INTERVIEW

Priya Varrier’s viral wink from ‘Oru Adaar Love’ wasn’t ‘hugely planned’, says director Omar

The director talks about why he makes films for young people.

In the blink (or more accurately, wink) of an eye, Omar Lulu’s upcoming Malayalam romance Oru Adaar Love has become the stuff of headlines and memes, thanks to the raging popularity of its song Manikya Malaraya Poovi. In the music video, which was released on February 9, two school students have a romantic exchange across a crowded hall, their flirtations unfolding through eye contact. The video has made the expressive debutante Priya Varrier an overnight celebrity and has piqued interest in the movie, which is expected to be released in June. Excerpts from an interview with Omar Lulu, who has previously directed the films Happy Wedding (2016) and Chunkzz (2017).

What does the title of the film signify?
Oru Adaar Love means that one extraordinary love – a love that is superlative. The film will be out on Eid at the end of June.

It is a musical love story. There are eight songs in the film. The plot itself is about students at a higher secondary school. These are +2 students [Class 11 and 12]. Five heroes and four girls are the main characters. The film is about their lives, love and friendship. But one of these story lines is about what is precious love: oru adaar love. The audience has to decide which one comes across as that because ultimately the film is about different kinds of love.

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Oru Adaar Love (2018).

One of those eight songs has gone viral.
Manikya Malaraya Poovi means a pearl flower that is very precious. It’s a Mappila paattu, a song sung by Muslims of the Malabar region during religious or other occasions. This particular song is about the love story of the Prophet Muhammad and his wife, Khadeeja. My mother has always loved this song and it was a part of my growing up.

Did you think the song would become such a sensation?
The song was originally written in 1978 by PMA Jabber and composed by Thalassery K Refeeque. But when I bought the rights, I knew people everywhere would connect with it.

Shaan Rahman has revisited the original composition and given it a freshness. Vineeth Sreenivasan’s voice works brilliantly. Shaan composed the song in three-four hours and emailed it to me. I loved it from the word go.

Since you’ve used a traditional Malabar Muslim song in a film, how has it been received?
People around the country, or rather around the world, are loving it. But there has been some opposition from some old Muslims in the community. They feel that a love song that is about the Prophet Muhammad and his wife in a film is insulting to Islam. But these people are in a small minority. I think the song is now reaching more people than it did originally.

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Manikya Malaraya Poovi, Oru Adaar Love (2018).

What about Priya Prakash Varrier? She is quite the sensation.
Priya Varrier came to audition for a small part in the film. We selected her for that. The boy she winks at, Roshan Abdul Rahoof, did a great audition too. When I saw their rushes, I felt they were cute together. Then I asked him to do the eyebrow thing. I asked Priya if she could do it. She did too.

That’s how we shot it. It wasn’t hugely planned. We discussed it and did it. I think that spontaneity shows.

At 33, you’ve already have two hits, ‘Happy Wedding’ and ‘Chunkzz’. What is it in your films that connects with the audience?
Both my films had new faces. I think nowadays, people like newcomers being given a chance. Also, my films are about young people. I make my films for the youth. They’re the ones who come for first day shows.

Young people want entertainment. Malayalam cinema is realistic, but people also like being entertained. I personally am a Shah Rukh Khan fan and loved Chennai Express. Oru Adaar Love, inshallah, will prove once more that entertainment sells.

Omar Lulu/Facebook.
Omar Lulu/Facebook.
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.