Edited excepts from an interview between Mahesh Narayanan and Vishal Menon.
In one of your recent interviews, you mentioned in passing that you went through a phase of depression even after Take Off, a commercial and critical success. Why does that happen? Were you in the process of making Malik or something else?
Take off is a critical and commercial success in only one way. But it’s not a regular commercial success. I was behind another project which was again based on real incidents and war and period stuff. But still, accumulating the correct crew and cast and generating the money for making the film is the toughest part. Whenever I’m narrating to a producer I still feel that this is my first film. My narration is real time narration, I need to narrate the entire thing. I get exhausted and the narration goes on many times.
There was a project I was trying to make after Take Off and I narrated it to 23 producers all over India. At one stage when I was narrating I thought, ‘did I make this film?’ I was in the assumption that I did make this film because I was still having those visuals and narrating, and nothing was happening. All directors go through this stage and so that stage I collapsed and was hospitalised for a few days. Then Fahadh called me and he knew about all these things, he said ‘leave that project, get out of it and let’s make Malik.’ It was not titled Malik, it came later. He said, ‘let’s make it happen now.’ Then I moved onto that.
This happens to all filmmakers, Priyadarshan sir was telling me that he has made more than 90 films, and he still feels the same when he’s making his next film.
In the same interview you also mentioned something very interesting on how Malik opens to this 12 minute single take shot. Generally when you think of a cinematographer making a film, you think of him going crazy with great shots and all that. But as an editor why would you think of a 12 minutes single take shot?
It’s not that. Malik is more about the atmosphere, more about the geography. From the narration and writing stage, one point was very clear that this has to be linked to the geography and I have to see the background more in this film. Because if you closely examine Take Off, it was not made in wide lens, 35mm was the maximum wide angle. Malik is not like that, we made it with a larger sensor and we used a larger lens also. A signature lens made by Zeiss was used and it also has a larger area of coverage, so within that thing I needed a free flow environment for Suleimaan (Fahadh Faasil).
So it starts with a character who’s going to a pilgrimage where he gives a feast for all the people. It’s in the 80’s right now and at that point he’ll be 58 years old. Then the film is going into a different zone so conceptually it’s like that.
Even though it’s a single take it’s a stitched format. There has been a lot of minute detailing done with it and I hope when the film releases, the making video also gets released. People will understand why we went into that zone. When people watch it for the first time they won’t feel it’s a single shot. I’m not using it as a single shot for the sake of a gimmick. The concept is entirely different, if you look at it. It’s not an action sequence, it’s not a chase. It’s human drama, with human emotion and people talking, moving in and out but that free flow has to be there. That is why I chose a single shot breakdown for that particular scene.