Acclaimed filmmaker Mahesh Narayanan and popular actor-producer Kunnchako Boban team up for “Ariyippu” (“Declaration”), the first Indian film in Locarno’s international competition for 17 years.

The Malayalam film follows Hareesh (Boban) and Reshmi (Divya Prabha), an immigrant couple from Kerala working in a medical glove factory near Delhi, who yearn to move abroad for a better life. During the COVID-19 shutdowns, when an old video resurfaces among factory workers, it opens a Pandora’s box that threatens the couple’s jobs and marriage.

Narayanan got the seed for the idea for the film from a newspaper article about a bank worker who had approached the Mumbai High Court demanding a “declaration” stating that a video that had been circulating in her bank was a doppelganger and not her. This idea traveled with Narayanan for a while until he came across the premise of a migrant couple working in a glove factory.

This is Narayanan’s fourth film as a director and although seemingly different thematically from each other, they are still based on a personal struggle.

“Even though ‘Take Off’ was considered a rescue/survival drama, the story has other layers. It’s the story of a divorced nurse who tries to hide her pregnancy from her son from her first marriage. He himself had so many layers to say where his son himself questions his motherhood. I often try to bring some contemporary topics about what our country or region is going through. In this way, the story will have more nuance and relevance,” Narayanan said. Variety. “’Malik’ was seen as a gangster drama, but if you look at it closely, it’s about the resistance of marginalized communities fighting for the land they own. “CU Soon” was again about the work trap that still prevails in our society.

“Here in ‘Ariyippu’ as well, there is an issue that is still relevant among the working class in these times of COVID. So there is a kind of thematic similarity in all these films,” Narayanan adds. “My form is somewhat deeply influenced by a way of making documentary films. It can be called a conscious choice, because it has more connectivity with people. With ‘Ariyippu’, I tried to push myself a little more than my space usual middle-of-the-road cinema. Even though the story is related to everyday people, I didn’t want to corrupt it with regular dramatic twists.

Narayanan is one of the men of the renaissance of Indian cinema. Besides writing and directing, he made his debut as a cinematographer with “Malayankunju” and is also a seasoned editor with over 60 film credits, many with Boban. Narayanan’s first film, “Take Off”, features Boban in a central role. For “Ariyippu”, Boban also serves as a producer through his Kunchako Boban Productions, the first under the banner. Producers also include Boban’s renowned family studio, Udaya Pictures, Narayanan’s Moving Narratives, and Shebin Backer, who co-produced “Take Off.”

“Mahesh has edited more films that I’ve been in than any other actor and so he was someone who encouraged, supported and persuaded me to try different types of films and characters, to keep going. to break stereotypes”, Boban Raconté Variety. “Naturally then, when we decided to produce a film together, we wanted to make a film that would be memorable and make us proud.”

“The character of Hareesh is one of the most intense roles I have played in my career. ‘Ariyippu’ is a marital drama that deals with both the personal issues of the protagonists and a con that takes place on their workplace and affects them both,” adds Boban. “The kind of emotional turmoil these characters go through was so intense that even after shooting for the day, I was totally exhausted and drained when I returned to my bedroom. It had nothing to do with some of the cliched characters I might have portrayed in some of my previous films, because Mahesh was determined to show me in a different light. The character of Hareesh has so many nuances and layers that it became one of the most exciting roles of my career where I got to reinvent myself and reshape myself to step into the shoes of such a complex character, like I’ve never had to try before and well done to Mahesh for making this possible the.

“As much of the film’s narrative unfolds during a few intense days and sleepless nights for my character, I reduced my sleeping hours to four or less and also skipped my exercise regimen to develop a belly. “, explains Boban. “I also felt that I carried with me the thrilling emotions of my character Hareesh throughout the filming schedule, whether on or off camera, which made it a truly memorable experience for me as an actor. .”

Next up for Boban as a producer and actor is ‘Nna Thaan Case Kodu’ (‘Sue Me’), directed by Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval; a political thriller directed by Tinu Pappachan; Padmini by Senna Hegde; and a project that will reunite him with his director “Anjaam Pathiraa” Midhun Manuel Thomas.

Narayanan has “Phantom Hospital”, based on Indian journalist Josy Joseph’s research into a medical scam, in development.

“Presenting my film before its release has always been an ambition for me. It finally happened in ‘Ariyippu.’ I am really happy that the Locarno selection committee chose this film, understanding its relevance and its values,” says Narayanan.

“It’s absolutely huge for us. Getting such a launch pad for our film also allowed us to get invitations to many other festivals around the world,” adds Boban. “We are extremely happy, proud and honestly even relieved that the efforts we have made with so much passion and commitment are yielding such good results. It’s breathtaking and so surreal, I’m so grateful for it all.

“Ariyippu” will premiere on August 4.

Divya Prabha, Kunnchako Boban and Mahesh Narayanan on the set of “Ariyippu”
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