Geetu Mohandas, whose bilingual film ‘Moothon’ (Hindi and Malayalam) is all set for a theatrical release, says she is glad that she opted for festival screenings ahead of the theatrical release.
The film’s world premiere was at the Toronto International Film Festival. Its Indian premiere will be held at the MAMI film festival in Mumbai, which will take place between October 17 and October 24.
Geetu says the festivals are helpful in bringing the film to a larger audience, since some people talk about her as “international filmmaker” who cares only for the festival audience.
“If I don’t go to any of these festivals and if I were to release ‘Moothon’ like any other Malayalam film, I don’t know how much people would be intrigued by my film,” she says, “If you are going to seal me as an international filmmaker, I am done for. I might as well go to Hollywood.”
‘Moothon’ is about a boy who leaves Lakshadweep for Mumbai to search for his brother. Geetu’s first film ‘Liar’s Dice’, which was India’s entry for the Oscars in 2014, also had the search for a lost person at its centre.
“There is also a certain sense of similarity between the films in that they deal with search, displacement, issues of minorities and identity,” she says.
“But there was a certain mundaneness in the travel in ‘Liar’s Dice’, but in ‘Moothon’ I am coming from Lakshadweep to Bombay. I am coming to Kamathipura.”
“I was excited to explore the soundscape that changes, with the hustle and bustle and chaos. Mumbai is so different from the serenity and peacefulness that Lakshadweep offers,” she says.
Geetu jokes that ‘Moothon’ is a fast-paced film, but only by her standards.
When asked about the critical response for ‘Moothon’, which has been positive, she says she does not care for critics.
“You pay them, you buy them. I only follow the audience’s response.”
“I only follow people who come in to watch and come in to meet us. Does it provoke an emotion for you? That is cinema for you. When the audience says, ‘Why did you do this? What does this ending mean? Why is this happening?’, then you know you did something.”
Geetu was pleasantly surprised by all the Malayalis who came in to watch the film at Toronto. Many were there to see the film’s lead Nivin Pauly in person.
“‘Moothon’ was a ‘festival-designed’ film for them. When they heard that the film was made by the director of ‘Liar’s Dice’, they were taken aback,” she says.
The 38-year-old director has been in the film industry for 33 years, which have been divided into three stints.
The first stint began when was cast as a child actor in the Malayalam film ‘Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare’ in 1986. That stint ended with the 80s.
Geetu’s second stint — as a heroine — started in 2000. It spanned a decade and she became a very familiar face to Malayali moviegoers.
Geetu’s first film as a director happened the same year as her last film as an actor came out, 2009. She has not returned to acting since.
That was a short film with the theme of urbanisation, titled ‘Kelkkunnundo’ (Can you hear that?).
“I was always trying to become a filmmaker. I was always in that mode of writing and directing. Acting was just a stepping stone for me to tell those stories,” she says.
When asked about her time as an actor, Geetu says it feels like that was part of another lifetime.
“I think I was in Malayalam cinema as an actor in the worst period of Malayalam cinema — 2000s,” she says, “I will never go back to that space and I think I was a terrible actor. And because of that, I feel like I know what to tell my actors not to do.”
“I remember when I had just come back to that industry, my accent was so strong, I had just gotten back from Canada. I could not be like the others. I could not dress like them, talk like them.
For a young adult, it was such a huge culture shock.”
“It’s not a place that excited me. To sit in, to fit into that heroine mould, to talk in a certain way, to dress in a certain way…”
“People used to say I am so arrogant, and I think the arrogant stamp continues to be a part of my life.”
A platform for movies
The Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, which is all set for its 21st edition, is an emerging global platform. The festival is helmed by professionals from the industry, attended by industry members from across the world and supported by both Indian and International film communities.