EXCLUSIVE: We wrote ‘Maniyan Chittappan’ first, reveals ‘Gaganachari’ director Arun Chandu

Owing to the overwhelming demand, the makers have announced a pan-Indian release for 'Gaganachari' on 5 July.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published Jul 03, 2024 | 12:27 PM Updated Jul 03, 2024 | 12:42 PM

Gaganachari director Arun Chandu

The Malayalam movie Gaganachari, directed by Arun Chandu, has opened to positive reviews and also struck a chord with the audience. The science-fiction mockumentary, released on 21 June, has had more screens ever since.

Owing to the overwhelming demand from audiences, the makers have announced a pan-India release of the film on 5 July.

Gaganachari is the third directorial of Arun Chandu, who helmed Saajan Bakery Since 1962 (2021) and Sayanna Varthakal (2022). He recently announced Maniyan Chittappan, a spin-off movie under the Gaganachari universe.

Suresh Gopi will play the titular role of Maniyan Chittappan in the spin-off film. The first-look motion poster, unveiled last week, introduced the veteran actor as “a crazy mad scientist and wanderer of the cosmos”.

In a candid chat with South First, Arun Chandu gets candid about the making of Gaganachari, the story behind Maniyan Chittappan, and much more.

Q. What inspired you while writing and making Gaganachari?

A. We were inspired by the American comedy horror mockumentary television series What We Do in the Shadows (2015) and Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari.

The murals in Gaganachari were inspired by the American animated musical romantic comedy-drama film Sita Sings the Blues (2008). I have also been inspired by In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones (1989) written by Arundhati Roy.

I believe our movie is a homage to many films. But we have tried not to highlight this and instead blend those elements in the story.

Also Read: Nivin Pauly’s ‘Malayalee From India’ to debut on Sony LIV on 5 July

Q. Your original version (of Gaganachari) is entirely different. Please tell us about it.

A. It was a completely different story based on an alien invasion. It had aliens roaming around in a village and the locals locking themselves up in their houses out of fear. It was similar to the Hollywood horror film A Quiet Place (2018).

But, when we narrated this to Aju Varghese, we weren’t sure if the thematic reference would work. So, we decided to work on an opposite structure with more humour. That was how Gaganachari was made.

In the beginning, we wrote it on the lines of Kilukkam (a 1991 Malayalam movie). However, we took references to pop culture and science from other films.

In Gaganachari, Alan (played by Gokul Suresh) is a cinephile. I always wanted to develop such roles. However, I placed him in the 2040s of Kerala thinking that it’d be interesting if a character from the future appreciates Malayalam cinema and owns a good collection of films.

Q. How did you think that the audience would connect well with a dystopian Kerala?

A. When I thought of Gaganachari, I knew that the movie itself would offer a different experience. But I was not sure even if the comedy would work. However, I thought there was always a first time and gave it a try.

Though the film was ready three years ago, we released it now since audiences are appreciating such content. It is like what Fahadh (Faasil) has recently said, “We can release any film now because people are open to different content.”

On the sets of Gaganachari

On the sets of ‘Gaganachari’. (Supplied)

Q. How did you fix on the cast, especially Anarkali as the alien?

A. Since I’m an introvert, I approach people who are easily accessible. Anarkali is a newbie in the club. From day one, we developed a good rapport with each other.

Her dedication, hard work, and approach towards a film deserve appreciation. She understands the difficulties of a struggling filmmaker.

Further, I’m truly grateful to every actor for readily agreeing to be a part of the film despite its new concept.

Related: ‘Gaganachari’ spin-off film, ‘Maniyan Chittappan’, announced

Q. Tell us about your association with co-writer Siva Sai.

A. I met Siva during the shooting of Saajan Bakery Since 1962. We have many things in common. As we got to know each other, we thought of writing an out-of-the-box subject.

Being a young writer, Siva Sai helped me connect with the younger generation audience. We both explored many ideas and he is a part of our core team.

Q. What made you come up with a spin-off film for Gaganachari? Were you planning Maniyan Chittappan while writing the sci-fi mockumentary?

A. Actually, we initially wrote the story of Maniyan Chittappan. We had plans to collaborate with Rick and Morty (an animated comic series) and Manu Uncle (a 1988 Malayalam movie) for the project.

However, we realised that it needed a huge budget, which was out of the question. So, we kept it aside and started working on Gaganachari.

Q. In that case, isn’t Gaganachari also a big-budget film as it’s a science-fiction with VFX works?

A. Not really. Gaganachari was made with a shoestring budget. Unlike Maniyan Chittapan, we conceived the former as a small-scale project.

Q. Tell us about the VFX works done by team Meraki for Gaganachari.

A. Meraki and I share a close association. They are a part of my core team. And our ideas don’t get lost in translation and are properly conveyed to one another. I never consider them as a different team. They aren’t just a VFX team for me but an integral part of my creative team.

Q. What are your future projects?

A. Apart from Maniyappan Chittappan, I have a few more projects in the pipeline. The details will be announced soon.

(Edited by Y Krishna Jyothi)

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