It’s not every day that we see social media and the film industry coming together to rescue a low-budget experimental debut film from sinking at the box-office. Adventures Of Omanakkuttan (AOK), a Malayalam film starring Asif Ali and Bhavana, and directed by Rohith VS, released on May 19 alongside two bigger films, Godha and Achayans.
It opened in 69 centres across the state, but faced the threat of being held back on its maiden weekend itself in some theatres.
So grave was the situation that a dejected Rohith scribbled beneath an appreciative Facebook post,”If anyone would like to watch the film, please do that as soon as possible. It will be out of theatres any moment.”
But social media rallied. Fans impressed with the film’s novel concept and direction, joined hands with film professionals like actor Sunny Wayne and director Jeethu Joseph to vouch for the film. Joseph posted on his Facebook page:
Kudos to the team for this brilliant effort…. Happened to watch the movie and impressed with the different way of making and the narration… Good work Rohith Vs, and congrats Asif Ali for the brilliant performance…..!!!!
Soon, audiences began flocking theatres to watch Omanakkuttan and his adventures.
It changed the film’s fate.
On June 2, AOK released in theatres in Bangalore and Chennai – something Rohith and his team wouldn’t have dared to dream of at the time of its release.
At Latha theatre in Muvattupuzha, a small-town in central Kerala, two shows were cancelled during the opening weekend due to poor audience showing. However, on May 27, the show ran in the same theatre to an almost packed house.
“It’s not unusual for a smaller Malayalam film to face the risk of hold-over,” said the manager of Latha theatre. “Baahubali 2 is still running house-full here, even after weeks of its release. As you can see, the theatre complex is full of their posters and giant billboards. Films like Adventures Of Omanakkuttan, even if it is a well-made film with sensible content, might not find many takers among the general public in this age of giant budget films and aggressive marketing.”
Adventures Of Omanakkuttan is the quirky tale of an introverted youngster. It doesn’t conform to the usual commercial formula. The storytelling relies more on visuals than dialogue. The narrative is slow-paced, convincingly set in the laid-back old city of Mysore.
Given how often experimental films with no big stars taste bitter failure at the Mollywood box-office, AOK‘s warm reception is remarkable.
Rohith agrees that, to some extent, poor distribution was to blame for the potential fiasco. The film was distributed by 4M Entertainments, the same company that produced the film.
“They had the rights, and were adamant that they would do the distribution. More than anything, the frequent delays in the making of the film affected our image,” he says. The film, which went on floors in 2014, was wrapped up only in December 2016. “In the last two years, a lot of people asked me if the film had been stalled. It wasn’t an easy time. At least 6-7 times during the production period, we had to take long breaks due to various reasons – financial crises, multiplex strikes, and so on. Naturally, when we restarted the shoot every time, obtaining the lead artistes’ dates was a herculean task.”
Rohith VS, a former IT professional with a Hyderabad company, quit his job and left for Kochi in 2013, to take the plunge into cinema. “Film-making had always been in the back of my mind,” he declares.
At Karunya University, Coimbatore, where he completed his engineering course, he met a bunch of like-minded cinephiles who would later collaborate with him on AOK. Editor Livingston Mathew and cinematographer Akhil George studied Electronics and Media technology at Karunya University. Another friend, Arun Muraleedharan, composed a song for the film.
“We had hardly any experience in filmmaking. I had the script ready, and my friend, Sameer Abdul had written the screenplay. We met on an old online community of film lovers,” he says. “We approached a few producers in the industry. Everyone said they liked the storyline, but were not ready to put money into it. Not surprising since we were just a bunch of youngsters without any experience in filmmaking.”
In February 2014, with the help of actor Saiju Kurup, an acquaintance, Rohith and Sameer got actor Asif Ali on board as Omanakkuttan, the protagonist.
“Asif Ali’s association made it easier for us to convince potential producers. This is something they insist upon.
It wasn’t easy to stay positive through all the adversities of the last three years, Rohith adds. “My family supported me immensely. I had taken a small job in between to sustain myself. What I really needed from them was emotional support. And they stood by me through everything.”
Rohith is ready with his next script, a fantasy drama. In Adventures Of Omanakkuttan, he experimented with various genres – mixing elements of fantasy, comedy, and thriller unevenly.
“I had to make a number of compromises in the script since we didn’t have the right budget. For one, I would have shot some of those fantasy portions way differently. In the next film, I don’t want to make such compromises.”