then moved on. Oblivious of each other’s progress, the two friends went worlds apart in their struggle to find constancy in life, putting their common dream on hiatus.
Three decades passed, the dream kept chasing them and they finally met, committing to turn it into reality. Chandramohan D Pillai, an expatriate from India, is a successful banker today in Qatar, and his friend Jayaraj has established himself as a respected film director back home in Kerala, India.
A huge fan of cinema since an early age, it was Chandramohan’s dream to make a film one day. Jayaraj, on the other hand, wanted to create a masterpiece. Now together, they are making Veeram, an art film loosely based around English playwright William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
To be made under the banner of Chandrakala Arts, a company founded in India by Chandramohan and his friends from Qatar, the big budget film, involving technical support from Hollywood, will be released in the UK, US and Europe in English and Hindi besides Malayalam.
Chandramohan believes the film chose them both. Jayaraj came up with the idea some time ago and was looking for a producer to take up what he described as his dream project. Chandramohan saw Jayaraj’s advertisement in a newspaper and grabbed the opportunity.
The two first became friends when Chandramohan used to visit Jayaraj at film studios 30 years ago. “I told him it was my dream to make a film one day and he said he would love to direct it. I always liked him. There was something about him that told me that this man was going to make it big. He is immensely talented,” Chandramohan tells Community in an interview, referring to Director Jayaraj, who is now one of the leading directors in the industry.
After seeing the ad, Chandramohan texted Jayaraj, telling him about himself and reminding him of their 30-year-old pledge of making a film together. “I told him if he had not yet found a producer, I was up for it,” recalls Chandramohan.
Jayaraj invited him to India and they finally met. “When we met, believe me, the gap of 30 years just vanished,” says Chandramohan. They discussed the film and its production aspects. The director had everything ready from script to screenplay and even some scene sequences.
Chandramohan says he immediately decided this was the kind of film he always wanted to make. It was something different from the ordinary, a class movie.
Jayaraj has decided that all the technical crew will be from outside India, Hollywood that is, which would obviously increase the cost. The cameraman, sound engineer, background score, graphics and makeup team, all would be from Hollywood.
Jayaraj laid down his plans before Chandramohan and asked him to decide if he could afford it. “I thought we have all the strong points with a solid story base, an established director, and all the technical support from Hollywood, it would be a good project,” recalls Chandramohan.
As for actors, Jayaraj is looking for fresh faces. He does not want to cast superstars or experienced actors. The first round of auditions is underway in Mumbai, the second will be in Chennai and the third in Kerala.
Jayaraj does not want to compromise on his directorial freedom in any way. The superstars often demand to modify the script to make them look more glamorous, for instance.
“In this movie, you cannot touch that because it is the kind of story that has to be exactly how the director has in his mind,” reasons Chandramohan.
He discloses that more than 4,500 people have applied in response to their advertisement for actors and many of them are handsome with no dearth of talent. Chandramohan particularly liked one of them and hopes that he would go on to make the protagonist of the film; however, nothing has been finalised so far.
Jayaraj, Chandramohan says, specifically mentioned in the advertisement that he was not looking for any experience for acting. He is confident that he will find the kind of face and talent he is looking for and then turn him into a superstar.
“He has a history of doing so. Once before, he made this film on Shakespeare’s Othello and produced a superstar out of the lead cast, besides convincing him on wearing the face makeup of Othello, who had to look ugly,” chuckles Chandramohan.
Besides Malayalam, the local language, the film will be dubbed and presented for the censor’s certificate in the US as well. A distributor would be found, also in the US, once the movie is in the post-production stage.
Chandrakala Arts was formed in India to produce the film and two of his friends came forward to collaborate with him. However, they did not want to put their names on the banner for the movie.
After discussing the movie with Jayaraj, Chandramohan returned to Qatar and discussed it with his family and friends. Everybody encouraged him. “My wife told me to be a bit cautious as it was a ‘dangerous’ market. However, she said she had complete trust in me that I could pull it off and encouraged me to go for it,” says Chandramohan.
He is involved in every aspect of the film. Jayaraj was sent to the US to find the technical support needed for the movie. Jayaraj has contacts in Hollywood and he has almost finalised all the details related to personnel required for camera work and graphics.
Graphics, Chandramohan says, need to be perfect especially in this kind of a movie. They do not want to take any chances.
“It is our collective ambition that this movie makes it to the Oscars,” says Chandramohan, who sees both Jayaraj and himself on the same wavelength in every aspect of the film. They want the movie to be not just a commercial success, but also an artistic classic — an all-time favourite.
The story of Macbeth has been modified to connect it to a local legend from 13th century Kerala. The two stories have similarities and connect perfectly. Chandramohan believes there is a huge audience for such movies in India and worldwide.
With a powerful script, strong director and Hollywood production expertise to boot, Veeram, Chandramohan hopes, will attract huge fans and stand out.
Chandramohan, who is also a poet, and has published books besides producing a music album of his poetry, is into literature since college days. His mother, also an amateur writer, encouraged and inspired him to pursue a creative path.
His daughter, who is a doctor by profession and a poet by choice, was one of the first ones to hear about the film project from him and she instantly supported it.
Though he ended in banking business, he always remained connected to literature through poetry, keeping his dream of making a film alive all this while. It took him 30 years, but he is well and truly on the way to realise it.
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