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Director Vishnu G Raghav says he wanted to keep ‘Vaashi’, starring Tovino Thomas and Keerthy Suresh in the lead, as real as possible


Vishnu insisted that Tovino and Keerthi should not prep for their roles as lawyers in Vaashi, a courtroom drama

Vishnu insisted that Tovino and Keerthi should not prep for their roles as lawyers in Vaashi, a courtroom drama

Courtroom dramas are dime a dozen in cinema, Malayalam cinema is no exception. Several such films have been blockbusters in the past. What makes debutant director Vishnu G Raghav’s film Vaashi stand out is the subtle narration and picturisation of court scenes that have been skillfully woven into a tender relationship drama.

Tovino Thomas and Keerthy Suresh in Vaashi, directed by Vishnu G Raghav
| Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Starring Tovino Thomas (as Ebin Mathew) and Keerthy Suresh (as Madhavi Mohan) in the lead, Vaashi’s USP is the absence of melodrama, unnecessary twists and high decibel speeches, a welcome relief from such films in the past. Based on Janiz Chacko Simon’s story, the film features the lead as junior lawyers jostling to make a reputation for themselves. The fireworks at work and home begin when the two find themselves arguing a case against each other.

Vishnu says a friend narrated a one-line story that caught his attention. He discussed it threadbare with scenarists Bobby-Sanjay and director-editor Mahesh Naryanan before writing the script.

“In 2018, I had written the script of Vaashi and then took a break. I kept it aside to write another script for a film that was to have been made on a bigger canvas with locations set abroad. Its pre-production was supposed to have begun in April 2020 but then the first lockdown was announced. That forced us to postpone that film and I went back to the script of Vaashi,” says Vishnu.

Keeping it real

Having found it dated, he reworked it several times before he was satisfied with the screenplay. He points out that his perspectives had changed and society’s too. In the meantime, Vishnu spoke to several lawyers to understand their work, arguments in court and how a court works. “I narrated the story to them and listened while they argued both sides of the case. I have used many of their arguments and points in the film. As a result, several lawyers called me to appreciate how realistic the courtroom scenes were,” says the young director.

 Vishnu G Raghav with Keerthy Suresh on the set of Vaashi

Vishnu G Raghav with Keerthy Suresh on the set of Vaashi
| Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Keerthy Suresh, a childhood friend, replied in the affirmative when she heard the story and then came in close friend Tovino. It is the first time Keerthy and Tovino are acting together and the crackling chemistry is a plus point of Vaashi.

Since the film hinges on a sensitive case relating to a breach of promise of marriage, Vishnu says he wanted to ensure that it was politically correct and in tune with the times.

“To get the dynamics correct, I sought the opinion of women, feminists, traditionalists and radicals. I read the script to them and made several corrections. It was not easy as there were diametrically opposite views that were expressed. I worked hard to get the right language and attitude. Now, if there are any shortcomings in the way the issue has been portrayed, it is because of my lack of understanding,” he asserts.

Tovino Thomas and Keerthy Suresh in Vaashi, directed by Vishnu G Raghav

Tovino Thomas and Keerthy Suresh in Vaashi, directed by Vishnu G Raghav
| Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Although Tovino and Keerthy are playing lawyers for the first time in their careers, Vishnu insisted that the leads did no prep for the roles as he did not want them to be influenced by courtroom drama-based films of the past. “It is easy to be influenced by mannerisms and body language of ‘lawyer characters’ enacted by some great actors. I wanted them to be the characters. After every day’s shoot, we would have a script reading session that proved to be extremely helpful in moulding the characters and the film. The actors would come up with interesting improvisations that we could include in the film. That made a huge difference in the portrayal of their roles,” he believes.  

Tovino Thomas and Keerthy Suresh in Vaashi, directed by Vishnu G Raghav

Tovino Thomas and Keerthy Suresh in Vaashi, directed by Vishnu G Raghav
| Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Both the male and female leads have equal space in the film. Suresh Kumar, who happens to be Keerthy’s father and producer of the film, Vanitha, Baiju, Rony David, Anu Mohan,  Nandu, Krishnan Balakrishnan, and Kottayam Ramesh play key characters in the movie. Kailas Menon has scored the music for the film that has been filmed by Roby Varghese Raj. Director-editor Mahesh Narayanan is the editor of the film.

Having made his debut as an actor in Dulquer Salman-starrer Second Show, Vishnu has acted in a handful of films. Asked if that experience helped him as a director, he says “I was not an actor for long. But that stint helped me understand how to make an artiste comfortable on the sets and give them the space to do their best.”

Shot in and around Thiruvananthapuram, the film was completed in 47 days. “The climax was shot first and both cast and crew were involved in every scene of the film as a result of the screen reading after the shoot.”

Vishnu had to take a call: make it a film with a mass appeal or try to make a movie that was as close to reality as possible. “I have taken creative liberties in the film and there are cinematic flourishes in the narrative. But I have tried to keep it as subtle as possible.”

Vishnu has already moved on to his next film, the one that was kept aside during the pandemic. “The delay has necessitated rewriting the script and I am on it to begin work as soon as possible.”



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