Keerthy and Tovino were the first choices for Vaashi and the OTT release of the film will invite debate on consent, says director Vishnu G Raghav
The filmmaker opens up about the challenges of penning a courtroom drama on a highly debatable issue and bringing Keerthi Suresh and Tovino Thomas onboard
Vaashi, a Malayalam film starring Tovino Thomas and Keerthy Suresh (both playing lawyers) that was released in cinemas last month and on Netflix this month on July 17 is trending in the top 10 India list. The courtroom drama attempts to speak on a socially relevant issue of consensual sex on the grounds of false marriage. Tovino and Keerthy who share the same struggle as lawyers are also partners and brought opposite sides for a legal commitment. While both are equally competent and egoistic, the two navigate their personal conflicts, outside the courtroom raised due to professional commitments.
Written and directed by debut director Vishnu G Raghav, the film is based on Janiz Chacko Simon's story, who we learn is a lawyer himself. “I started working on the script in 2017 and first read it to Tovino in 2019. Then the pandemic hit. I got back to the script in 2021 and once finished I read it to Keerthy who is a family friend. She immediately said yes and we both had Tovino in mind for the male lead. When I spoke to him again, he agreed,” says Vishnu, who we caught up with last week to know more about the process of making this film and how he conceived this courtroom drama over the years.
“I had many brainstorming sessions with my team to sharpen the whole idea into a one-line story,” says the director and reveals that he met over 15 lawyers to make each scene look authentic. “Courtrooms are very boring so I had to add some drama in that but I tried to keep it as real as possible. One thing I wanted to ensure is that no lawyer should call this a bad movie. My subject is also tricky because even courts are undecided on consensual sex and I had to explore both sides of the subject while keeping it politically right,” Vishnu shares.
When asked if Keerthy and Tovino’s names helped the film earn support from the audience, the writer agrees. “Absolutely! Known faces always help the film. The audience knows the actors and not the directors or the post-production team. They need familiar faces to go to theatres,” he says. With subjects like Vaashi, Vishnu says he is trying to push the boundaries of subjects in Malayalam cinema. But do you think Malayalam cinema has become more inclusive in terms of subjects? “I would say we were more ahead of times in the '80s. Malayalam cinema has explored beautiful subjects then and even 25 years ago. Other industries are taking note of Malayalam cinema for the last five years but there were films that made difference back then. We don’t have the guts to make that kind of cinema now. People are exploring subjects but we are still not there, in terms of what we explored way back,”
With the movie streaming on Netflix, Vishnu tells us it will invite more debate on the subject. “Vaashi is a pan-India subject and very debatable. Audience involvement is very important in it and so far the film has left the audience confused since they can’t decide which side to be on. More debate will come now since the film is there online and that’s what I wanted,” he says and adds that OTT has generated a lot of audience for films. “But this has a drawback as well. People are in two minds about whether to go to theatres or watch it on an OTT platform at home. This shift is affecting the industry on all levels, especially production houses,” says the filmmaker in conclusion.