'I promise R.I.A.' web series director on his success and future plans

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The film industry has undergone rapid and significant changes in the last few decades. Big budget movies are giving way to comparatively low-budget, yet wide-reaching web series. Many YouTube series have received several critical appreciation and fan-following in recent times.

A new Malayalam web series titled "I promise R.I.A." has become a huge You Tube hit with only few episodes crossing 5 lakh views. It is primarily of drama genre which interweaves romance, action, and comedy. What seems to have touched the audience is the relatable script written by a young director Indian Pallassery who got a chance to associate with Saina Productions right in his first venture.

Onmanorama Campus Reporter interviews Indian Pallassery, the 22-year-old writer-director of web series I promise RIA, who has now moved onto film making from his short career in acting. He has played pivotal roles in 'Idukki Gold,' 'Happy Journey,' 'Kali,' 'Rakshadhikari Baiju,' and 'Honey Bee 2' and '2.5' and is currently a final year undergraduate student of law at Government Law College, Ernakulam.

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Your unique first name must attract a lot of attention? What is the story behind this name?

The story behind my unique name is funny. My father initially decided to name me Gazal. Most people ask me if I got my name from the Tamil movie 'Indian,' directed by Shankar. But, actually it's not so. My father Babu Pallassery, who is a scriptwriter, is a big fan of the iconic film director, K Balachander and actor Kamal Hassan. There is a famous dialogue in their movie where someone asks Kamal Hassan if he is a Tamilian and he replies "No, I am a Tamil-speaking Indian." It is from this famous scene that my dad decided to name me Indian.

When did you know that acting would be your career?

The first movie that I acted was 'Badadosth,' written by my father and directed by Viji Thampi where I had a small role. I have also acted with Risa Bava in a TV Series scripted by dad titled 'Valsalyam.' I pursued acting to gain experience from working along with great actors, directors, and technicians. It is true that the fame attached to actors influence many people to pursue acting as a career but I am more into film making. As of now, I have acted in 20 movies.

Despite a cinematic family background, why did you choose to pursue a law degree?

If I had not been born to Pallassery family, I would not have picked a taste in films. Since childhood, all I saw was film making and scripts, where at some points, I could not differentiate reality from fiction. After acting in Idukki Gold, I wanted to join as assistant of my mentor and director, Aashiq Abu. But, I was only 15 years old.

Then, Shyam Pushkar, one of the finest scriptwriters in Indian film industry asked me either to obtain a degree from Maharajas College or pursue law at the Government Law College. I immediately took his advice as I knew college would teach me the depths of life. I did not want to obtain a regular degree or engineering or medicine and I knew that law profession is a noble one, with regard to the vastness of knowledge and power. Having the qualification to manage law is really a big thing and I am proud to be a law student.

Tell us about your web series! When did you begin writing it and what were your primary thoughts regarding the plot?

I wanted to commit myself to an original work based on love that will enable all kinds of audience to enjoy it. I also wanted to ensure that it entertains family audience. I started developing the idea of the script while I was travelling with my brothers to Goa. I just had a spark and we wrote the thread. It was originally intended to be shot in Tamil, for which my friend Sachi helped me. We created a pilot episode to show to the producers. Around 10 producers turned us down as they had a doubt if it resembles popular 'Karikku' series of similar genre. But my series was categorized as drama and had a movie-mood so not many were ready to invest it. Finally, I met our producer, Aashiq Bava, the managing director of Saina Productions. He loved the script and asked me to develop all episodes.

What is the story all about? Does it draw inspiration from your own life?

The story of I promise R.I.A. revolves around the story and relationship of three best friends. The storyline develops through their school days and college life. It portrays their lives from the age of 14 to 23. It is a family drama. It is not the story of my life. But, most characters have been adapted from my life. Some of the incidents are my real life experiences. It is the story of a normal teenager and that's why it is relatable to the viewers.

Why did you decide to launch the script as a web series instead of a feature film?

Well, I am actually done with short films. I have directed 5 short films and only three of them have been released which are 'Kaliveedu,' 'El Crime Perfecto,' and 'Anbin Suvai.' Each of them were of different genres. I believe that we must constantly move forward. Also, the script had the content to shoot two feature films, that is, all the episodes together come around to 5 hours.

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Still from 'I promise R.I.A.'

So a web series was the only way out. Web series allowed us to elaborate the story into depth without losing any elements of the script due to time constraint. Now, my aim is to do do a web series to be broadcast in Amazon Prime. I constantly strive for progress and each short film or series I do is a strong step taken towards my goal.

Malayalam movie industry has undergone several changes in the recent past, ranging from originality in character sketches to addressing social problems. How do you view these changes as a budding director?

Yes. Movies are becoming more reality-oriented like Kumbalangi Nights, Maheshinte Prathikaram etc. There have been movies earlier, too, which depicted real lives. But, the change lies in the style of film-making, scriptwriting and simple storytelling.

Commodification of women in movies is not a new issue. But, recently, movies depicting gender equality and strong female characters have succeeded at the box office.

Tell us about the female characters in your series.

The protagonist of my script is a female character Ria. I always wanted my female characters to own strong identities and visions. I always follow my idol Maniratnam sir's path. Female characters in his films are so strong and wonderful that we respect them more than the male characters.

In my series, there are several female characters ranging from students to working women and mothers. Some of those characters have negative traits. But, we always ensure that they are not wrongfully portrayed. There is not a single scene which portrays woman as an object. I love writing female characters because it is so complex and beautiful at the same time.

What is your future plan after securing law degree?

Okay, I am unsure when I would be getting the law degree after clearing exams and completing internships! Jokes apart, I want to assist Aashiq Abu in direction. Then, I will step into film making and big budget movies.

What is your simple advice to the budding directors?

Do not ask me that since I, too, am a budding director. All I can tell them is keep fighting and never lose hope. Dreams have the power to change your life. We have subscribed to Malayala Manorama News Daily at home since I was a kid and now, here I am being interviewed by Onmanorama. Season 2 is on the way and I am open to reviews and criticisms and I hope that it will be a strong step towards my film making career.

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