The actor-producer chats about ‘Saajan Bakery Since 1962’, bringing out the movie during the pandemic and more
Actor Aju Varghese has been going steady in Malayalam cinema for the last 10 years. Apart from being an actor, he has also ventured into production and distribution. His upcoming film, Saajan Bakery Since 1962, in which he plays a dual role, sees him double up as co-writer and producer.
“You will leave the theatre with a smile. It is a light-hearted narrative about holding on to relationships, something we all experienced during the lockdown,” says Aju. The film, directed by Arun Chandu, releases on February 12.
The film revolves around Shamel Mappila who runs a bakery named after his son, Saajan. The latter, however, has no interest in running it. Aju Varghese plays Saajan and his son, Bobin, who carries all the “bad traits” of his father. “I was the last-minute choice to play Saajan. We had some budgetary constraints and when the director suggested that I should do it, I decided to give it a try. Although the character is there only in three or four scenes I loved doing it. It was an opportunity for me to push myself as an artiste,” says the actor.
However, it is the three women characters — Saajan’s wife Mary (Grace Antony), their daughter Betsy (Lena) and Bobin’s romantic interest Merin (Ranjitha Menon) — who stand out, adds Aju. “While Saajan makes life difficult for Mary, Bobin does the same for Betsy. We have also tried to show how society has a list of dos and don’ts for women on the pretext of protecting them. But such actions only suffocate them,” he says.
The film, says Aju, is close to his heart as it is set in Pathanamthitta, where he grew up. “The terrain is familiar to me and [Arun] Chandu. We have several fond memories associated with places such as Ranni, Thiruvalla and Chengannur. The language, culture, food, lifestyle, houses…are part of us. In fact, many things fell into place. For example, we found a bakery and a medical lab adjacent to it, like how we had written in the script. We have tried to showcase the real essence of Ranni and different parts of Pathanamthitta,” says Aju.
As for writing the story with the director and Sachin R Chandran, Aju adds that he was fulfilling a dream. “I was more like an apprentice!” he says. Although lockdown had pushed the release of the movie by several months, he feels that the postponement had its advantages. “We were able to devote more time for post-production work, which has helped the film as a whole,” he says, heaping praise on composer Prashant Pillai, editor Aravind Manmadhan and cinematographer Guru Prasad MG. “Prashant was patient enough to listen and answer to my idiotic questions about music and even incorporated some changes,” he laughs.
The film is the second production venture of Funtastic Films, headed by Aju, Dhyan Sreenivasan and Visakh Subramaniam, the first one being Love Action Drama. The company has also distributed Love Action Drama, Helen and Gauthamante Radham. “I didn’t plan to become a producer. Now I am relatively relaxed because nothing can beat the challenges we faced while making Love Action Drama!” he says.
“We wanted to release this film [Saajan Bakery Since 1962] in theatres and haven’t signed any deal with OTT platforms yet. Given the circumstances, we would be happy with whatever the film collects. Even if it runs for two weeks, it would be a risk worth taking,” he adds. Funtastic’s next production is Prakashan Parakkatte, starring Dhyan Sreenivasan, and 9MM, Manju Warrier’s 50th film.
Meanwhile, Aju has his hands full with ready-to-release films as well as new projects. The list includes Hridayam, Minnal Murali, Oru Tatwika Avalokanam, Tsunami, Meppadiyan, Home, Sara’s, Ullasam and Article 21. “Well-wishers have told me time and again to read scripts before signing a movie because I rarely do that. I admit that I have not been doing character-driven roles and never looked at the film as a whole. It was only my character that mattered, which was mostly a supporting role. However, I think the time has come to choose roles carefully,” he avers.
The actor has no qualms about admitting that he always looks forward to work in projects done by his friends in the industry. “I prefer that comfort zone, where I don’t have any inhibition or fear,” he signs off.