Directed by Baiju Thomas, one of the hostel hosts, this Malayalam film was filmed during isolation and was recently shown on the OTT platform.
A 2-hour feature film with 32 operators! Unlike the proverbial broth spoiled by too many chefs, V Inmates, a Malayalam film released on October 1 on the OTT platform www.bcineet.com, is a celebration of friendship. Thirty-two people in their fifties from all over the world came together to direct the film under the direction of director Baiju Thomas. Baiju was a film director Muthu Kudayum Choody (1989) and Padaliputram and serials.
Starting with a prayer from their former overseer, Alexander Jacob, who retired as a DGP, in the film, all the actors act like themselves. The cheerfulness and camaraderie they experienced during its creation come alive when they recall the circumstances that culminated in the film.
Almost 40 years ago, they all lived in the St. Thomas dormitory of Mar Ivanios College in Thiruvananthapuram. They completed what was then called Plus Two between 1980-82 and lived as a family for two years.
One of the old men, Sabu Thomas, now a software engineer and entrepreneur-architect from the United States, says: “After completing our degree, we went our own way. I came to the United States to study and lost touch with most of them. During the isolation, I tried to find 60 people with whom we spent many memorable days. Each of us was in touch with four or five men, and soon most of us joined the WhatsApp group. “
Rebirth of friendship
Most of them were eager to renew the bonds they forged in adolescence. They decided that there would be no forwarding in the group, but only voice messages. “We soon recognized each other’s voices and what everyone was doing. We met virtually and kept in touch. Zoom meetings have become regular. Since we lived on different continents, time zones meant that some of us were at work on certain days. But we had time to catch up, ”recalls Mahesh Nair, an auditor from Kuwait.
Many of them recall how surprised they were to see changes in each other. During one such meeting, they were joined by Dr. Aji Koshi, a dentist from Al Ain, UAE, while he was at his clinic. In his mask and PPE kit, he was unrecognizable until he called himself Aji.
This was when Baiju thought he had a plot thread to make a movie. He asked his friends if they were ready to shoot a movie during their isolation. “It was an idea of identity theft that was rampant in many countries. Since I already worked in films, I knew what to do and they all trusted me, ”says Baiju, who now teaches script and directing in the United States.
Those wishing to act in the film were invited to record their scene and speak with dialogues. Baiju told them about the subject of the conversation and then improvised.
“The first Baiju film was shown in theaters in the late eighties, when many of us were still in college. We believe in him. Although we had no idea what this was about, each of us acted out his own scenes. The scenes were filmed by our family members, ”says Dr. Ommen MG, a practicing homeopath in Kozhikode.
Sanil Raj Johnson, former academic dean of St Thomas’s College in Thrissour, recounts how he was told to talk about cryptocurrency while another person spoke about how he lost money through fraud. Another friend talked about his passion for the late actor Jayan.
“We really wondered how he would turn it all into history,” Mahesh recalls.
Since most of them were in leadership positions in their field, Baiju didn’t want any of them to play villains. One of their fellow dorms, an administrative officer in India, did not even act because he was not sure about the service rules regarding such work. “So I decided to play the villain. The story begins during one of Zoom’s meetings, when a couple of friends realize that an impostor has come to replace their friend Baiju. Worried about what happened to him, they start an investigation to find out the truth, ”says Baiju.
At the end of filming, Baiju had about 90 hours of scenes that needed to be turned into a movie. In January 2021, he came to Thiruvananthapuram for editing, coloring, rewriting and so on. He says it must be the only film with a minimum crew of five, which included Srijit Srevilas as assistant director, Sabiraj Kunnil as makeup consultant and Nitish Keechu as editor.
Baiju also featured some of his friends’ family members in the film. A song written by the late S. Rameshan Nair, written by Darsan Raman and performed by KJ Yesudas, to be used in the Baiju film. Padaliputram, was used at a defining moment in the film.
According to Chennai entrepreneur Vinod Kumar, “When the film was released, we were amazed to see how it turned out, even with Yesudas’ song. I met Baiju when he came to Chennai for post-production and we shot a couple of scenes at my house. Since all the cameramen and actors living in over 20 countries were amateurs, we never expected a movie like this. ”
Sabu says the experience made his dorm mates nostalgic as the dorm building was replaced by an audience.
The optimistic Baiju is currently planning to send V Inmates to film festivals, as such a film would be a unique experience for viewers.