Scenarist Abhilash Pillai on writing the scripts for Malayalam films ‘Night Drive’ and ‘Patham Valavu’

He is looking forward to the releases of the Malayalam film ‘Patham Valavu’ and the Tamil film ‘Cadaver’

He is looking forward to the releases of the Malayalam film ‘Patham Valavu’ and the Tamil film ‘Cadaver’

Malayalam film Night Drive, currently streaming on Netflix, was to be scriptwriter Abhilash Pillai’s third film. Tamil film Cadaver, produced by and starring Amala Paul, and Patham Valavu, which hits theatres on May 13, would have been his first and second film respectively had it not been for the pandemic. But he is not complaining: Night Drive has been garnering praise and has been on the Top 10 trending lists of the OTT platform in other countries.

When its director Vysakh met Sanjay Leela Bhansali in Mumbai, the latter praised the film. “The reach that a small film like Night Drive can get is the biggest plus of OTT,” beams Abhilash.

If Night Drive was along the lines of a survival thriller, Patham Valavu is a ‘family thriller’ and Cadaver, a crime thriller. “It is not that thriller is the only genre I write. It just so happened that these were the three films that got made first. While Patham… is also a thriller, the action in this film centres around what happens in Solomon’s (Suraj Venjaramoodu) family.”  

The film, directed by Padmakumar, has Suraj Venjaramoodu and Indrajith in lead roles. Indrajith played a pivotal role in Night Drive too. Does he write a script with an actor in mind? In this case Suraj, for instance. “I did not do that with Night Drive, but somehow with this film as I was writing, I realised I had him (Suraj Venjaramoodu) in mind.”

Abhilash Pillai

Abhilash Pillai

Work on Patham… started before Night Drive, but was stalled due to the pandemic. “Padmakumar sir was the first director in Malayalam to read my script. I was fortunate that I was able to work with him and Vysakh … they are ‘universities’ when it comes to filmmaking.”

The two almost back-to-back releases come at the end of eight years of struggling for a break. “Hard as it was, I would like to call the struggle an experience,” says the writer, an MBA who quit his job to pursue films.

Like everyone else, he started wanting to be an actor but got interested in writing scripts. “ Devasuram is the first film I remember watching. Mangalasserry Neelakantan (Mohanlal) got the applause, but who got him the claps? It was all due to director IV Sasi and the scenarist (Ranjith).”

He learnt the ropes by reading scripts of hit films. “I would first read the script and then watch the film with the script. I put in a lot of work to hone my skills. This way I could understand the nuances of scripting.”    

Cadaver, his upcoming Tamil film, is in the final stages of post-production; it is due for release in the next couple of months. With that, he hopes to give the thriller genre a break. His next film will be a feel-good subject, which he will follow up with a ‘mass film’. Abhilash has also indulged in acting; he will be seen in Patham Valavu.

The writer also likes the time he spends on the sets of the films he is part of. “A scriptwriter doesn’t have to be there every day, but I like to be there. There is so much to learn. I know that even when it is my 100th film, I would be as invested and interested!” 

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