Debutant director Prince Joy is happy with the response that his much-delayed Malayalam flick starring Sunny Wayne, Suraj Venjaramoodu and Gouri Kishan, is getting at the box office
How Anugraheethan Antony got made is a story in itself. Prince Joy, the director, says mock-seriously, “It’s alright if none of the Malayalam film producers in Kerala watch it because they would all know the story by now. I approached almost everybody — 58, if you want the number — with the script when I was looking for a producer.” The film, starring Sunny Wayne, Suraj Venjaramoodu and Gouri Kishan, released on April 1.
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“I haven’t asked about how much it has collected, but I am told it has broken even. Until now, it was about when the film would hit theatres… now with COVID-19 cases going up, I am worried if theatres will be closed.”
This is big for Prince who came to Kochi as a 20-year-old with one dream — cinema. His journey from Iritty to Kochi was not easy. “When I got on that bus to Kochi, I had no clue how to go about getting into the film industry. I have struggled for my space here and to get this film made,” he says.
His plan, when he came to Kochi in 2014 immediately after graduation, was to study filmmaking. He gave up that dream because he couldn’t afford the fee. Instead, he found room-mates who were students of that institute. “I picked up a lot from their conversations and by interacting with them. I would pay attention to everything, and even be part of their projects. That gave me so much more than what I would have got from any institute!”
Prince Joy with Suraj Venjaramoodu on sets
He ended up assisting director Midhun Manuel Thomas and happened to share Anugraheethan’s… story with him, and who told actor Sunny Wayne about it. “He liked the story and asked to see my other work as reference.” Short films that he had made while in college, among them Ettukaali which did well in the festival circuit, and Njan Cinemamohi, impressed Sunny, who showed an interest in the project.
“I am grateful to Sunny chettan for his faith and confidence in me to stick to the project despite the delay. I was assisting Midhun chettan on Almirah, which gave me time to interact with Sunny chettan and tell him more about the film. I was 21 when the script was okayed. I am 26 now.”
Most delays were because he was not able to find a producer after the first one quit the project, “There were five schedule breaks. But he [Sunny] stood by the film and me.”
The subject — afterlife and souls roaming the Earth — and the novelty or the lack of it as films based on a similar premise [like Ayushkalam] have been made before was risky. “I knew that, but I was confident that the treatment would be different. The story by my friends Manilal T, Jishnu S Ramesh and Aswin Prakash had that X factor, which made it work.”
Anugraheethan… had been ready for almost three years before it was released this year, which meant it had to be edited a few times to keep the context contemporary. “We edited the film once again a couple of weeks before release.”
The delay, he confesses, made him want to shelve the project several times. “I turned to almost four other scripts, thinking I will do something with them. Each time, something or the other happened and I would find myself with this one. It was destined to be made.”
Prince, however, has one regret. “My father was my biggest supporter; he backed me all the way. He wasn’t around when Anugraheethan… finally released; he died in an accident a few months ago.”
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