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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Minnal Murali: Tovino Thomas, Basil Joseph on challenges of creating a Malayali superhero, comparisons with Flash

Tovino Thomas and Basil Joseph open up about the challenges, and pleasures of doing a home-grown superhero movie, Minnal Murali.

Written by Manoj Kumar R | Bengaluru |
December 23, 2021 8:26:04 am
Minnal MuraliMinnal Murali will stream on Netflix.

Tovino Thomas had no second thought when filmmaker Basil Joseph offered him Minnal Murali. To employ that oft used line, it was an offer Tovino couldn’t refuse. Also, which actor could say no to becoming a superhero? This film allowed Tovino to live his childhood dream, and also reiterate his 5-year-old daughter’s faith in his superhero abilities.

In a freewheeling chat with indianexpress.com, Tovino Thomas and Basil Joseph open up about the challenges, and pleasure of doing a home-grown superhero movie. Minnal Murali will start streaming on Netflix from December 24.

Basil, is it true that adding the superhero element to film was an afterthought?

No, we started this film as a superhero movie, but we wanted it to be rooted. We can’t just make a movie for the genre’s sake. It’s not like since we’re doing a superhero movie, we should have all the flashy VFX and action sequences. We had budget restrictions, which translate into technical restrictions. Yes, we have good technicians. And for a Malayalam film, this has a big budget. There will be a comparison to international superhero movies, so we had to make sure first we have a good script. The story should have a strong base emotionally and be relatable to the audience. And on top of that, we had to make sure that the action sequences and VFX convincingly gel with the basic screenplay. What we thought is even without the superhero element, the film should work.

Tovino, what was your first reaction when Basil said ‘let’s make a superhero movie’?

Even before he narrated the one-liner, I said yes. I am a big superhero fan. I always wanted to be a superhero, in real life. And growing up, I understood it’s never going to happen. That’s when Basil came up with a superhero script for me.

Do you realize that next time if you can’t open the lid of a jar at home, your wife will mock you?

Yes. After the screening of Minnal Murali in Mumbai, when I returned to my hotel, I had to struggle to push open a huge door in the lobby. I had to push it myself as I cannot ask for help from someone else these days for obvious reasons.

What was your family reaction to your character?

My daughter already thinks that I’m a superhero. I haven’t told her otherwise. Let her grow up and find that out herself. My wife is the best critic I have had in my life. We have known each other since 2004, and we got married in 2014, after 10 years of courtship. Now she doesn’t have to impress me anymore, and vice versa. So she and my brother are my best critics. After watching Minnal Murali, she was very happy and said she had nothing negative to say about it. We watched the film at Basil’s house and I could read the reactions on her face. My father also broke into tears after the movie. My mother also loved it. I think people from every age group, of every gender can enjoy this film.

Minnal Murali A still from Minnal Murali.

How does it feel to be in a superhero suit?

It feels great. But, while shooting, the suit was just a single piece of clothing and I had to wear it for such a long time. And to remove it, I would have to get help from someone else. So when nature called, I tried and controlled it. Otherwise, I had to run to the caravan, which is parked a kilometer away, with a full bladder.

Basil: The shooting schedule was always tight and hectic. It would take a long time to get out of the costume and get in again. So we didn’t let him take unplanned breaks. It is not as fancy as you think getting into the costume.

Basil, how did you decide on what kind of superpowers will Murali have?

Again, we wanted nothing fancy. And we wanted to keep it grounded as it is also a very new genre in our industry. So we can’t go for some extravaganza stuff. I think of my parents also: what if they are watching this film? How will they react? If I make lasers come out of my hero, they won’t feel connected to him. He’s vulnerable, he can bleed and he’s afraid of the system. He’s just an ordinary man with enhanced powers.

Were you aware that there will be comparisons between Minnal Murali and Flash?

We knew there will be obvious comparisons of Minnal Murali with Flash, Shazam and Gundala. During the initial stages, we were not even aware of the movie while working on our screenplay. When we started shooting, Gundala was released. We knew Flash and Shazam had lightning as the source of power. We had a completely different screenplay in place. Lightning is a universal power source. In a film set in a small village in Kerala, the power source cannot be a computer system or a scientific factory or anything like that. So lightning is the best possible source as it can strike anyone. And it is also relatable. Because of that people may compare it to Flash and Shazam. But once they watch the film, I don’t think there will be any comparison. We have tried to make this film as original and unique as possible.

If you take superheroes of Marvel or DC Universe, they are all in a way capitalists. Now with Tovino Thomas in the lead, is your superhero a communist?

Basil: He’s very neutral politically. I don’t think he even knows what politics is.

Tovino: But, we have incorporated a lot of things in the movie, which people should find out themselves. We shouldn’t be telling them.

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