Ranjeet Kamala Sankar and Salil V talk about their début project, which falls into ‘techno-horror’ genre
In 2013, Ranjeet Kamala Sankar and Salil V quit their job as IT professionals to chase their dream — making movies. As their directorial debut, Chathurmukham, is now in theatres, they are definitely upbeat. “More than being nervous, we are excited. It isn’t the run-of-the-mill horror movie and will be a different cinematic experience for the audience,” they say.
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Billed as a “techno-horror” movie, Chathurmukham (Four Faces) has Manju Warrier in the lead with Sunny Wayne and Alencier Ley Lopez playing pivotal roles. The fourth face, apparently, is a mobile phone.
And the four names behind the screen, other than the two directors is the scriptwriter duo of Abhayakumar K and Anil Kurian, who are also from the IT field. “The story looks at being trapped in a world where technology holds the reins. The impact is at different levels — physical, mental, psychological and emotional,” says Salil. It is narrated through the life of Tejaswini (Manju), an IT professional, who has laid her life open on social media.
The directors say that when the thread of the movie was pitched to them in 2015, they had no second thoughts about directing it. “That was the time when some offbeat horror flicks were being made in other languages. Since four of us have a similar professional background, we were on the same page. They wrote the story at a time when discussions about the dark side of technology had barely started,” Salil says.
Although the film went on the floors only in 2019, they did not make any additions in the script. “That was not needed because a lot of research had gone into the narrative. Had we made the film earlier, probably people may not have understood it. But the dynamics between people and technology have changed now, especially in the post-pandemic, post-lockdown era,” Ranjeet adds.
The duo says that it was not easy to bankroll the project because not many were enthused about the concept. “It didn’t have clichéd elements of a horror movie such as a haunted house, a group of people coming to stay there, a ghost, sorcery, black magic and the like. Instead we were talking about social media addiction, which was an alien term for them,” Salil adds.
But when Manju heard the story two years ago she even volunteered to find a producer. “We weren’t sure whether she would say yes because the character was different from those that she was doing then. But we were surprised by her enthusiasm,” Ranjith says. Jiss Thomas and Justin Thomas are the producers, along with Manju Warrier Productions.
Bonding over movies
Kozhikode-based Salil and Thiruvananthapuram-native Ranjeet had met in Bengaluru in 2009. “Short films were emerging as a popular genre then. As an aspiring filmmaker, I used to follow Anurag Kashyap’s now-defunct blog, ‘Passion for Cinema’, where I came across a short film made by Ranjeet. I got in touch with him and that’s when I realised that we were both working on the same IT campus in two different companies. Our friendship took off from there and we decided to pursue our dream together. We both wanted to leave our jobs which we eventually did after ensuring financial stability,” says Salil.
Ranjeet adds that they learnt filmmaking by watching movies and discussing about films. Their experience behind the camera has been as assistant directors of Ranjith Sankar’s Punyalan Agarbattis (2013), written by Abhay and Anil. Salil had assisted Ranjith in Varsham as well. By that time they had written their first script, Kohinoor, which was later directed by Vinay Govind. “We weren’t confident about directing it and that’s when actor Aju [Varghese] suggested Vinay,” they say.
However, Chathurmukham was not the film they had planned as their début. It was “a family story” with Dhyan Sreenivasan in the lead. “Although Dhyan had said yes, he wondered whether that should be our début film. He felt we should do something different and that’s when we heard the story of Chathurmukham,” Ranjeet says.
In the crew are cinematographer Abinandan Ramanujam, editor Manoj, composer-sound designer Dawn Vincent and audiographer Vishnu Govind.