An Indian journalist, who worked in the UAE media for several years returned home to direct his debut film about expatriate life, is thrilled and excited to stage a comeback to the Malayalam film industry, almost 25 years after he played a lead role in a movie produced by the parallel non-commercial cinema.
Joy Mathew, former head of news of Amritha TV’s Dubai Media City bureau, directed ‘Shutter’, the only Malayalam movie shown at the Dubai International Film Festival 2012. Shutter was included in the ‘Celebrating Indian Cinema’ section at the just-concluded Dubai International Film Festival 2012.
‘Shutter’, a satire based on the life of a Gulf-returned expatriate worker, was well received by viewers at the Mall of the Emirates Theatre, where it was shown for the first time. ‘Shutter’ tells the story of Rasheed (played by Lal) who returns home after many years on vacation and was tempted to approach a sex worker under the influence of liquor and his selfish friends.
Though he is an expatriate with a normal family (consisting of a good looking wife and two children), he gets into an unpleasant situation after approaching the sex worker.
Rasheed arriving on vacation for organising his young daughter’s engagement. Rasheed spends a part of his hard earned money to build a house and a small commercial complex that he leases out, leaving just one room for himself, with a plan to start a business in this room when he returns home permanently. In the movie, he uses this room for midnight meetings with friends and gets trapped in the shuttered shop with a prostitute for three days.
“The story points to the double standards of the society in Kerala,” he said. “I have been thinking about making this movie for the last five years. I wrote about 2000 pages but used only 35 pages for the final product,” he said.
The second main character in the movie is an auto rickshaw driver of Kozhikode whose auto rickshaw drivers are known for their integrity. “Anyone who loses his valuables in a three-wheeler in Kozhikode is sure to get it back. A wandering film maker, played by Sreenivasan in ‘Shutter’, too benefits from the auto rickshaw driver’s honesty. A film script that he forgot in a three wheeler comes back to him through a prostitute,” says Joy.
The movie partially covers the degeneration of Kerala’s society, especially growing alcoholism and sexual abuses in the state’s Gulf pockets. The movie also ridicules the growing number of pimps and highlights the fact that expatriates who return home for good usually can’t get trustworthy friends who can help him in emergencies. People who appear to be close to him are only attracted to his money .
Sajitha Madathil, who plays the sex worker, has worked closely with the movement for protection of sex workers’ rights.
Nisha Joseph, managing director of Dubai-based Whiz Media, Albert Alex, media personality, and Rubin Thomas, film financier and businessman, also have roles in the movie.
In ‘Shutter’, script writer, director and actor Joy Mathew has also shown his own struggles in real life and reel life, both in the Gulf and back home. He wanted to learn film making, but was not admitted into the Film and Television Institute of Pune. However, he illegally attended classes to learn film making and acting. Later, he was caught and “dismissed” from the institute, but by that time he has already learnt the art of film making.
In real life too, he worked in as an auto rickshaw driver, editor and television journalist, before directing his first movie. Part of the funding for the movie came from Dubai-based friends and well-wishers.
Joy Mathew was the best actor at Calicut University for four consecutive years and was almost bankrupt when he reached Dubai. He returned home without making much money.
“Initially my plan was to make a short film, but after discussions with Hari Nair, cinematographer, and directors Lal and Sreenivasan, we decided to go for a major feature film. My wife and children are also involved in the movie,” he says.
“Shutter is a movie that exposes the hollow social values of Kerala’s society, which has a high expatriate population,” he said.
Alcoholism, marital discord, suicides and illicit affairs are growing in Kerala. Gulf money has influenced Kerala’s society in various ways and the movie ‘Shutter’ covers a part of expatriate life.
Joy Mathew, who played the lead role in in ‘Amma Ariyan’, directed by John Abraham, was part of the strong parallel cinema movement at that time, but remained aloof from the movie industry after the movement faded and commercial film industry thrived. ‘Amma Ariyan’ tells the story of a radical Naxalite youth who was brutally murdered by the police. Joy is planning his next movie on the Naxalite movement that rocked Kerala in the seventies and eighties.
‘Shutter’ was also shown at the 17th International Film Festival of Kerala where it bagged the best Audience Poll award.