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Last Updated Wednesday November 22 2017 02:54 AM IST

Ajayan Chalissery, the real owner of Bhavana studio

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Ajayan Chalissery, the real owner of Bhavana studio Ajayan Chalissery

Hardly anyone would disagree when we say that the commercial Malayalam cinema has been witnessing novel narration techniques while trying to stay close to reality in the stories it deals with. The credit goes to a fresh crop of filmmakers and artists, whose work is bringing about a resurgence in Malayalam film industry.

Art director Ajayan Chalissery, who gave the craft a new dimension with his creative, yet realistic work, can be aptly included in this group. Maheshinte Prathikaaram, directed by Dileesh Pothan and starring Fahadh Faasil in the tile role, is Ajayan's latest film.

Also read: 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram'movie review

As the creative head of the film, Ajayan has the answer to everything about the movie, because he’s spent more time thinking about all the possible scenarios in each and every scene, before everyone else even realised what was important.

Visibly happy about the success of his new project, Ajayan Chalissery, the man of aesthetics, talks to Onmanorama about working with team, setting the stage and being in the art field.

We happened to hear that Bhavana studio, Mahesh's workplace in the movie, was a newly constructed set?

(Laughs) Did you notice the steps which Mahesh (Fahadh) climb to the studio? From there, the entire building, including the place where Mahesh and Babychayan (Alencier Ley Lopez) eat their lunch - all were created solely for the movie.

Each and every property used for the movie, from the steel plates used in kitchen to the photos and frames hung on the walls, the windows and doors, everything was intentionally used to reflect a house of Idduki natives. The footwear shop seen in the movie was actually a vacant place. We erected the entire shop just for the movie.

The shooting took place during the rainy season, which brought in a breezy atmosphere for the movie. The major portion of the movie was shot at Thopramkudy near Kattappana.

  • 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes

    'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes
  • 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes

    'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes
  • 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes

    'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes
  • 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes

    'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes
  • 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes

    'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes
  • 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes

    'Maheshinte Prathikaaram': Behind the scenes

How did you manage the whole lot of appooppan thaadi (Milkweed)?

Although it looks real in the movie, I must reveal now that it was a dummy. We made around 1,000 appooppan thaadis, using light-weight material, and used for that particular scene. When Soubin Shahir was supposed to throw them down, most of them flew upwards, just like the real-ones. Despite the fact that we had to re-shoot the scene for a few times, it was a moment of joy and pride for us.

Ajayan Chalissery, the real owner of Bhavana studio Although the 'appooppan thaadi' looks real in the movie, it was a dummy, reveals Ajayan

In another scene, to much of our surprise, where Mahesh had to catch of hold of it, the dummy appooppan thaadi landed right in his palm.

The audience may not realise that so much effort has gone into the art department of Maheshinte Prathikaaram. Isn't it?

Yes, that might be true to some extend as the movie did not have a very visible setting which the viewers would take notice of. If you take the movie 'Charlie', a lot of creativity was put into the creation of the sets and it was done as per the requirement of that movie. But unlike that, Maheshinte Prathikaaram had everything normal in it. This needed a much more natural and realistic approach. Those who have observed closely might know. In fact, many have noticed it and have personally given me the feedback.

Recently, I had shared on social media a photo of Soubin from the sets of the movie and it went viral in minutes. I had taken the photo in my mobile phone. If you look at it, you will find the rough patches that will give you the feel of the movie.

Ajayan Chalissery, the real owner of Bhavana studio Soubin's photo from the sets of the movie had gone viral

What about the photo taken by chachan (character of Fahadh's father) in the movie?

No, those photos were not mine. They were taken by photographer Jayesh Mohan. We made it a little more dull so that it had the mood of an old album.

Ajayan Chalissery, the real owner of Bhavana studio Stills from the set of the movie

You have seven movies to your credit. Which was the most challenging so far?

Each films were different in its own kind. In my work so far, 'Gangster' was the toughest one. It demanded hectic work as the movie had many Goan sequences. We had to recreate the Goan underworld ambience in our location in Kochi using mere props and lightning.

What kind of projects would you like to do? Also, tell us of work by other art directors that you have noticed.

My work varies with each film and its director, like I said before. A director is the captain and everything goes around his likes and dislikes. A director also gives you inputs to think about the scene and apply your ideas for each and every scene; he might go for a dramatic set-up, or a fantasy one, it could be full of colours or very original.

Ajayan Chalissery, the real owner of Bhavana studio 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram' needed a much more natural and realistic approach, says the art director

Coming to the second question, there have been many movies I have liked as an art director. Jyothish Shankar's work in Kunjananthande Kada was one such. The sets of the recent blockbuster Ennu ninte Moideen were also brilliantly made.

We have seen you sharing your work on social media. How do you view it as a tool for promotion?

Definitely, it is the modern tool of promotion. Unlike old times, social media is the perfect platform for artists to promote their work. I am more active on Instagram than Facebook. I have personally seen many inspiring tales through social media. Lots of talented people have been spotted through such platforms.

Ajayan Chalissery, the real owner of Bhavana studio A sketch by Ajayan based on the movie

Your journey to the field of art and movies

I come from a remote place named Chalissery, near to Kunnamkulam, in Thrissur. From a very young age, I used to sketch. And it was my uncle (Cheryachan) who inspired me to learn more and build my talent. Thus, I joined the College of Fine Arts, Thrissur. During that time, a few of my friends and I wanted to take a movie. We were very inspired by our senior and director V.K. Pavithran's (father of actor Eva Pavithran) movie Kuttappan Sakshi.

The art direction of the film Sayanam was helmed by my friend Sarath and I too was part of the project. Soon after the film, he left for Madras and ventured into other projects. Meanwhile, I had a shop here at my hometown. As his connections in the industry grew bigger, he started leading me to small offers.

Ajayan Chalissery, the real owner of Bhavana studio Ajayan on the sets of the movie 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram'

Gradually, I found myself working in association with a few established contacts in the industry. Then Left Right Left happened. As my first official lone work, it was challenging enough but I could deliver the best of my knowledge. Later, it was director Ranjith Sankar, who introduced me to Aashiq Abu for Idukki Gold. From there, I have come so far.

What's next?

Right now, talks are going on for my next movie which will be finalised only by next month.

I am also planning to have an exhibition in Kochi this year, depicting my works, including sketches and drawings.

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