‘I like to make thrillers with the least-expected elements,’ says director Vipin Das

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Vipin Das’ second film, Antakshari, an investigation thriller, drops on SonyLIV on April 22

Vipin Das’ second film, Antakshari, an investigation thriller, drops on SonyLIV on April 22

Vipin Das loves narrating out-of-the-box stories. His directorial debut, Mudhugauv (2016), was a caper comedy about an eccentric don with a strange problem. In his second film, Antakshari, which drops on SonyLIV on April 22, Vipin tells the story of a police officer (Saiju Kurup) who is hooked to playing ‘antakshari’.

Saiju as Das is often the butt of jokes for his craze for ‘antakshari’. But this habit eventually takes a dangerous turn. Vipin emphasises that he likes to make thrillers with the “least-expected elements”. In Mudhugauv, the hero is a carefree youngster Bharath (Gokul Suresh) who has the habit of kissing the person near him whether he is nervous or happy. One of them happens to be Ramakrishnan Bonacaud a.k.a. Rambo (Vijay Babu), a don.

His “weird themes”, however, were being rejected all these years. “I have written some seven stories. If the producer liked it, the actor didn’t and vice versa. I never got into that space where I could convince everyone and that’s why it took six years for my second movie,” he says.

Director Vipin Das
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Antakshari’’s case was no different. Some of the leading actors were not keen on doing it. “Also, since my first film didn’t do well at the box office, no one wanted to take a risk. Finally, it was Saiju and producer Al Jassam Abdul Jabbar of Sulthan Brothers Entertainment who stood by me. The production house gave me the freedom to choose the artistes I wanted,” Vipin says.

He credits the involvement of director Jeethu Joseph. “He had read this story several years ago and suggested some changes then. Later, we decided to collaborate on a project with Mammootty, which didn’t happen. After that, he got busy with Drishyam 2 and other projects. When Saiju joined Jeethu chettan’s new project, 12th Man, he told him about Antakshari. That was how we connected again. He liked the movie even though I had not made the changes he had pointed out! He was even ready to associate with it. It was because of his presence that we were able to take it to the OTT platform,” Vipin says.

Extended version

Vipin plans to bring out an extended version of the film in future. “The original product is three-and-a-half-hours long. But we had to edit out certain scenes keeping the family audience in mind. This version is a two-hour film and if it works I hope to release the full version as a series. The content is ready for streaming and the producers are okay with my plan,” he explains.

He admits that while making Antakshari he had no plans about the release. “Having faced so much of rejections I had decided that it was going to be my last movie. I was desperate to prove myself and wanted to bring out this film at any cost. That’s one reason why I explored the possibility of a series. I am happy that it is coming on a streaming platform because if there isn’t enough footfall, theatres usually pull out the movie after a week or so,” he says.

Saiju Kurup and Sudhi Koppa in a scene from 'Antakshari'

Saiju Kurup and Sudhi Koppa in a scene from ‘Antakshari’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Vipin was working in the IT sector before he decided to take the plunge into tinsel town. “I have not assisted any director. I learnt how to handle a crew by making short films and ad films,” he says. It was Aju Varghese, who acted in his short film, Unnimoolam, who took the script of Mudhugauv to actor-producer Vijay Babu.

He says that although Mudhugauv didn’t do well, there were offers to remake it in several languages. “But none of them worked out. Had it been released now, more people would have watched it. Cinema has changed a lot, in terms of storytelling, making and other aspects. Movie-watching experience too has changed,” he says.

Vipin adds that they went for several cost-cutting measures in Antakshari. “We didn’t have a light unit and used LED lights and balloon lights made by a friend instead of taking them on rent. In place of high-end camera equipment, DSLR camera was used. There was no dolly track as well. Even though we had to stop the shoot for a few days due to COVID-19, we completed the shoot in 31 days,” he adds.

Composer Ankit Menon has tried a “new soundscape”. The use of keyboard has been kept minimal; natural sounds from the surroundings have been used in the songs and background score. The film has a Russian track as well, sung by Maksim Nikulin. “Since we were experimenting with sounds, it took nearly four months to complete the process,” he says.

Priyanka Nair, Sudhi Kopa, Vijay Babu, Binu Pappu and Sabareesh Varma are in the cast of Antakshari, besides new faces such as Sandeep Pradeep, Ishita Singh and Mridul Mukesh.

Vipin’s next movie, Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey, starring Darshana Rajendran and Basil Joseph, will go on the floor next month. “It is an out-and-out satire about a typical middle-class Indian girl who faces gender inequality at every step of her life.”



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