Exclusive: We had set up a ‘dog park’ to train the canines in ‘Valatty’, says Malayalam director Devan

The debutant filmmaker reveals that different breeds of canines, a cat and a rooster played the main characters in the movie.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published Jun 28, 2023 | 5:00 PM Updated Aug 10, 2023 | 1:32 PM

Valatty director Devan

Devan is pretty excited about his debut directorial Valatty (Dogs Wag Tails), a movie that revolves around dogs. Interestingly, all the main characters in the film are played by canines.

Written by Devan himself, Valatty is bankrolled by Friday Film House, owned by actor-producer Vijay Babu. It is releasing in theatres on 14 July.

In an exclusive interview with South First, Devan opened up about working with dogs and the hiccups he faced during his filmmaking journey.

How Valatty came into being?

Valatty will be released on July 14

‘Valatty’ will be released on 14 July. (Supplied)

In 2018, when Devan met up with Vijay Babu of Friday Films, the latter asked Devan if he can make his own movies.

“I immediately narrated a storyline I had in my mind. But Vijay suggested that I should come up with something remarkable since many newcomers are venturing into the industry nowadays,” Devan recalled.

This prompted Devan to come up with Valatty. Being an animal lover, he wondered why dog films aren’t made in India unlike in international cinema.

“I thought why such a concept has not been adopted in India yet, especially since Bollywood is a big industry. I then developed the story and the script. The production team liked it and I got a green signal for the project,” he added.

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Different breeds of dogs used

Devan with a dog at the location

Devan with a dog at the location. (Supplied)

The filmmaking process of Valatty was pretty interesting, for the movie features different breeds of canines as different characters.

“I collected various pictures of dogs from Google. I wrote the script by keeping their faces in my mind. For example, Tomy (main character) would be a white-coloured Golden Retriever, Amalu (female character) would be a Cocker Spaniel, and Kari would be a black-coloured local breed dog,” Devan explained.

The filmmaker understood that it’d be a tough task to get fully-trained dogs, that too at a younger age. So, the production team decided to buy puppies and train them.

“We bought puppies and roped in a team of trainers. It worked out well as my assistant directors, the cinematographer and I stayed at a plot that the production team allotted us in Kollam for this purpose.”

The team even set up a “dog park” in the plot and trained the canines based on the script. They used dummies of cameras and other equipment so the canines would get accustomed to the shooting process. The team also took the dogs out so they can get used to the crowds.

“While they (dogs) were growing, we had time for pre-production works. I briefed my team that we need time for pre-production since it’s an experimental movie and the script needs the dogs to grow up. The dogs look cute and adorable between one and one-and-half years of age. And I wanted to capture that age,” Devan noted.

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Difficulties due to Covid

Devan and producer Vijay Babu at the location

Devan and producer Vijay Babu at the location. (Supplied)

The shooting began around September 2020 and ended in 60-70 days. “The Covid-19 pandemic affected the shoot. I was even worried that the project wouldn’t take off, but Friday Films was very supportive,” he remarked.

Devan revealed that they would initially shoot the scenes with mobile cameras and then show them to the producer so that he’s convinced too.

Apart from dogs, there is a rooster and a cat in Valatty. “The rooster plays a key role in the film and we trained it, too. In fact, the dogs and the rooster are friends,” Devan said.

In all, there are 10 dogs in the film. There are junior artists (dogs and human beings), too.

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Dubbing work

Devan with crew during shooting of Valatty

Devan with crew during shooting of ‘Valatty’. (Supplied)

A slew of mainstream Malayalam actors lent their voices to the dogs and other animals in Valatty. This was the most challenging task in itself as the process is similar to making two films.

“First, we completed the movie and showed the actors. We recorded dummy sounds for the dogs. Aju Varghese dubbed the dialogues for the rooster and Roshan Mathew for Tomy,“ Devan added.

The female voice for Amalu (dog) is by Raveena Ravi, a voice artist and actor. Actresses Ranjini Haridas and Surabhi Lakshmi lent their voices to the other female dogs.

In all, Valatty is based on the perspective of dogs and Devan termed it a romantic-comedy-adventure film.

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Entry into films

Devan away from the busy schedule of shooting

Devan away from the busy schedule of shooting. (Supplied)

Devan has been trying to do films for a long time. He even lost several projects for various reasons. The filmmaker revealed that he went into a depression in 2018 as nothing worked out.

Interestingly, Devan’s father Jayan Mulangad produced some movies in the early 90s. His father even directed the movie Hello Namaste in 2016. But his family discouraged him from entering filmdom.

“I always wanted to be in the industry. But my parents asked me to focus on my studies. After completing my PG from a university in Ireland, I worked there for some time. Then, I assisted director VK Prakash in his ad films. Later, I worked for ‘Mathrubhumi News‘ as a programme producer for three years,” he recollected.

Devan resigned from his job in 2016. “I waited till 2023 to become an independent filmmaker. After a long wait, my movie Valatty will hit the theatres on 14 July, Finally,” the writer-director exclaimed.