The State Award-winning filmmaker even bagged the first-ever Disruptor in Cinema Award at the recent Indian Film Festival of Melbourne for his unique filmmaking style, for the film. And as he walks us through his experience of making the thriller that discusses novel ideas, all one can think of is the length to which he goes for distinctive shots and storytelling.
But what was the most challenging part of making this film, for which his crew braved the floods of Himachal Pradesh, trekked through dangerous terrains and even made a new language? “It was Manju Warrier,” says Sanal, as he quickly explains, “She is an established artiste in conventional cinema, and till the day before the shoot began, I was concerned about how she would adapt to my spontaneous direction style. But in two days, I could see her gelling well with it all.” Sanal shares an incident, “I often incorporate the unplanned circumstances around, too, into my narrative, while we shoot. Once, while we were shooting in Himachal amid heavy rains, there was a tent that wasn’t set up by us, in the vicinity. I wanted a shot of Manju and actor Gaurav walking into it. None of us had noticed that in fact, there was an event happening inside it.” When Manju and the crew walked into it, those inside were puzzled as the entry apparently disrupted the proceedings. “They were shocked and I told Manju sorry, though she took it in her stride. A Malayali, who was at the event, asked her for a selfie and she obliged, despite being uncomfortably drenched,” Sanal remembers.
The director is happy that the jury in Melbourne felt his film was a multi-million project! “They were quite appreciative of the many new things we have incorporated. The movie was nominated for Best Film and Best Director, but what it won is this award, which was given for the first time to appreciate innovative filmmaking,” says Sanal, about the film that has its story set in a region that doesn’t register a place or familiar people, and speaks a new language put together by the crew of the film.
Why a new language? Sanal says, “The movie discusses the ancient Hindu concept of Maya, which says nothing is real and everything is magic. So, we wanted a new language to convey this idea. The crew, including musicians, technicians and artistes, sat together and made its words, ensuring that they sound like what they mean. For example, the language’s name Ah’r Samsa is made out of the sound made from heavy breathing while climbing,” says Sanal, who shot the film in around 20 days.
While the floods interrupting the film’s shoot was widely reported, Sanal feels that in hindsight, the heavy rains helped the shoot. “We shot the rain, snow, heat and more at a stretch, which is generally very difficult to get in the Himalayas,” he says.