V K Prakash is a storyteller. The School of Drama alumnus, who has found success in advertising and movies, seems to connect the formats quite well using storytelling skills. Since his debut as a director with the National award-winning Punaradhivasam in 2000, VKP, as he is popularly known as, has been making experimental films and taking up novel themes.
At present, he is busy shooting Oruthee with Navya Nair and Vinayakan in the lead roles. Vishnu Priya, a completed film in Kannada with Shreyas Manju and Priya Varrier, a Marathi project with Amey Wagh, and Ramasethu in Malayalam, a biopic on E Sreedharan, the visionary behind the Kochi metro, are in the works.
Even after an incredible journey as an ad filmmaker and as a movie director, VKP tells Friday Review that he is surprised that his contributions are often overlooked by the Malayalam film industry.
Edited excerpts from an interview.
You work in multiple languages and in different genres…
I have grown up watching all kinds of movies. As a filmmaker, I like to experience the genres that I enjoy. My experience at the School of Drama has perhaps influenced me to make a Punaradhivasam and a Freaky Chakra, which have won prestigious awards. When you experiment, the results are unpredictable. While doing commercial ventures the objective is different. Perhaps it is my background in advertising that compels me to make movies with definite objectives.
Do you have a separate narrative pattern while working in ad films and feature films?
I have done storytelling commercials by creating ideas and communicating those to the audience. That has been my forte. Advertising helps in technical upgradation and provides an opportunity to work with the best technicians using the finest equipment. That is a great learning process. I make use of those lessons while making feature films and the storytelling expertise in advertising.
Your last release Praana had top technicians and was made with a single actor, Nithya Menen. Were you disappointed with the reception it got?
The mistake I made with Praana was that it got released in Malayalam first. The movie was made in four languages and if the Telugu version had come out first, I would have received more appreciation. Now, negotiations are on for the release on OTT platforms and the movie might be appreciated then. Praana was made mainly for a fantastic theatre experience.
You started a digital revolution in Malayalam with Moonaamathoraal. How important is technology in filmmaking?
Cinema is an audio-visual medium. Until the 1990s, movies were made with wonderful visuals. After that the focus shifted to dialogues and drama. I have tried giving more importance to visuals in my movies like Mullavalliyum Thenmavum, Beautiful and Trivandrum Lodge. At the same time Nirnayakam was content based. How you use your craft to tell a story in a creative way makes a film. As a filmmaker, I believe visuals will do the storytelling and the dialogues will be supportive.
When we try doing things that are ahead of the times, like the digital experiment for Moonaamathoraal, it might not be accepted easily. I had to face a lot of serious problems while releasing Moonaamathoraal. We were planning for a wide release but I was forced to restrict the release to 18 theatres. Interestingly, everything has gone digital from then on. But the sad part is that such contributions have been forgotten and, in Malayalam, I never get a mention anywhere. I guess that is because I keep a low profile and am not politically inclined.
Were you surprised when your movie Trivandrum Lodge got criticised for its bold theme and dialogues, despite it becoming a commercial success?
I consider Trivandrum Lodge a cult movie as such a theme was never handled in Malayalam cinema before. It was a challenge to tackle a story like that and I consider the movie as one of the best in my career. Trivandrum Lodge was a serious cinema, which had a rather slow-paced narrative and was never made for tickling the audience. We are planning a sequel to Trivandum Lodge.
What is theme of Oruthee, which you are currently shooting with Navya Nair and Vinayakan in the lead?
Oruthee is based on a true story, which will strike a chord with the women of today. The story is being narrated against the backdrop of the current political situation. The film is about a woman who reacts in a situation, without realising the extent of her actions. Navya essays a middle class woman and Vinayakan plays a cop.
Your next work in Malayalam is Ramasethu…
I am making Ramasethu as a fanboy. More than a biopic, the movie is an honest story based on E Sreedharan’s life. We are planning to start the shoot later this year.
Your daughter Kavya Prakash made her debut as a director with Vaanku…
To see my daughter turning director is really special. Vaanku is based on a story by Unni R and has a strong theme that has been narrated in an entertaining way.
What was your experience doing the web series Parchhayee, based on ghost stories by Ruskin Bond?
Parchhayee is a series of stories directed by directors all across India and I have done two of the 12 stories. I have always been fascinated by Bond’s writings and it was an amazing experience. We shot in Shimla.
You are seen at times doing brief appearances on screen. Do you enjoy your stint as an actor?
I usually do it for friends, mainly when I have to go for the shoot only for a couple of days. I enjoy acting. But playing legendary satirical writer Sanjayan in Vidooshakan was a rare opportunity and I was really excited about doing that.