My first celebrity interview was in December 2008 – Anjali Menon. It was also my first film fest – well, the first I see. Seeing Manjadikkuru at Kalabhavan back then, I remember running down in my red and white salwar – I remember that cause it matched with her title – little red seeds. I saw Prithvi Raj there, swarmed as usual by a number of fans. I dug out Anjali Menon from the crowd and asked for an interview. The next day I wore my best clothes (well at the time I considered a gypsy red skirt my best) and went, feeling all inexperienced and nervous. I did not have a recorder (still don’t) and I was too scared to note down points when she talked. So I had to write it from memory! But Anjali was an absolute dear :-).
And now as I read it, I can remember vivid details like the floor of her Vazhuthacaud office being washed and fearing if I’d slip and embarrass myself. I had sent the interview to Saraswathy Nagarajan of Metro Plus who I consider my first journalism guru. Who let me write on the paper before anyone else. (This interview was for another site. )
She said: “The question why she didnt make Vicky a girl is a good one.” I was on cloud 9. I know now this is a really naive first attempt, but it is still mine. Finding this nowhere on the net, I feel free to put it here again, when the film has finally released. Wonder if Anjali remembers this.
I walked into Little Films India Pvt Ltd and Anjali Menon was already there. She is a debutant director having done a Malayalam movie Manjadikuru which was screened at the 13th international film festival of Kerala. Manjadikuru tells a beautiful story and what makes it special and dear are the people who tell it – children.
“You are an entirely new face, both to the movie-goers and the general public. How would you like to introduce yourself to the people of Kerala?”
Anjali smiles before she answers.
“I wouldn’t want to talk about myself, I’d rather talk about my movie. And I hope to be known through my movie.”
She is full of excitement and life when talking about her new venture, Manjadikuru. She describes what it meant for children living outside to visit their homeland for vacations. She was a Gulf kid herself and has a thousand things to say about her short vacations to Kerala.
“I have grown up in a number of places. But when someone asks me where I am from, I have my answer all ready. I am from Kerala”
And you find glimpses of herself in the child Vicky who plays the central character and narrator in her movie.
“Yes it’s a lot from my personal life. The experiences I have had and felt when I used to come down.”
But the story was born entirely in her imagination.
“I got this fiction bug somewhere along the line and just had to do a feature film”.
So how did the whole idea come to her? Was she always keen on movies?
“I was actually planning to join the business our family was doing but then I
got interested in dance and music and movies”. She has gone on to do her mass
communication and film school studies thereafter.
And then I ask the unavoidable question. “Did being a woman bring any hurdles in this journey?”
She smiles. “That question has to be there right? Let me ask you, how is it being a woman reporter? How do you feel?”
I was taken aback. “Why, just as usual as anyone else”
“Exactly” she made her point. “Its really about perception. I may say I feel quite at ease as a woman director, but someone else may not feel that way.” There have been instances, she said, when her being a woman had made people ask questions that doubted her ability to do a movie all by herself.
How did she feel about these things? “Are you a feminist?” I ask.
“No, no I wouldn’t call myself a feminist. I don’t want to say that I should be as good as a man in this or that. We are pretty good the way we are and I really enjoy being a woman”
But I press on. “Yes but do you have the freedom to do things the way you want?”
“Yes, I would say so. That’s the way I have been brought up. Mind you, ours is a traditional family in every way and my parents were skeptical when I expressed my desire to enter the film world. But then they let me be. I am quite privileged that way. I haven’t been told ‘don’t do this’ and ‘don’t do that’”
She goes on. “And women play a big part in bringing up the future generation. She raises her kids, she teaches them values so she is responsible in what kind of an individual they grow up to be.”
Anjali adds thoughtfully “A woman has to be sensitive to everything around her.”
But she agrees that a kind of support was crucial. “That’s the way it works in our cultural setup. As a woman we may have a set of things to take care of. And you don’t want to give up that either. Its really great to actually take on both roles, not giving up either.”
“And if there was someone who says ‘no she is a woman I won’t listen to her?’”
“I would rather avoid having to work with such people, if that’s the attitude they have!”
But the people she worked with, the entire crew was as excited about the movie as she was. They all were eager to be part of the movie as soon as they read the script. And such veteran actors at that – Thilakan, Kavyoor Ponnamma, Jagathy Sreekumar, Urvashi, Murali and so many more.
“That was a list I chose at the very beginning, and it miraculously almost worked out just the way I have wanted it.”
Has she felt the movie went a little unnoticed? “No not at all. Infact for the screening, the Cinema was house full and people were actually sitting on the floor when the seats were filled. I was told that it does not usually happen much for Malayalam movies at the IFFK. Cause you can watch it even otherwise”
She asks me if I watched the movie. Yes I did. “And what did you feel about it?”
I go on to say how brilliant it was. But what I really wanted to appreciate was that she did not use any dubbing artists, she let all the actors speak for themselves. “How come you did that?” I ask.
“Cause that makes it real. It was not all that easy. There were the kids who were not professionally trained in any way. The only way was to put them in their characters and ask them to do it.”
And her ways worked fine. The characters were as real as the people you might see in your life or dig out from your memories. And in this case, Anjali had dug out a lot from her memories. “So why didn’t you make Vicky a girl?” I ask.
“Well no one has asked me that before. But I think it’s because it was really important that Roja was a girl. And Vicky was the coil around her. Their emotions and feelings reflect upon each other.”
She proceeds to talk knowledgeably and passionately about the movie and I think “She is born to be a moviemaker”
But Anjali is modest “This movie is not an Anjali Menon movie – its everybody’s movie. Everyone had a part to play in it. It’s a joint venture”
And if the movie failed?
“Then I am the one who should get the blame. Yes they were all there, but they were working towards reaching the vision I had”
I ask her hopefully “Would you continue in this role?”
“Why not? I am really enjoying myself”, she answers cheerfully
“And what would like to hear about your movie from the people who watch it?”
“Their honest opinion of course. But I should hope that it touches them, that they are able to carry home something from the movie.”
I have a lot more to ask. But the young director was busy and I am thankful she gave so much of her time to me.
More details about the movie and its making is there in her blog http://